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Thread: Afghanistan's Drug Problem

  1. #81
    Council Member Billy Ruffian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oakfox View Post
    Interesting idea.. buying all the poppy? How would you consider convincing an Afghan that you would stay long enough to keep buying the opium longer than drug barons?

    "Fortunate" for us that the average Afghan cannot read western newspapers otherwise he would realize that the West is unwilling to make a long term commitment (see reports regarding the Canadian parliament).

    (Although I completely understand the Canadian position).
    We're even more divided than you might think on this issue. I would argue that Canadians, myself included, are a very compassionate people (as all soft socialists are) who want to see the job get done... well... one half only will fulfill that just so long as no one's feelings get hurt. The other half, I would again argue, wants to get 'Cowboy' on the Taleban/Narco-Lord individuals.

    We're a very divided people on this issue.

    We've all spoken alot about just buying up the crop from the farmers, but has anyone in the ISAF, NATO or UN hierarchy actually seriously tried to implement this? If we were able to deliver pain-killer medicine to Afghans with a label that said 'Proudly grown in Afghanistan', wouldn't that help us out a little?
    "I encounter civilians like you all the time. You believe the Empire is continually plotting to do harm. Let me tell you, your view of the Empire is far too dramatic. The Empire is a government. It keeps billions of beings fed and clothed. Day after day, year after year, on thousands of worlds people live their lives under Imperial rule without ever seeing a stormtrooper or hearing a TIE fighter scream overhead."
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  2. #82
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    Default Legalizing poppy

    This issue keeps running, primarily championed by the Senlis Council. On the surface it seems logical but I suspect the argument receives far more prominence that it deserves. Why? because:

    - there may be a debate about whether there is a global shortage of opiates.

    - a key tenet of the proposal to legitimately farm poppy is that the Afghans would self-regulate its production. Thus, farmers would only grow their allotted amount of poppy. This system would not be effective in a corrupt environment.

    - little thought is given to the reaction of drug barons and the insurgents who currently profit from the illicit opium market.

    - even if a self-regulating system could be implemented, the cultivated opium would not be produced for the illicit heroin market. Continued demand would fuel the requirement for illicit farming.

    - if legalizing opium would suddenly remove the profit incentive, why is there a multi-million (£/$/Euro) market in illicit tobacco products?

    - the continued cultivation of poppy will do little to ease the chronic effects of opiate production on the populations in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Too often we ignore the damaging and corrosive effects of opium in the Region.

    - the eventual solution is to remove poppy as a crop of choice. Paying farmers to grow it does not promote that outcome.

  3. #83
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Smile True enough but

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smyth View Post
    .

    - little thought is given to the reaction of drug barons and the insurgents who currently profit from the illicit opium market.(
    Actually one thing about war is that if one manages to get the criminals to side with the enemy then there is a greater percentage of them dealt with through attrition vs court systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smyth View Post
    .
    - the continued cultivation of poppy will do little to ease the chronic effects of opiate production on the populations in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Too often we ignore the damaging and corrosive effects of opium in the Region.
    This may be but can we find an example historically where quitting cold turkey actually worked out in the long run with this sort of thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smyth View Post
    .
    - the eventual solution is to remove poppy as a crop of choice. Paying farmers to grow it does not promote that outcome.
    Although it's no guarantee sometimes the only way to get a different product on the market is through hostile takeover of the product line. Not sure what the best way to do this is but on one of these threads I tried to lay out an idea. I'll try to find it.

    Got It-

    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=4816
    Last edited by Ron Humphrey; 03-25-2008 at 01:02 PM. Reason: Add Link
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  4. #84
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smyth View Post
    - if legalizing opium would suddenly remove the profit incentive, why is there a multi-million (£/$/Euro) market in illicit tobacco products?
    Exactly!!!

    It's NOT a multi BILLION Euro market in illicit tobacco because it ain't illegal.
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    And it is a major problem. E.g. a quote from British American Tobacco (http://www.bat.com/group/sites/uk__3...&SKN=3&TMP=1):

    Illicit trade is not just the work of small operators. Organised crime is increasingly dominant. The rewards can be high. A single 40 foot long container (8.5 million cigarettes) smuggled into the UK and sold at half the recommended retail price could net the criminals around US$2 million in profit.

    and (http://www.ash.org.uk/ash_20gyvtb9.htm):
    It has been estimated that illicit trade accounted for 10.7 percent of global cigarette sales in 2006, or about 600 billion cigarettes. This analysis found that the illicit tobacco trade deprives governments of $US 40-50 billion in tax revenue each year, greater than the GDPs of two-thirds of the world's countries.
    Source: All Africa, 13 February 2008
    Link: http://tinyurl.com/2gqwpm

    There is also a global nmarket for counterfeit pharmacuticals. If Afghan Opium was suddenly legalized, it would presumably open up a new opportunity for illicit activity.

    P

  6. #86
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    Default Newsweek - The Opium Brides of Afghanistan

    Newsweek - The Opium Brides of Afghanistan

    Khalida's father says she's 9—or maybe 10. As much as Sayed Shah loves his 10 children, the functionally illiterate Afghan farmer can't keep track of all their birth dates. Khalida huddles at his side, trying to hide beneath her chador and headscarf. They both know the family can't keep her much longer. Khalida's father has spent much of his life raising opium, as men like him have been doing for decades in the stony hillsides of eastern Afghanistan and on the dusty southern plains. It's the only reliable cash crop most of those farmers ever had. Even so, Shah and his family barely got by: traffickers may prosper, but poor farmers like him only subsist. Now he's losing far more than money. "I never imagined I'd have to pay for growing opium by giving up my daughter," says Shah.

    The family's heartbreak began when Shah borrowed $2,000 from a local trafficker, promising to repay the loan with 24 kilos of opium at harvest time. Late last spring, just before harvest, a government crop-eradication team appeared at the family's little plot of land in Laghman province and destroyed Shah's entire two and a half acres of poppies. Unable to meet his debt, Shah fled with his family to Jalalabad, the capital of neighboring Nangarhar province. The trafficker found them anyway and demanded his opium. So Shah took his case before a tribal council in Laghman and begged for leniency. Instead, the elders unanimously ruled that Shah would have to reimburse the trafficker by giving Khalida to him in marriage. Now the family can only wait for the 45-year-old drugrunner to come back for his prize. Khalida wanted to be a teacher someday, but that has become impossible. "It's my fate," the child says.

    Afghans disparagingly call them "loan brides"—daughters given in marriage by fathers who have no other way out of debt. The practice began with the dowry a bridegroom's family traditionally pays to the bride's father in tribal Pashtun society. These days the amount ranges from $3,000 or so in poorer places like Laghman and Nangarhar to $8,000 or more in Helmand, Afghanistan's No. 1 opium-growing province. For a desperate farmer, that bride price can be salvation—but at a cruel cost. Among the Pashtun, debt marriage puts a lasting stain on the honor of the bride and her family. It brings shame on the country, too. President Hamid Karzai recently told the nation: "I call on the people [not to] give their daughters for money; they shouldn't give them to old men, and they shouldn't give them in forced marriages."
    "In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." - Eric Hoffer

  7. #87
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Unhappy You know

    Quote Originally Posted by jonSlack View Post
    This seems like the perfect job for a Negotiator. You know wait for him to show up to claim the girl and make "him an offer he can't refuse"

    It is sad that this happens but it's been going on for a long time there and many other places.

    The only way it ever changes is by finding other options for those involved and sometimes thats culturally limited.
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    Mid-May of 2003 on a three day trip to the Pakistan-Afgh border, we passed through valley after valley of poppy fields. Beautiful as the manicured fields were fed by the melting ice of snow packs as high as 11,500 feet. And we were at nearly 10,000 feet. The valleys are such that low flying aircraft would have just one pass. On the hilltops are 12.7mm (50 cal size) weapons.

    These fields that reap so much damage to society are worked by share croppers, but owned by those who live in Hong Kong, London, Lahore....and perhaps a few in Kabul.

    How to resolve this problem...this serious problem is yet to be determined. But, see the faces of the people, they are as addicted to growing poppy as the addicts who use the end product.

    Try to make that trip today...no way. (Gardez, Paki border-northern Khwost Province...down through Jaji to Khwost in the southern portion, then the Kwost-Gardez "hiway" back to FOB Gardez...then the following day to Ghazni..(my back still hurts from that trip...)

  9. #89
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default You can try it again, may be easier on

    the bod -- if not now, soon; LINK.

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    Default Poppies or Roses?

    Here is a different angle: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...14&ft=1&f=1001

    Summary - An excellent illustration of how providing alternative livelihoods for Afghan poppy-growing farmers is stymied not just by the Taliban, but by government corruption and weak institutions: a group of foreign and local businessmen – including noted Afghan expert Barnett Rubin – have been frustrated in their efforts to launch a small-scale perfume industry in eastern Afghanistan.

    Additional comments by Mr Rubin: http://icga.blogspot.com/2008/01/err...ium-poppy.html

    davidbfpo

    (Moved here - the correct thread!)

  11. #91
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default The economics of poppies...

    From yesterday's BBC

    Afghan police working with British special forces have uncovered a drugs stash of 237 tonnes of hashish.

    Afghan and British officials say they believe it to be the world's biggest seizure of drugs in terms of weight.
    Afghan and British officials said the hashish had a value of more than $400m (£203m).
    Sapere Aude

  12. #92
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    Default UN 2008 World Drug Report

    You can download the full report here:

    UN 2008 World Drug Report


    Here is the relevant chart on Afghanistan. There is but a single negative production figure, that of farm price for dry opium suggesting that higher production has driven down price.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Tom Odom; 06-27-2008 at 01:39 PM.

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    Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?

    By THOMAS SCHWEICH
    New York Times Magazine
    Published: July 27, 2008

    On March 1, 2006, I met Hamid Karzai for the first time. It was a clear, crisp day in Kabul. The Afghan president joined President and Mrs. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ambassador Ronald Neumann to dedicate the new United States Embassy. He thanked the American people for all they had done for Afghanistan. I was a senior counternarcotics official recently arrived in a country that supplied 90 percent of the world’s heroin. I took to heart Karzai’s strong statements against the Afghan drug trade. That was my first mistake.

    Over the next two years I would discover how deeply the Afghan government was involved in protecting the opium trade — by shielding it from American-designed policies. While it is true that Karzai’s Taliban enemies finance themselves from the drug trade, so do many of his supporters. At the same time, some of our NATO allies have resisted the anti-opium offensive, as has our own Defense Department, which tends to see counternarcotics as other people’s business to be settled once the war-fighting is over. The trouble is that the fighting is unlikely to end as long as the Taliban can finance themselves through drugs — and as long as the Kabul government is dependent on opium to sustain its own hold on power.

  14. #94
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Education is a wonderful thing...

    Reads like he's getting one.

    He says in summation:
    "1. Inform President Karzai that he must stop protecting drug lords and narco-farmers or he will lose U.S. support. Karzai should issue a new decree of zero tolerance for poppy cultivation during the coming growing season. He should order farmers to plant wheat, and guarantee today’s high wheat prices. Karzai must simultaneously authorize aggressive force-protected manual and aerial eradication of poppies in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces for those farmers who do not plant legal crops.

    2. Order the Pentagon to support this strategy. Position allied and Afghan troops in places that create security pockets so that Afghan counternarcotics police can arrest powerful drug lords. Enable force-protected eradication with the Afghan-set goal of eradicating 50,000 hectares as the benchmark.

    3. Increase the number of D.E.A. agents in Kabul and assist the Afghan attorney general in prosecuting key traffickers and corrupt government officials from all ethnic groups, including southern Pashtuns.

    4. Get new development projects quickly to the provinces that become poppy-free or stay poppy free. The north should see significant rewards for its successful anticultivation efforts. Do not, however, provide cash to farmers for eradication.

    5. Ask the allies either to help in this effort or stand down and let us do the job.

    There are other initiatives that could help as well: better engagement of Afghanistan’s neighbors, more drug-treatment centers in Afghanistan, stopping the flow into Afghanistan of precursor chemicals needed to make heroin and increased demand-reduction programs. But if we — the Afghans and the U.S. — do just the five items listed above, we will bring the rule of law to a lawless country; and we will cut off a key source of financing to the Taliban."
    to which I suggest:

    1. That's not laughable but it is sad. Extremely unlikely to happen for several reasons and if it does, the blowback will be horrendous. Welcome to South Asia...

    2. That can be done. Well, could be done. But. Since the Pentagon, that bastion of evil, is aware of what that will mean to their troops, they'll resist it. If a politician gives the order, it might happen -- and said politician would not be the one who took the flak over the sudden increase in casualties, the folks in the Five Sided bit of Arlington County know that, ergo...

    3. That has some merit as long as realistic expectations are maintained.

    4. Ditto the comment above.

    5. Unlikely to happen, if asked, most will steer clear of any 'help' for the same reasons they have avoided helping in the past. Put too much pressure on them -- and, well, many would be happy to leave Afghanistan anyway...

    The other suggestions are also good and achievable but any dream of bringing the rule of law to Afghanistan in less than a generation or two is I believe regrettably deluded. I know we're American and we like to fix things and do it quickly; but some things and some places just won't play along.

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    There has been some research based on a Purdue University study that examined hemp growth for industrial purposes. Some groups have been looking at that as a way to curb the opium and marijuana production by building an industrial infrastructure around hemp grown for that purpose.

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    Any concerted anti-poppy campaign would significantly increase the level of violence in the country, particularly in the northern and western parts of the country that the uninformed believe are 'success' stories. They are quiescent at best, largely due to the ineffectiveness of government and Afghan forces in those regions.

    Also to be considered is the fact that poppy is especially suited to the current conditions in Afghanistan. Until the irrigation system is rebuilt, along with an infrastructure that allows for transportation, storage, and refrigeration, the choice of crops will remain sharply circumscribed for the average farmer.

  17. #97
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Darksaga View Post
    There has been some research based on a Purdue University study that examined hemp growth for industrial purposes. Some groups have been looking at that as a way to curb the opium and marijuana production by building an industrial infrastructure around hemp grown for that purpose.
    OK and what is the market for hemp? Kenya once was the hemp production point for the British Empire but as the use of hemp ropes and lines died at sea so did the production of hemp.

    The Brits have tried potatoes in Afganistan as a crop replacement and other staples have been tested. The bottom line is they--like coffee for Juan Valdez in Colombia--do not come close to paying as well.

    What Eden said is worth repeating:
    Clearly COIN is currently taking precedence, but the reason why that is is complicated.

    At ISAF headquarters, the long-term threat of narcotics was (and still is, I assume - I left there last year) clearly recognized. However, the increased violence and decreased Afghan support for NATO pursuant to a serious CN effort had to be avoided. Why? Because the coalition in Afghanistan was barely being held together. Several major contributors were very leery about allowing 'their' region to become more violent. They feared that NATO involvement in CN would lead to their troops becoming targets. Many had caveats specifically exempting them from CN. Therefore, any CN effort had to be Afghan-led and executed, and the Afghans were both unable and unwilling to mount anything more than photo-op missions.

    On the other hand, for political reasons and domestic consumption, no one could say that they were going to ignore narcotic trafficking. So you would have statements to the effect that it simply couldn't be tackled until the security situation improved (only partially true in some areas), and the trumpeting of a few 'replacement livelihood' programs that were desperately underfunded and of dubious effectiveness.

    The truth is that NATO is unwilling to tackle CN and that some nations are more interested in being seen to participate than they are in actually improving conditions in Afghanistan. The more dedicated NATO members recognize they can only ask so much of their less willing partners if they are to sustain any sort of effort at all. It is not, I believe, the first time that politicians and generals have preferred short-term benefits to long-term gains. These are truths that are unspeakable, of course, which is why you have been unable to get a satisfactory answer to your question.

    As Ken says, welcome to South Asia.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    As Ken says, welcome to South Asia.
    Yes, I agree too. I was quite dumbfounded that anyone with even a faint understanding of either the politics or geostrategic stakes thought this was remotely possible:

    Inform President Karzai that he must stop protecting drug lords and narco-farmers or he will lose U.S. support.
    Get tougher? Maybe. Probably. Withdraw all US support?

  19. #99
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I'm sure he's a great guy and a competent

    law enforcement type, he's obviously smart and aggressive. And he's an American. I think that latter fact gets in the way of the former attributes. We like to get things done, believe that wrongs must be righted and are generally pretty up-front in our dealings. Not popular attitudes in much of the world and we always have difficulty accepting that fact. Egos again...

    I also think his experience with Colombia probably clouded the issue. Afghans are NOT Colombians

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Odom View Post
    OK and what is the market for hemp? Kenya once was the hemp production point for the British Empire but as the use of hemp ropes and lines died at sea so did the production of hemp.

    The Brits have tried potatoes in Afganistan as a crop replacement and other staples have been tested. The bottom line is they--like coffee for Juan Valdez in Colombia--do not come close to paying as well.
    Here is the link to the Purdue report.

    http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/ncnu02/v5-284.html

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