To understand why the war in Afghanistan, now in its eighth year, is not going well for the United States and its NATO allies, take a look at two statistics.
One is Afghanistan’s ranking on an international index measuring corruption: 176 out of 180 countries. (Somalia is 180th). The other is Afghanistan’s position as the world’s Number 1 producer of illicit opium, the raw material for heroin.
The two statistics are inextricably linked and, a year ago, prompted Richard Holbrooke, the man President Barack Obama has just picked as special envoy for Afghanistan, to write: “Breaking the narco-state in Afghanistan is essential or all else will fail.”
Holbrooke, who was not in government service at the time, took particular issue with the counter-narcotics strategy the Bush administration pursued in Afghanistan.