Ex-Blackwater Firm Makes Millions in Futile Fight on Afghan Drugs

Guardian: Academi pulled in $569M to kill Afghan narcotics industry, which is thriving
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2015 6:19 PM CDT
Ex-Blackwater Firm Makes Millions in Futile Fight on Afghan Drugs
In this April 17, 2014, file photo, an Afghan farmer works on a poppy field collecting the green bulbs swollen with raw opium in the Khogyani District of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

The company formerly known as Blackwater has pulled in a pretty penny from US taxpayers in its Pentagon-supported drive to flush out the Afghan narcotics industry: Nearly $570 million from fiscal 2002 to September 2013 was funneled to the firm now known as Academi—about 32% of the $1.8 billion in contracts awarded since 2002, the Guardian reports. But not only has the US anti-drug initiative in Afghanistan crashed (a UN report noted there was a 60% growth from 2011 to 2013 in land used to grow poppies for opium), some of the projects meant to get the country back on its feet may have even boosted poppy growth, the Guardian notes.

Funds paid to Academi went toward the "training, equipment, and logistical support" of Afghan counternarcotics teams, efforts that the Guardian says have been largely "useless." In addition, US efforts to rebuild roads and improve irrigation systems may have inadvertently helped spur record-high opium production. "[A]ffordable deep-well technology turned 200,000 hectares of desert in southwestern Afghanistan into arable land over the past decade [and] much of this newly arable land is dedicated to opium cultivation," the US inspector general for Afghanistan said in December, per the Guardian. The partial result: an estimated $3 billion in Afghan heroin and morphine production, or 15% of the country's GDP. (Three ex-Blackwater guards have pleaded for leniency for their part in the 2007 shooting.)

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