Despite an escalation of the Afghan conflict under the Trump administration, a record opium crop, coupled with steady Taliban gains, foretell bitter fighting in the coming months for American forces and the Afghans stationed alongside them.
"Record-high opium production is but one indication of how badly U.S. efforts have failed and are continuing to fail," said Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University and author of America's War for the Greater Middle East. "It is both a major source of Taliban funding and an indication of how little control the Afghan government is able to exert."
The Taliban and the Opium Trade
In November, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime released its annual Afghanistan Opium Survey. According to the report, 2017's opium crop, estimated at 9,000 tons, marks an 87 percent increase from the previous year.
The record crop has left the Taliban flush with cash it will use to finance military operations, the wages of fighters, as well as arms purchases.