US forces in Afghanistan have dropped more munitions in the first three months of 2018 than during the same time period in 2011—a time widely considered the height of the war. The spike in bombing comes after years of drawing down US troops across the country's remote rural areas—and therefore relies increasingly on technical rather than human intelligence. Figures released by US Air Forces Central Command indicate 1,186 "munitions expended by aircraft" in January, February and March this year. In 2011, during those same months, the military documented 1,083 weapons released from both manned and unmanned aircraft. The increase in "kinetic air operations" is part of a strategy to degrade the Taliban’s finances by targeting drug labs, which the insurgents are believed to tax. (Photo: USAF)
The latest stats from the UN's annual Afghanistan Opium Survey are in, and the news is grim. Opium production in the war-torn country jumped nearly 87% in 2017, to record levels—an estimated 9,000 metric tons. Areas under poppy cultivation rose by 63%, reaching a record 328,000 hectares and boosting the number of Afghanistan's 34 provinces now cultivating opium from 21 to 24. Since overthrowing the Taliban in 2001, the US has spent nearly $7 billion to combat opium—to spectacularly counter-productive results. (Photo: VOA)
On his trip to Mexico, US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly toured Guerrero state to witness opium eradication operations. That very night, a riot broke out at the prison in the state's biggest city, violence-torn Acapulco. The explosion of violence ended with at least 28 inmates dead—many of them mutilated and several beheaded.
Turkish government claims that Kurdish rebels in the country's east are profiting from the hashish trade point to an integrated counter-insurgency and drug enforcement campaign.
Three years after withdrawing, US Marines are returning to Afghanistan's Helmand province to help beat back a new Taliban offensive funded by a bumper opium harvest.
Hundreds of peasant coca-growers shut down a main highway through southern Colombia to oppose the government's renewed "forced eradication" campaign in the region.
Accused of carrying out 3,000 extrajudicial executions, the Philippines' ultra-hardline President Duterte now threatens to kill human rights activists who dare to complain about it.
With Afghanistan's opium crop breaking all records, a three-way war is developing over the cultivation zones, as government forces, the Taliban and ISIS battle for control.
A wave of paramilitary terror grips the Sierra Tarahumara in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state, as the Sinaloa Cartel seeks control over the opium and cannabis cultivation zone.
As ethnic insurgencies continue, opium-growers in Burma's northern mountains issued a statement demanding a halt to eradication programs as essential to any peace deal.
Despite at least $7 billion in counter-narcotics spending, Afghan opium production hit 3,300 tons in 2015—exactly the same level it was in 2001 when the US invaded.
With poppy harvest season approaching, tensions are high in Burma's Kachin state following clashes between opium-growing peasants and a citizen anti-drug movement.