Since 2001, Afghanistan has become synonymous with the term “narcostate” and the associated spread of crime and illegality. Though the Afghan drug economy peaked in 2007 and 2008, cultivation this year still amounted to 325,000 acres, and the potential production of opium reached 6,400 tons. Narcotics production and counternarcotics 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 counternarcotics policies adopted during most of the past 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 bankrupt belligerents, the Obama administration wisely decided in 2009 to scale back eradication in Afghanistan and prioritize interdiction and rural development. But if security is not increased and stability not anchored in the country, both of which continue to be major question marks as of late-2011, poppies will continue to bloom in Afghanistan.