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WASHINGTON, DC — The United States must tackle the Taliban’s top source of funding in Afghanistan – deadly opium and its heroin derivative – whether there is a peace agreement or not, U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko told Breitbart News on Thursday.
Sopko’s assessment of Afghanistan’s insidious narcotics problem came soon after he delivered a speech at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) about the watchdog agency’s 2019 High-Risk List report, which identifies significant threats to America’s $132 billion reconstruction effort.
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Breitbart News asked, “What happens if the United States fails to push the Taliban to cut its ties to the cultivation and trafficking of opium in Afghanistan during the peace talks?”
The SIGAR chief replied:
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I can’t discuss the peace talks, so maybe they are doing it, I don’t know, but as we highlight [in the high-risk list report], the Taliban are intimately involved with the narcotics problem so what we just highlighted is you have to deal with that. If there is a peace treaty or not, how do you get the Taliban out of the narcotics trade?
And that’s a complication to [the] reintegration [of an estimated 60,000 Taliban jihadis into Afghan society] and so on. Again, I don’t know I can’t discuss the peace because we’re not part of it, but obviously, it’s a big issue because we’ve identified the narcotics as a major source of funding for the Taliban.
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SIGAR stressed that the illicit narcotics trade in Afghanistan is a significant menace to America’s nation-building efforts. Sopko acknowledged that some reconstruction efforts have benefited the opium trade.
The watchdog agency cast doubt on whether or not a peace agreement will “translate into the collapse or contraction of the illicit drug trade,” noting the opium trade plays a significant part in feeding the ailing Afghan economy.
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