The U.S. hopes to boost anti-drug trafficking efforts that fund terrorist and criminal activities.
Afghanistan remains the world's largest producer of the illegal opium poppy that is used to produce heroin. Most of the opium is cultivated in the southern and western provinces, where instability creates the conditions needed for illicit cultivation and drug production to thrive.
A heavy presence of illicit drug production and trade is bad news for any country. Like a disease attacking the body, it finds weaknesses within the system and uses them to infect it with corruption. Once it has taken root, drug-engendered corruption spreads rapidly, further weakening the system as it takes over the functions of legitimate government institutions.
It brings with it violence and disregard for any needs that do not directly benefit the drug trade. And it benefits no one but those directly involved in, or facilitating the growth and maintenance of, this ugly business.
Inasmuch as there is a definite connection between narcotics production and trafficking, and regional insecurity and a weakening of the rule of law, eliminating the cultivation of poppies is vital to Afghanistan's ability to maintain an effective government.
With this in mind, United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, Stephen McFarland, and Afghan Foreign Deputy Minister Jawid Ludin, signed in mid-March, agreements allocating $249 million for joint counternarcotics programs, rule of law and law enforcement.
By partnering with Afghan law enforcement agencies, the United States hopes to boost anti-drug trafficking efforts that fund terrorist and criminal activities, promote citizen safety, and help all Afghans access justice.
Thus, the funds will go toward programs to improve the administration of justice and rule of law, and to modernize and improve the corrections system. This includes training for judges, attorneys, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and correctional officials, as well as establishing a number of local legal-help assistance offices.
Elsewhere, some of the funding will go toward programs aimed at reducing demand for drugs, and toward local development projects that have been proven effective in reducing or even eliminating opium poppy cultivation.
And finally, funding will be available for programs that promote gender justice initiatives.
As Ambassador McFarland said, “the cooperation between the United States and Afghanistan in these areas cannot be measured by money, but rather by the implementation of our peoples’ shared values.”