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Thread: Afghanistan's Drug Problem

  1. #181
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    All the Western governments are having serious financial challenges, so the idea of having our governments pay for and then destroy the product year after year doesn't sound too appealing, even if it is more cost effective than the ineffeective drug war. I think it would take quite a bit of political salesmanship to make this option a reality. We have already signed up to spend billions to sustain Afghanistan's security forces for an indefinite period.

    We need to start all over again and generate some creative solutions, instead of continuing down the same failed path.

  2. #182
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    The drug scenario in Afghanistan is akin to the rotten apple in the bushel basket of good ones. We need to figure something out, and act on it. I don't think a coherent policy is on anyone's mind, unfortunately, and without it we are just sticking our fingers in the dike.
    Last edited by jcustis; 07-24-2011 at 06:21 PM.

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    Default A controversial Approach to Poppy problem

    It is discouraging to note the poppy problem continues to grow worse despite claims by some counter-narcotics organisations of the increases in seizures and eradication. The problem however is growing faster than these 'successes', is involving more and more of the Afghan population and economy, is increasing in its diversity and resilience and most current efforts are only causing greater instability for the regions and country.

    I have made small attempts in otehr threads here at SWJ to introduce an alternative to the current failed counter-narcotics strategies in an attempt to deal with the issue holistically. Looking at the problem from a systems perspective can yield strategies that have greater positive effects and far fewer negative secondary and tertiary effects.

    For example, too many strategies rely on poppy eradication and related replacement efforts which fail to look broadly and deal with the secondary problems created by the poppy industry as a whole. Supplying wheat: may not work for all farmers, may not be viable to grow and/or market; furthermore, many grow wheat for subsistence and not to market it, some feed the seed to their cattle rather than grow wheat, and generally the associated labour for wheat is up to 80% lower than poppy which means that a vast number of Afghans that benefit from the poppy trade are now displaced and looking for an income (maybe recruits for the insurgency?). Buying the crop: feeds the current system, raises the street price and incentivises more Afghans and the potential for continued corruption. Destroying the crop: feeds corruption, contributes to insecurity, foments resentment from majority of Afghans, has proven to be a failed strategy.

    I propose considering setting up an agricultural marketing type board consisting of a licence fee based quoto to grow poppy by the acre (not produce opiates) which would be managed in partnership with the current powerbrokers, landowners and government (police and provincial). A set number and size of licenses would be sold annually, with the fees and number adjusted each year in order to i) reduce the current poppy cultivation by 25% in the first year compared to current levels, ii) reduce the number of licences each year over ten years to nil, iii) continue and expand eradication and alternative livelihood progrmammes, iv) produce government revenues and involvement, and finally v) implement some demand reduction measures in destination countries.

    In this proposal; there would be 100% eradication enforced in all non-licenced areas, farmers would have ten years to transition to licit agricultural products (vineyards for grapes and raisins, pomegranates, nut groves, etc.), fees from sales would go into alternatives, precurser opiate production chemicals from external suppliers would be interdicted, education programmes would be funded and corruption would be directly monitored and controlled.

    That is the essence of the strategy, which I hope to publish as a longer paper with supporting evidence and conclusions. It is entirely feasible to adopt such a proposal province by province as a test case as well, however a whole country effort is more appropriate given the recent and continuing history.

    Regards,

    David

  4. #184
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Bravo

    David C,

    Thanks for the considered and informed response. Plus being from someone who has had "boots on the ground" and not from my distant "armchair".

    Now if we, the UK, are in Helmand Province in ten years time I will be amazed.
    davidbfpo

  5. #185
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    I propose considering setting up an agricultural marketing type board consisting of a licence fee based quoto to grow poppy by the acre (not produce opiates) which would be managed in partnership with the current powerbrokers, landowners and government (police and provincial). A set number and size of licenses would be sold annually, with the fees and number adjusted each year in order to i) reduce the current poppy cultivation by 25% in the first year compared to current levels, ii) reduce the number of licences each year over ten years to nil, iii) continue and expand eradication and alternative livelihood progrmammes, iv) produce government revenues and involvement, and finally v) implement some demand reduction measures in destination countries.
    This will never be tenable, until we get a handle on the matter of corruption and nepotism across all things currently that involve GIRoA, ANSF, development, etc. I mean widespread, sweeping changes that aren't likely without a lot of time, energy, partnered commitment, and honesty.

    As davidbfpo shrugs, we don't have that sort of time.

    Maybe we should study what the Taliban did more closely, when they went at opium for a bit, for lessons learned.
    Last edited by jcustis; 07-26-2011 at 05:33 AM.

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    Maybe we should study what the Taliban did more closely, when they went at opium for a bit, for lessons learned.
    Actually that isn't a bad idea. I doubt that we could replicate their behavior and success, but it would still be interesting to explore:

    + how they reduced the trade
    + what the impact was on the farmers and others
    + how the farmers and others adapted
    + "why" the farmers went back to growing opium after the Taliban were forced out of power

    If we could answer these factually (not based on assumptions) then it would probably yield some interesting insights in our never ending pursuit of a better way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Actually that isn't a bad idea. I doubt that we could replicate their behavior and success, but it would still be interesting to explore:

    + how they reduced the trade
    + what the impact was on the farmers and others
    + how the farmers and others adapted
    + "why" the farmers went back to growing opium after the Taliban were forced out of power

    If we could answer these factually (not based on assumptions) then it would probably yield some interesting insights in our never ending pursuit of a better way.
    A few facts:

    * Around 90% of the opiates that make it onto the world market originate from Afghanistan.

    * The US government/NATO/ISAF are doing very little to reduce this flow.

    * The Taliban stopped all poppy cultivation in Helmand in 2001 (without any crop replacement programs or cost or any armed uprising against them)

    * The Taliban ban with the resultant loss of revenue all but bankrupted the country.

    * (oh yes the the killer fact) That a portion of the revenues generated by the Afghan drug trade (which has tacit acceptance of the US government and ISAF) are used by the Taliban to fund the war against ISAF with significant resultant cost in terms of death and mutilation.

    All this and despite the solution being blindingly obvious the US/ISAF just bungle on and advance deeper into the swamp. Very sad situation.

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    Default Not a final solution, but interesting ...

    One can no longer speak of purely "terrorist" or purely transnational criminal groups, as exemplified by the following:

    DOJ News Release (July 26, 2011):

    Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrests in DEA Narco-Terrorism Undercover Operations

    One DEA Operation Results in Arrests of Defendants for Agreeing to Acquire $9.5 Million Worth of Surface-to-Air Missiles and Other Weapons for Hizballah

    Separate DEA Operation Culminates in Arrest of Heroin and Weapons Trafficker from Kandahar, Afghanistan for Taliban-Related Narco-Terrorism Conspiracy
    Note the well-traveled defendants and where they were arrested:

    Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Michele M. Leonhart, the Administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced the unsealing of two indictments resulting from two DEA narco-terrorism undercover operations: first, an indictment against Siavosh Henareh, Bachar Wehbe, and Cetin Aksu for conspiring to provide various forms of support to Hizballah; second, an indictment against Taza Gul Alizai ("Gul") for narco-terrorism conspiracy, narco-terrorism, and heroin importation related to his supplying of 15 kilograms of heroin and six AK-47 assault rifles to a DEA confidential source whom Gul believed represented the Taliban. Henareh and aksu were arrested yesterday in Bucharest, Romania, where they were detained pending extradition to the United States. Wehbe and Gul were arrested yesterday in the Republic of the Maldives, and arrived in the Southern District of New York earlier today.
    Of much greater general interest is the recent Executive Order--Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations (July 25, 2011):

    By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

    I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the activities of significant transnational criminal organizations, such as those listed in the Annex to this order, have reached such scope and gravity that they threaten the stability of international political and economic systems. Such organizations are becoming increasingly sophisticated and dangerous to the United States; they are increasingly entrenched in the operations of foreign governments and the international financial system, thereby weakening democratic institutions, degrading the rule of law, and undermining economic markets. These organizations facilitate and aggravate violent civil conflicts and increasingly facilitate the activities of other dangerous persons. I therefore determine that significant transnational criminal organizations constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.
    ....
    Entities

    1. THE BROTHERS’ CIRCLE (f.k.a. FAMILY OF ELEVEN; f.k.a. THE TWENTY)
    2. CAMORRA
    3. YAKUZA (a.k.a. BORYOKUDAN; a.k.a. GOKUDO)
    4. LOS ZETAS
    Note that the legal authority cited is Title 50 and not Title 10.

    Regards

    Mike

  9. #189
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    Default Massive increase in Afghan opium production

    Hat tip to Circling The Lion's Den, which has id'd a UN report:http://circlingthelionsden.blogspot....han-opium.html

    A few choice sentences from Nick's review:
    A total of 131,000 hectares was under cultivation, compared to 125,000 ha last year. However, that obscures the fact that the amount of opium produced will rise by 61 per cent this year compared to last, to a total of 5,800 metric tonnes.
    As I watch Helmand Province:
    There have been some counter-narcotic successes, with a reduction in opium cultivation in central Helmand province, mainly due to the successful introduction of counter narcotics programmes by the central government. But in the north and south of the province production increased.
    The final sentence reminds us of the impact on Afghans, have a look!
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Hat tip to Circling The Lion's Den, which has id'd a UN report:http://circlingthelionsden.blogspot....han-opium.html

    A few choice sentences from Nick's review:

    As I watch Helmand Province:

    The final sentence reminds us of the impact on Afghans, have a look!
    David, there is no serious counter-narcotic programme in Afghanistan... I mean nobody... and I mean nobody could be that incompetent.

    What was not mentioned beyond the dollar terms the Taliban's cut will be is what they are likely to do with it and an estimation of how many killed and maimed ISAF soldiers that with translate into.

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    Somewhat old, but relevant:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbltuJERN2U

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post

    ...So I would not spend a cent on agriculture in Afghanistan... in fact the next trick should be to destroy their irrigation system if they use continue to use them to cultivate poppies. Just give them the Gypsy's warning on that... and if they don't listen... then let the Engineers have a little fun with demolitions.
    And that worked SO WELL for the Soviets when they tried it.

    Equating poppy-cultivation to insurgency in Afghanistan is only one of the major mistakes we've made in that country.

    But if you want to set the whole country afire, have fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    What if it's the government that ignores the rule of law, refuses to negotiate, and resorts to violence? It happens, and it's a good reason to be very careful about choosing what governments we want to support and deciding what insurgents need to be countered.
    Or what if we, the US, crammed a completely unworkable and illegitimate over-centralized government down the throats of Afghanistan as a whole?

    The kind of government that rewards bad behavior and has zero responsiveness to localities that are not dominated by Pashtuns. You know, the same Pashtuns that are the Taliban, by and large. (I know, I know, there are IMU out there, but I digress.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by 120mm View Post
    And that worked SO WELL for the Soviets when they tried it.
    Tried what? Are we talking about the same thing?

    Equating poppy-cultivation to insurgency in Afghanistan is only one of the major mistakes we've made in that country.
    If you connect the dots (and read) you will see that the Taliban are partially funded by the Afghan drug trade. How dumb can the US continue to be to allow the source of that funding to flourish right under their noses? The situation is so outrageous that one needs to demand to know who in the US political/civilian/military structures have been bought off by the druglords.

    But if you want to set the whole country afire, have fun.
    So what are you saying? The US's current best 'friends' the druglords are more dangerous than the Taliban? A war requires warriors. A war against the Taliban requires warriors. A war against the drug lords requires warriors. If you ain't got the warriors who are up for the fight better to stay at home and play tin-soldiers.

    Try this... if there are no poppies grown there will be no opium which means there will be no heroin... no funding for the Taliban (from that source), no druglords, no heroin deaths, no heroin addictions. Not that difficult to understand is it?

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    JMA - So let me see if I understand.

    Basically your solution to the insurgency/opium problem, assuming they are the same thing, is to threaten the Afghan farming population with the destruction of their farmland if they do not comply with our directives?

    Allow me to point out two things.

    1) Population clearance as COIN tactic has been tried in Afghanistan before. The Soviets pursued this strategy in both the south and the east post-1984 - it generated over five million Afghan refugees and killed tens of thousands, if not more. This did not work for them because the Soviets, just like the U.S. now, could not control the Pakistani or Iranian borders. These refugees came back across the border and continued the insurgency unabated.

    2) Assuming your program was adapted successfully, would opium production not simply move to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and destabilize those polities? When supply fell in Colombia during the Uribe war against the FARC, it increased correspondingly in Bolivia and Peru. It is currently behind a resurgence in Peru of the Shining Path.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    JMA - So let me see if I understand.
    Obviously you don't

    Basically your solution to the insurgency/opium problem, assuming they are the same thing, is to threaten the Afghan farming population with the destruction of their farmland if they do not comply with our directives?
    Let me help you here... the 'opium problem' is a significant source of funding for the Taliban. Without poppies there would be no druglords. 90% of the world's heroin production comes from Afghanistan and it kills tens of thousands each year.

    So it is no only insane, but criminally insane, to allow poppy cultivation to flourish. (Remembering Vietnam I wonder if each and every US aircraft out of Afghanistan is given the once over on arrival in the States. Its just a question of how far up the line it goes.)

    Allow me to point out two things.

    1) Population clearance as COIN tactic has been tried in Afghanistan before. The Soviets pursued this strategy in both the south and the east post-1984 - it generated over five million Afghan refugees and killed tens of thousands, if not more. This did not work for them because the Soviets, just like the U.S. now, could not control the Pakistani or Iranian borders. These refugees came back across the border and continued the insurgency unabated.
    As I stated, tens of thousands are being killed by heroin produced under the 'protection' of the US military in Afghanistan. This is criminal.

    The Soviet invasion created the environment where poppy cultivation flourished. The flow of opium derivatives ever since has been outwards.

    Now I would have thought that a nice coulurful field of poppies would be relatively easy to deal with rather than packets of the derivatives.

    Now it appears that the Soviets did attempt to destroy agriculture so as so draw people into the cities where could be better controlled or force them out of the country where they became other peoples problem.

    But despite common sense the US has chosen to cosy up to a corrupt/criminal/illegitimate regime and every low down druglord in town. Its criminal behaviour plain and simple.

    2) Assuming your program was adapted successfully, would opium production not simply move to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and destabilize those polities? When supply fell in Colombia during the Uribe war against the FARC, it increased correspondingly in Bolivia and Peru. It is currently behind a resurgence in Peru of the Shining Path.
    So the logic is just let it flourish where it is currently being grown? Poppies are grown in the open. Personally I don't care about any loss of earnings those who currently grow poppies incur (just as most people would not care if some hillbilly family were bust over their marijuana field or moonshine still).

    One day someone will study how the US sleepwalked into bed with the scum of Afghanistan.

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    Obviously you don't
    I don't see anywhere in your post where you have a different solution other than the destruction of Afghan farmland where poppies are grown - just moral arguments about how poppies must be destroyed.

    Now it appears that the Soviets did attempt to destroy agriculture so as so draw people into the cities where could be better controlled or force them out of the country where they became other peoples problem.
    Yes, we both agree with that. But those people did not really become an Iranian or a Pakistani problem. The Iranians and Pakistanis ensured that they remained a major Soviet/Afghan government problem. How would your plan differ from the Soviet one, and why would it have different results?

    So the logic is just let it flourish where it is currently being grown? Poppies are grown in the open. Personally I don't care about any loss of earnings those who currently grow poppies incur (just as most people would not care if some hillbilly family were bust over their marijuana field or moonshine still).
    The logic is this: the people involved in poppy production are not just a few hillbillies, isolated from society - it is a large percentage of the population of southern Afghanistan. Destroying their agricultural land would represent a major effort and would likely encounter severe opposition from both the Afghan government and the Taliban, not to mention the people themselves.

    Assuming that we are successful in destroying all this land and wrecking the southern Afghan opium economy, we will have accomplished what?

    - We will likely have killed a lot of Afghans and convinced many others that our presence is actively harmful.

    - We will have disrupted some Taliban funding and opium planting for at least a year or so.

    - Opium planting will displace elsewhere, most likely Central Asia or Pakistan, but previous episodes in drug eradication (including the Taliban's own ban on opium in 2001) have shown that the opium supplies to the drug markets of Europe and America will not be interrupted significantly.

    I doubt any of these factors will either (1) defeat the insurgency or (2) impact the world supply of illegal opium.

    So why should we do it, if it will have little to potentially negative effect?
    Last edited by tequila; 04-05-2012 at 06:41 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    I don't see anywhere in your post where you have a different solution other than the destruction of Afghan farmland where poppies are grown - just moral arguments about how poppies must be destroyed.
    Sorry friend but you need to up the intellectual level of your argument.

    Destroying a crop is not the equivalent of destroying the farmland itself. Taking out a key piece of the irrigation system does not mean that the whole irrigation system gets to be destroyed... just placed beyond use (if necessary) until they play ball.

    Yes I know that in the US of today everything, and that means everything, is negotiable but that does not negate from the simple truth that the US forces in Afghanistan are nothing more than proxies for druglords and corrupt politicians. If that is as low as the US military has sunk to then thats how it is ... but let no one talk of honour and the honourable profession of arms while that is going on.

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    Sorry friend but you need to up the intellectual level of your argument.

    Destroying a crop is not the equivalent of destroying the farmland itself. Taking out a key piece of the irrigation system does not mean that the whole irrigation system gets to be destroyed... just placed beyond use (if necessary) until they play ball.
    So, rather than permanently despoiling the land, we will simply remove part of the irrigation system, destroy planted opium, and ensure that no one repairs said irrigation system or replants the opium.

    I am not sure how doing so changes any of what I said before, except that this solution will be more costly in terms of manpower requirements and technical expertise.

    Can you address how doing so will at least assist in defeating the insurgency or significantly degrading opium supply to the point where the benefits involved would outweigh the costs?

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    So, rather than permanently despoiling the land, we will simply remove part of the irrigation system, destroy planted opium, and ensure that no one repairs said irrigation system or replants the opium.

    I am not sure how doing so changes any of what I said before, except that this solution will be more costly in terms of manpower requirements and technical expertise.

    Can you address how doing so will at least assist in defeating the insurgency or significantly degrading opium supply to the point where the benefits involved would outweigh the costs?
    I believe you understand exactly what I mean.

    Look it is really simple... in a war it helps to know who your enemy is.

    It just so happens that your friendly Afghan poppy growers are killing more US kids (90% of 2,000 annual heroin deaths in the US) than Taliban bombs and bullets. That this simple fact has been missed is rather ... strange, I'm sure you will agree. That the US diplomatic/military contingents in-country continue to use the troops on the ground to protect the source of supply is strange to the point of bizarre. (Worth investigation I suggest)

    So where are the Taliban getting their money from?

    * From (US allies) in the Gulf

    * From taking a cut from the opium trade

    * From taking a cut from the billions of US tax-payers $ supposedly to be used for aid and development.

    Read here and weep!

    Funding the Enemy: How U.S. Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban

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