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Thread: Afghanistan's Drug Problem

  1. #121
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default N Ireland Similarities

    Just finished reading Gretchen Peters' book. What struck me was the similarities to N. Ireland.

    We used to say that the difference between the Nationalist (Catholic, PIRA) and the Loyalist (Protestant, UVF, RHC) was that in the former 70% of the take from organised crime went to 'the cause' and 30% to their pockets; with the latter it was the reverse. When I first deployed there in 1994 the police's big worry was that the terrorists would metamorphisise Mafia like to an organised criminal fraternity - something which appears to have happened... although possibly not on the scale envisaged.

    One of our most successful organisations in dealing with the Troubles came late and was a joint police/intelligence/customs/revenue organisation which targeted the money.

    Violence will continue as long as people have a large stake in ensuring that it continues. While the majority of people in Afghanistan may want to live in peace, so long as the people in power (at all levels) have a strong vested interest in maintaining the status quo, then the 'quo is unlikely to be changed. I saw the same in Somalia. the powerful clan chiefs in Somalia had ne real interest in a strong government and the rule of law because they gained their power and profit from Somalia being in a state of lawlessness (lost white goods for central africa seemed to go through Somalia at one point!) The carrot and stick approach needs to be along the lines of:

    • Violence will be met with violence
    • Violence and criminality will not be profitable for you, your family or your associates.
    • The IGoA will provide profitable legal alternatives.


    Problem is when the whole system is corrupt where do you start? Top down or bottom up? Patronage is also part of the culture - where does patronage stop and criminality start? Retiring warlords with their ill-gotten gains just encourages others to emulate; criminality must be seen as risky and unprofitable in the long run.

    As a matter of interest how has Columbia coped?

  2. #122
    Council Member MattC86's Avatar
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    Default Counterpoint from Joshua Foust

    Not certain how much stock y'all put into his increasingly pessimistic (and often bitter) critiques, but I thought Foust's review of the book had some relevancy:


    It’s probably best to skip the first 130 pages of this book. That’s how long it takes Ms. Peters, who claims to be passionately involved in telling this story, to even begin to discuss the ways in which opium-based corruption has distorted the Afghan government in far more pernicious ways than merely fueling an insurgency. There, on page 134, Ms. Peters says that “almost everyone” she interviewed for this book agreed that “crooked members of Hamid Karzai’s administration are earning even more” from the drug trade than the Taliban.

    Considering the finality of the book’s central thesis—drugs are funding the Afghan and global insurgency—it is a stunning admission. Why limit the discussion to just the Taliban and al Qaeda if there is almost universal consensus that the drug problem is much worse in the official government? This consensus carries into other discussions that fatally undermine Ms. Peters’ thesis: she notes the drugs trade is not why the insurgency is so strong in the FATA, for example (she notes, but doesn’t explain, why it is so significant that the Pakistani Taliban brag about imposing law and order by catching and executing bandits that rob locals).
    Probably more relevant to higher level policy towards GOA than operational and tactical level issues, but more at Registan.net

    Matt
    "Give a good leader very little and he will succeed. Give a mediocrity a great deal and he will fail." - General George C. Marshall

  3. #123
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Default

    I think Foust is missing the point somewhat - the book is about the Taleban and narcotics of which corruption of the local governance is an aspect, not the other way round.

    Narcotics production and traffiking needs ungoverned space in which to operate at any great capacity, it often achieves this by corruption of local governance structures. Where all sides of the conflict (traffikers governance, local economy/producers) have more to gain from the status quo then there is no incentive to improve governance.

    That said it is not a single issue problem. Like most insurgencies there is a complex knot of issues involved and different strings will be pulled by different actors at deifferent levels. This feeds directly into the operational and tactical levels as without understanding the picture you cannot develop an appropriate solution. Ahmed Rashid in his book 'Descent into Chaos' states that it is impossible to untangle the web of tribal interests, politics and narcotics in dealing with the region.

    I have to say I am not sure what the solution is either!

  4. #124
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    US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, 10 Aug 09:

    Afghanistan's Narco War: Breaking the Link Between Drug Traffickers and Insurgents
    The attempt to cut off the drug money represents a central pillar of counter-insurgency strategy—deny financing to the enemy. This shift is an overdue move that recognizes the central role played by drug traffickers and drug money in the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. While it is too early to judge whether this will be a watershed, it is not too early to raise questions about whether the goals of the counter-narcotics strategy can be achieved. Is it possible to slow the flow of drug money to the insurgency, particularly in a country where most transactions are conducted in cash and hidden behind an ancient and secretive money transfer system? Does the U.S. Government have the capacity and the will to provide the hundreds more civilians required to carry out the second step in the counter-narcotics program and transform a poppy-dominated economy into one where legitimate agriculture can thrive? Can our NATO allies be counted on to step up their contributions on the military and civilian sides at a time when support for the war is waning in most European countries and Canada?

  5. #125
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    Default Re-shaping Counter drug policies

    I agree that we need to re-shape the counter drug strategies currently in place and I have a bold proposal that I wish to air and maybe get some constructive feedback in order to shape it more fully. Bear with me as I outline my argument and touch on some of the salient discussion points brought up previously in this trhead.

    First of all, the eradication strategy is completely wrong for several reasons. It has not been managed or implemented in any way so as to actually effect any positive change in poppy cultivation. If anything, it has exacerbated the security situation and encouraged the opium trade and anti-government militias. The recent announcement that these practices would stop is welcome news, however the replacement strategy is actually one that focusses on the drug-counterinsurgency nexus (as some have described it). I am not optimistic that this strategy will prove any more effective since it fails to address the underlying problems that stoke the opium cultivation.

    The annual reports from the UNODC portray a fairly accurate description of the poppy growth, cultivation and processing and in particular demonstrate the lack of effectiveness of previous strategies when one considers the explosive growth and spread of poppy cultivation across Afghanistan. According to their reports, insurgent related profits from the opium industry represent only 17 to 20% of the trade (still huge when one considers the figure of $4B). Most of the poppy trade is related to its street price, its hardiness and viability in the agricultural landscape of southern Afghanistan, and the lack of other alternatives (crops, markets etc.). Some 9 million Afghans are involved in some way in the poppy trade.

    In many instances alternative crop suggestions are based on the market prices and how they relate to the farmer, however one extremely important element is overlooked in this analsysis - labour requirements. Poppy framing is very high in labour demands and therefore employs up to five times as many workers per acre than say wheat. This means that in replacing poppy for wheat, you are effectively cutting off employment for 80% of the labourers. These people need work and incomes to support themselves and their families and many turn to powerbrokers and insurgents as their only options. Therefore alternative strategies must accommodate the whole of the poppy industry.

    What are some alternatives:

    1) Conduct widespread eradication: this strategy has failed for the past several years and has resulted in poppy trade growth, heroin processing, and cartel like development.

    2) purchase the crop and eradicate: drives street price up, creates unemployed fighting age males, encourages poppy cultivation for following years and spurns new cultivation.

    3) legalise the crop for medicinal purposes: again drives up prices, encourages corruption, creates dual poppy economy and as discussed there would be significant investments required to produce medicinal grade opiates.

    4) Implement a poppy license program with a 10 year reduction strategy. this strategy relates to poppy growth and not opiate production, distribution or sales, which supports the current Government policies on counter-narcotics. This last strategy is that which I propose and will briefly outline.

    Essentially, we need to admit that eradication is not working despite the costs and effort, which therefore leads to the fact that poppy cultivation has become a dependent resource for s significant portion of the population.

    I propose that we acknowledge poppy cultivation and implement a ten year reduction strategy that offers poppy cultivation licenses to farmers, with some direct and enforced limits on a yearly basis. Current poppy farmers and powerbrokers would be co-opted into this scheme and convinced that they have a ten year window during which to become legitimate farmers and wean themselves off of the poppy trade. Limits would decline each year and farmers would be provided support and incentives to transition into other crops during that period.

    The government would adopt a 100% eradication effort in non-licensed poppy production tied to the current poppy trade brokers. This form of eradication is enforceable and potentially corrupt free since only licensed areas are permitted. (As an aside, I also endorse an interim policy of eradicating 80-90% of any crops found in violation in order to leave sufficient crops for the affected farmer to potentially recover any loans or debts associated with the poppy fields destroyed.)

    Monies generated from the sale of the licenses would be: funnelled into local alternative livelihoods, used to provide agricultural loans and support interdiction and other anti-drug strategies. Licenses would be renewable but a ten year reduction strategy supported by increasing fees and fines would be enforced. The initial allocation of licenses could be set at 2007 poppy cultivation levels which would mean at least a 30% reduction over current poppy production in the first year.

    This strategy combined with the Government counter-narcotics efforts could lead to an effective, enforceable, measureable and supportable counter-narcotic strategy for Afghanistan.

    I would appreciate any feeedback you may have.

  6. #126
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    For the sake of further training, let's say that the decision to eradicate a poppy field (or better yet, the yield of opium) before it has begun the process of movement to an area where further refinement and trans-shipment occurs. It is still in the immediate vicinity of the farm where it was grown, and has not been paid for (is that ever the case?).

    As the business of eradication begins, what engagement strategies can I, the guy sent in to send a message to local leaders, employ? The classic answer might be some sort of aid drop done at the point of destruction, with follow-up engagement aimed at keeping the local growers and their leaders off balance, but that is an Iraq model I am thinking of.

    What issues are inherent with this scenario? Honor? Family shame? Promise-making and deal-breaking? I know that there has to be a better incentive to break the cycle, but until that comes 'round, what else can I do?

  7. #127
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    Default Armchair comment

    Jon,

    Recently I read an account of the UK working with the ANA and they cited an incident where an ANA search found 100k heroin in a village and the elders shook their hands on leaving.

    On that basis I'd suggest the ANA participate, in your example they hand out the re-supply of essentials.

    What are the alternatives you can offer? Wheat is often cited and of course melons!

    davidbfpo

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    UNODC, 10 Feb 10: Afghanistan Opium Survey 2010: Winter Rapid Assessment
    After a major drop in opium cultivation (one third) over the past two years, UNODC projects a stable crop in Afghanistan in 2010.

    The majority of the 20 Afghan provinces that were poppy-free in 2009 will remain so this year. Yet, three provinces (Baghlan, Faryab and Sari Pul, all in the north) risk showing the beginning of a trend reversal, with a minimal increase in cultivation in the districts with higher insecurity. Five other provinces (Kunar, Nangarhar, Kabul, Laghman and Badakhshan), not poppy-free so far, are also expected to have negligible amounts of poppies.

    All considered, with appropriate local community-inspired measures – such as shura-driven campaigns, governor-led eradication, and development assistance – up to 25 Afghan provinces could become poppy-free in 2010. Further progress in the reduction of drug cultivation (hectares) in Afghanistan is within reach.

    Against the recent trend of ever higher productivity in the country-side, agricultural conditions in Afghanistan are expected to deteriorate in 2010, because of bad weather. Lower opium yields should also reduce the volume (tons) of opium produced, continuing the decline that has characterized the past three years......

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ski View Post
    We were starting to see the Taliban use drug profits to fund their operations when I was in country.

    The opium trade will never be eliminated from Afghanistan, and the cocaine trade will never be eliminated from Colombia. The only chance, and it's a limited chance at that, is to buy the entire crop every year, sell what you can of it to pharmacutecal companies, and burn the rest.

    Then you take the funds from selling the stuff and start rebuilding the infrastructure.
    That is not the only option.

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    For those with access to the docs, here are three that I stumbled upon over the past few weeks (though, I haven't gotten around to reading them thoroughly and I'm not sure when I will)...

    Jeffrey Clemens, Opium in Afghanistan: Prospects for the Success of Source Country Drug Control Policies, 51 J. of L. & Econ. 407.

    Alyssa Greenspan, Are We Fighting the Right War?, 16 Cardozo J. of Int'l and Comparative Law 493.

    Elizabeth Peterson, Two Sides of the Same Coin: The Link Between Illicit Opium Production and Security in Afghanistan, 25 Washington U. J. of L. and Policy 215.

    Don't sharpshoot me on my citations.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 05-09-2010 at 12:34 PM. Reason: Added links.

  11. #131
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A bumper crop in Helmand

    An IWPR report by an Afghan reporter:
    Landowner Hajji Fateh Khan lives in one of the most violent districts in Afghanistan, but this spring he says is a happy man as deep-pocketed buyers eye the imminent opium yield from his poppy plantations.

    “The year before last, four kilogrammes of opium was sold for 200 US dollars, but now that weight fetches up to 1,000 dollars,” the farmer from Nad Ali in southern Helmand province said.

    “Who does not like more money, and this is the only crop which earns lots of it?” he added with a laugh. Khan has further cause to celebrate his illegal harvest. It was produced not on his own 40-hectare spread of arable farmland, but rather on a 12-ha patch he started cultivating in the outlying, government-owned desert. And so far, no one has tried to destroy it.
    Link:http://www.currentintelligence.net/f...th-surges.html

    On a quick read every local party gains and of course there is the official GIRoA and UK 'lead' on eradication.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by A. Shahid View Post
    As one of the previous posters said, you really, really ought to check with your DEA rep, or the CPEF folks in Helmand. You should have reps from both of them in Lashkar Gah, unless things have changed a lot. You mentioned that 'this would usually fall into the RFI category....', I guess I'm wondering if you submitted it as an RFI through your O&I channels?

    Also, I definitely agree - interdiction is a much better CN strategy than eradication. I'd think you'd agree, if you're down in Registan/Rh*no area - far easier to interdict than try to manually eradicate. The farmers in Helmand sell their crops a season in advance - if we eradicate their crop, the narcos almost always get money's worth. Sometimes that means taking a child across into Pakistan and selling it into the human sex slave trade. Nasty business. Interdiction allows them to get paid, absolves them of responsibility for what happens next when you and the MAGTF hit the shipment, and gives them time to gradually transition to other crops.
    Any thoughts for the western kids who get hooked on this stuff?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Any thoughts for the western kids who get hooked on this stuff?
    Not just Western kids--it is a major problem in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, and especially in Iran.

    Indeed, by some estimates the Iranian security services have lost more casualties to clashes with Afghan drug smuggling networks than ISAF has lost to the Taliban.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    And, on the broader topic:

    Counternarcotics in Afghanistan
    July 6, 2010, 10:00am-11:30am

    Location:
    U.S. Institute of Peace
    2nd floor
    1200 17th Street NW
    Washington, D.C. 20036

    The United States and its NATO allies in Afghanistan view counternarcotics initiatives as vital to counterinsurgency efforts by cutting off revenue to insurgents. A new Center for International Cooperation (CIC) report entitled "Drug Production and Trafficking, Counterdrug Policies, and Security and Governance in Afghanistan" challenges this assumption. Instead, the authors argue:

    Current counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan is financially benefiting - rather than hurting - insurgents;
    Rural development efforts should be focused on assisting rural populations - aid should not be conditioned on desistance from poppy-growing; and
    Counter-narcotics policy should be refocused to discriminate against illegal armed groups and corrupt officials in enforcement.
    The report utilizes microeconomic analysis of the likely consequences of various counternarcotics strategies on both drug-market outcomes and the security and governance situation in Afghanistan. It examines the division of drug trafficking revenues among insurgents, "warlords", and corrupt government officials; the likely impact of drug enforcement policies on different points of the distribution chain; and the effect of these policies on drug consumption, dependency, and harm to drug users.

    This event will feature the following speakers:

    Jonathan Caulkins, Presenter
    Co-author, "Drug Production and Trafficking, Counterdrug Policies, and Security and Governance in Afghanistan."

    Mark Kleiman, Presenter
    Co-author, "Drug Production and Trafficking, Counterdrug Policies, and Security and Governance in Afghanistan."

    Jonathan Kulick, Presenter
    Co-author, "Drug Production and Trafficking, Counterdrug Policies, and Security and Governance in Afghanistan."

    Philip B. Heymann, Discussant
    Ames Professor of Law at Harvard and former Deputy Attorney General

    William Taylor, Moderator
    Vice President of Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations, U.S. Institute of Peace

    Inquiries

    Please contact Ashley Pandya at 202-429-3849 or apandya@usip.org with any general questions about this event.

    Media

    Journalists should contact Lauren Sucher at lsucher@usip.org or Allison Sturma at asturma@usip.org.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Not just Western kids--it is a major problem in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, and especially in Iran.

    Indeed, by some estimates the Iranian security services have lost more casualties to clashes with Afghan drug smuggling networks than ISAF has lost to the Taliban.
    So we are going to turn this whole issue into another talk shop. Talk, talk, talk and no action. (Re the conference mentioned in you other post)

    If there are no poppies grown then there is no opium, then there is no heroin, there is no corruption...etc etc

    The one unknown cog in the corruption wheel is the one close to US policy making on this issue. Take than one out and the poppies will go and with them the opium/heroin problem.

    Imagine this. we have reached to the point where even soldiers are starting to agree that growing and harvesting poppies should be allowed. You go figure.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    If there are no poppies grown then there is no opium, then there is no heroin, there is no corruption...etc etc
    Seriously, no supply then no demand?

    I think you have it the wrong way round.

    The one unknown cog in the corruption wheel is the one close to US policy making on this issue. Take than one out and the poppies will go and with them the opium/heroin problem.
    Corruption at any level does not create drug consumption, which is the root of the problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Seriously, no supply then no demand?

    I think you have it the wrong way round.
    Not at all. It is easier to locate a poppy field in Afghanistan where you have 100,000 troops and some of the most advanced surveillance kit the world has ever seen than it is to keep the finished product away from the kids in the USA.

    Let them grow it elsewhere. It is criminal to allow it to be grown and harvested under the noses of the US troops in Afghanistan.

    Corruption at any level does not create drug consumption, which is the root of the problem.
    If the SF went after the drug barons as carefully and aggressively as they go after the AQ leadership in Afghanistan the problem would be over in a year.

    ... but first you have to take out the insiders on the US side that allow it all keep happening.

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    ... but first you have to take out the insiders on the US side that allow it all keep happening.
    Not sure what you are implying when you say "one unknown cog in the corruption wheel is the one close to US policy making".

    Are you saying that U.S. government officials are taking drug money to allow Afghan farmers to grow poppy?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    If there are no poppies grown then there is no opium, then there is no heroin, there is no corruption...etc etc
    The question is whether eradication can be undertaken without increasing rural alienation to the point that it substantially strengthens, rather than weakens, the Taliban.

    The general view is that widespread eradication would require massive numbers of troops, be only partially effective, and benefit the Taliban (in terms of rural alienation and increased recruitment) more than in hurt them (in terms of finance). Perhaps that view is wrong, but it is by no means a simple issue--even if we wished it was.

    Iran has implemented a draconian anti-opium policy for more than a decade, including mass public hangings of drug smugglers. It hasn't stopped smuggling or distribution in the country--there's just too much money to be made.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  20. #140
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    Default Interesting assertions...

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    If the SF went after the drug barons as carefully and aggressively as they go after the AQ leadership in Afghanistan the problem would be over in a year.
    Do you know that they or others are not doing that?

    Then there's this:
    ... but first you have to take out the insiders on the US side that allow it all keep happening.
    I'm with Tequila, can you expand on that a bit?

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