Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has harshly criticized the antidrug strategy being implemented in the region, indicating that significant changes may be on the way.
“The United States alone is spending over $800 million a year on counter-narcotics. We have gotten nothing out of it, nothing,” said Holbrooke. “It is the most wasteful and ineffective program I have seen in 40 years.”
The Times of London reported March 23 that Afghanistan continues to lead the world in heroin production, and efforts to eradicate poppy crops have alienated farmers and increased sympathy for the Taliban. Obama is planning to ask Congress to shift focus to rebuilding the Afghan economy and boosting the police force.
“What we’re looking for is a comprehensive strategy,” Obama said. “And there’s got to be an exit strategy.”
“By forced [drug] eradication we are often pushing farmers into the Taliban hands,” Holbrooke said. “We are going to try to reprogram that money. About $160 million is for alternate livelihoods and we would like to increase that.”