The federal government's "war on drugs" has been a spectacular failure here in the U.S., but that still pales in comparison to its monumental debacle in Afghanistan.
One of the goals of the massive reconstruction effort in Afghanistan was to eradicate the country's opium production, whose proceeds oftentimes fund insurgents. But despite 15 years and $8.5 billion in taxpayer dollars spent to fight opium cultivation and trafficking, the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reports, "Afghan farmers are growing more opium than ever." In fact, Afghanistan is responsible for 90 percent of the world's illicit opiates, such as heroin, and opium production increased 43 percent just in the past year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported in October.
Sadly, this is just one of many Afghan reconstruction failures. The reconstruction effort, which has now surpassed the inflation-adjusted amount spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, has been plagued by waste, fraud and corruption from the start.
Consider the $772 million the Defense Department spent to purchase aircraft that the Afghan military cannot operate or maintain, the $34 million for a 64,000 square-foot military headquarters facility that military commanders did not want and never used and the $34.4 million spent on a program to encourage soybean farming and consumption, despite the fact that Afghans generally do not like soybeans and produced so few of them that the vast majority of crops had to be grown in America and shipped to Afghanistan.
"We've built schools that have fallen down, clinics that there are no doctors for, we've built roads that are falling apart," Inspector General John Sopko told Agence France-Press in 2014, adding that the amount of waste is "massive."
This does not even include despicable errors like the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz in 2015 that killed 12 doctors and 10 patients and wounded 37 others, or our tolerance of the practice of some allies to keep children, particularly young boys, as sex slaves, sometimes even while they were guests on U.S. military bases.
As with the U.S. drug war, the government would do best to cut its losses. That goes double for our other military and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
REPRINTED FROM THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER