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U.S.-led troop pullout may be behind Afghanistan record opium poppy crop

opum poppiesThe 2014 pullout of U.S.-led combat troops from Afghanistan appears to be having a major impact on the country's narcotics trade, with opium poppy cultivation growing to a record high this year, according to a U.N. report released Wednesday.

The boom underscores the failure of U.S.-led international efforts to fight opium poppy cultivation that have cost U.S. taxpayers some $4.42 billion since 2002. Afghanistan remains the world's largest producer of opium, which contains morphine, the alkaloid from which heroin is produced.

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New study puts Iraq war death toll at 500,000

Iraq war deaths The number of deaths in the war in Iraq is nearing a half-million people, a collaborative study by U.S. Canadian and Iraqi researchers found.

Using data from two surveys, the researchers estimated 405,000 people were killed and projected 55,800 more deaths from migration into and emigration from Iraq because of the war, al-Jazeera America reported Wednesday.

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4 US soldiers killed in south Afghanistan

NATO troopsThe US-led international military coalition says four of its service members have been killed in southern Afghanistan and a military official confirms all were Americans killed by an improvised explosive device.

Nato said in a statement that the four were killed on Sunday during a partnered operation in the south, but did not provide any further details or their nationalities.

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US auditor finds taxpayer money flowing to Taliban, Al Qaeda - but Army refuses to act

Tax money going to TalibanThe US military has been ignoring warnings that its spending in Afghanistan is funding Al Qaeda and the Taliban. And John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), appears to have had enough.

He issued a blistering cover letter with SIGAR's quarterly report to Congress today that called into question what "appears to be a growing gap between the policy objectives of Washington and the reality of achieving them in Afghanistan."

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4 decades after war ended, Agent Orange still ravaging Vietnamese

Agent OrangeIn many ways, Nguyen Thi Ly is just like any other 12-year-old girl. She has a lovely smile and is quick to laugh. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She enjoys skipping rope when she plays.

But Ly is also very different from other children. Her head is severely misshapen. Her eyes are unnaturally far apart and permanently askew. She’s been hospitalized with numerous ailments since her birth.

Her mother, 43-year-old Le Thi Thu, has similar deformities and health disorders. Neither of them has ever set foot on a battlefield, but they’re both casualties of war.

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Final report on Iraq reconstruction says fraud, waste cost U.S. $1.5 billion

Iraq fraudThe $40 million shell of an unfinished prison in Iraq’s Diyala province; $2 million in laundered cash pocketed by government officials and contractors in Hilla; an $80 invoice on a $1.41 piece of PVC piping from a defense subcontractor near Baghdad.

Those are just three examples of fraudulent and wasteful spending that plagued U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq, according to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which on Tuesday issued its final report on the U.S. government’s $60 billion reconstruction program for that country.

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Libya may become first country to call conflict rape a war crime

War crimes against womenLibyan lawmakers say they expect to pass a bill that would make rape during armed conflict a war crime, the first such law to be instituted by any country.

Juma Ahmad Atigha, the deputy president of Libya's General National Congress, says the GNC will vote on measure within a few weeks, The Guardian reported Friday. A 10-year prison term accompanies a conviction for rape under current law. Anyone convicted under the war crime legislation would receive a life sentence.

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