Earlier this month US and Afghan forces bombed 68 drugs labs in South-western Afghanistan, claiming that they caused the Taliban losses of over $1 million per day. David Mansfield and Alexander Soderholmwrite that not only have the effects of these strikes been exaggerated, their promotion obscures a new reality on the ground: a dramatic growth in the methamphetamine industry in Afghanistan, fuelled by a ready supply of a home grown ephedra crop.
It’s an old saying that the definition of madness is to do the same thing again and again and expect a different result. Yet this is what the United States Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and their counterpart the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) did on 6 May 2019 when they bombed 68 drugs labs in Southwestern Afghanistan. They even repeated the madness of grossly exaggerating the scale of financial losses these raids caused the Taliban, claiming losses of $1 million per day.
This latest raid on drugs labs in Afghanistan follows a year-long campaign that USFOR-A claimed destroyed 200 labs and denied $46 million to the Taliban in revenue. The campaign all but ceased in September 2018 after being subject to considerable criticism for its exaggerated estimates of the amount of drugs destroyed and the values denied to both drug traffickers and the Taliban. In striking inactive labs and misunderstanding the taxation system that operates in these areas, the campaign had a negligible effect on revenues and proved a poor use of resources.