One of the main reasons for the failures of the operation by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is corruption of Afghan authorities, according to The Hill experts Colby Goodman and William D. Hartung. They say, “The failures of U.S.-trained Afghan security forces are well known, but the role of corruption in fueling those failures is often not fully appreciated. In April 2014, Gen. John Allen (retired), the former commander of U.S. forces there, told a U.S. Senate subcommittee that “for too long we have focused our attention solely on the Taliban* as the existential threat to Afghanistan,” but “they are an annoyance compared to the scope and magnitude of corruption.”
By making such statements, the American establishment confirms doubts on the effectiveness of the US mission in Afghanistan. Americans couldn’t solve the 17-year Afghan conflict by military means. The sponsoring of pro-American local authorities led to the increase of corruption and drug trafficking.
As early as 2001 the US promised to fight the drug problem, but the situation didn’t improved. According to Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017 released by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), the cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan reveals an 87 per cent production increase compared to 2016. Afghanistan opium production jumped to a record level of 9,000 metric tones in 2017, the area under opium poppy cultivation also increased to a record 328,000 hectares in 2017.
The Quarterly report of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) (July 30, 2018) shown that “poppy cultivation flourishes in Afghanistan under both insurgent and government control. SIGAR’s analysis challenges the general assumption that insurgents control the highest poppy-cultivating areas or that poppy is predominantly grown in areas with insurgent activity.” The Report noted that SIGAR identified up to $15.5 billion in waste, fraud, and abuse, and failed whole-of-government reconstruction efforts (or 29 percent of the $52.7 billion SIGAR examined).
Despite U.S. airstrikes against Taliban targets in Afghanistan, the drug trade is growing. Dr. David Mansfield, a senior fellow at the London School of Economics, asserts there is no evidence to justify the claim by U.S. Forces-Afghanistan that they inflicted $80 million in losses on drug traffickers by destroying 25 labs in Helmand province, nor that this resulted in a $16 million loss for the Taliban. Such air operations are rather costly for the US, while labs are only cheap and easy to replace, they can be set up in three to four days.
If it goes on that way, the cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan will not decrease, and, therefore, the situation will not stabilize, because drug trafficking is the main source of income for terrorists. The US and NATO are well aware of this problem, but why don’t they want to eradicate it?
A flourishing Afghan drug industry benefits American political and military officials. According to some reports, the command of the British and American forces in Helmand province is closely connected with the local drug mafia. More over, black money from the sale of opium can be used to destabilize certain regions of Afghanistan or neighboring countries. In addition, Islamic State (a terrorist organisation outlawed in Russia) moves to Afghanistan. This scenario may be implemented in the run-up to the presidential elections in Afghanistan in 2019.
Western countries aren’t interested in ending the chaos in the country, because they can use it to influence other states in the region. Local political elites care only for their own advantage and hide the money allocated to the U.S. programmes in Afghanistan.
Despite the awareness of the White House about the reasons for the failure of the U.S. operation in Afghanistan, the US prefers to turn a blind eye to key problems in the region and take a wait-and-see attitude until there is a good opportunity to take advantage of the situation in Afghanistan. And this approach doesn't look promising.
*(a movement outlawed in Russia)