Counterinsurgents in the Poppy Fields: Drugs, Wars and Crime in Afghanistan

In the following excerpt, Vanda Felbab-Brown discusses the evolution of counternarcotics policy in Afghanistan and its impact on militancy and counterinsurgency in the region. Felbab-Brown’s chapter was published in Peace Operations and Organized Crime: Enemies or Allies? (Routledge 2011).

Chapter Excerpt:

Indeed, narcotics production and counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan are of critical importance not only for drug control there and worldwide, but also for the security, reconstruction and rule-of-law efforts in Afghanistan. 

Unfortunately, many of the counter-narcotics policies adopted during much of the last decade not only failed to reduce the size and scope of the illicit economy in Afghanistan, but also had serious counterproductive effects on the other objectives of peace, state-building and economic reconstruction.  In a courageous break with 30 years of counternarcotics policies that focused on ineffective, forced eradication of illicit crops as a way to reduce supply of drugs and to bankrupt belligerents, the Obama administration wisely decided, in 2009, to scale back eradication in Afghanistan.

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