The U.S. is shifting its strategy against Afghanistan’s drug trade, reports the Associated Press. It will end funding for opium eradication and boosting efforts to fight trafficking and promote alternate crops. The policy aims to deprive the Taliban of the tens of millions of dollars in drug revenues that are fueling its insurgency. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke told the AP that poppy eradication – for years a cornerstone of U.S. and U.N. drug trafficking efforts in the country – was not working and was only driving Afghan farmers into the hands of the Taliban. “Eradication is a waste of money,” Holbrooke said. “It might destroy some acreage, but it didn’t reduce the amount of money the Taliban got by one dollar. It just helped the Taliban.”
Afghanistan is the world’s leading source of opium. While opium cultivation dropped 19 percent last year, it remains concentrated in Afghanistan’s southern provinces where the Taliban is strongest and last year earned insurgents an estimated $50 million to $70 million, says the U.N. drug office.