Heroin overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled (2002-2013) in America according to the CDC. This quiet trend is continuing as we head into 2016. Recreational use is surpassing the heydays of the 1970s and the users/addicts are not restricted to race, gender, or economic demographic. Those affected include teenagers, housewives, and software engineers.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime tells us that each gram of Afghan opium (Afghanistan poppy fields grow nearly 90 percent of the world’s opium) produces 100 grams of heroin with a base sale price in Europe and the U.S. of 180.00/gram. A kilogram of pure Afghan heroin goes for about $5,000 American. When cut and distributed, it brings in $300,000. The surge in Afghanistan was not only from U.S. troops in 2009; the biggest surge was in opium cultivation, heroin production, and global distribution.
Opium/heroin money fills the coffers of the Taliban. This multi-billion dollar industry has allowed the Taliban to rebuild, organize, and fight. They have conducted successful offensives in the Helmand Province, the Sangin District, regained traditional warlord territories, and regained other rural areas. While the Afghan government forces counterattacks, they do not have the resolve (not to mention air power) that the U.S.-led coalition displayed after 9/11.
President G.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair had a plan to work together to change the poppy fields into legitimate agriculture areas that would provide crops for the people and a source of income to the government. “Operation Containment” was a DEA-led, multinational law enforcement program that had a significant effect in the early years, yet as with our reduction in military operations, Operation Containment also wound down, leaving another type of vacuum from which the drug trade aggressively flourished.