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Thread: Afghanistan's Drug Problem

  1. #41
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Anyway, to get back to the point of this thread, Afghanistans's drug problem.

    From the Afghan villagers point of view, the problem is a lot of foreigners don't want him to grow something that is providing for his family better than anything else. If somehow the foreigners didn't care anymore about what he grew, Afghanistan's drug problem would consist of Afghans who abuse drugs. The Afghans could handle that one without our help.

  2. #42
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Two excellent articles from IWPR about this very issue in Helmand Province, one of the most violent in Afghanistan:

    Harvest in Helmand

    It could only happen in Helmand. On April 8, about 60 landowners staged a protest in front of the governor’s compound in Lashkar Gah, the capital of this southern Afghan province.

    They were demanding that the local authorities step in to resolve a dispute that was threatening to disrupt the all-important gathering of the opium crop. The hired labourers, who work as sharecroppers, had united to force landowners to give them half of the yield, when the owners insisted that one-fifth was a more reasonable share.

    The farm owners wanted the provincial government to mediate.

    It might look like democracy in action, except that the Afghan government is supposed to be engaged in a high-profile campaign to eradicate the plant ...
    Operation Achilles Heel?

    As international forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand region engage in their biggest offensive yet to drive the Taleban out of the north of the troubled province, everyone agrees the insurgents have not put up much of a fight.

    However, IWPR has been told by local residents that the relative calm has little to do with a successful security operation. Instead, they say, the Taleban have staged a tactical withdrawal to prevent the opium harvest being harmed by fighting.

    Operation Achilles, which began on March 6, was billed as “the largest multinational combined operation launched to date”, and will eventually involve 4,500 troops from the International Security Force, ISAF, and up to 1,000 Afghan National Security Forces, ANSF.

    An ISAF press release issued on April 16 suggested that the tough tactics were working, “Helmand province showing signs of [economic] growth due to increasing security.”

    The reason for the improvement, ISAF said, was Operation Achilles.

    Helmand residents were left either chuckling or shaking their heads at the suggestion. From their vantage point at ground zero in the conflict, the new phase of relative calm will be temporary.

    “There are no big problems in Helmand right now because everyone is busy with the poppy harvest,” said Abdul Halek, from Nawzad district. “The elders have asked the Taleban to leave until the harvest is in, so that NATO does not come and bomb the fields or the harvesters. But I don’t know what will happen afterwards ...”

  3. #43
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    Default Comparative Cost Analysis

    What is the fair market value to an Afghan farmer for an acre of his poppy crop? What would it cost to buy the crop at fair market value from the farmer and torch it on the spot/on the vine as they say? Why would the farmer care whether or not addicts get their dope? Why would he care if the middle men don't get to step on the product to pay off their patrons in the upper levels of the food chain? How many hectares are there anyway? To cut out the middle men and their nefarious economic contributions to narco-terrorism and corrupt politicians would leave the middle men no choice but to coerece the farmers back into growing the stuff. The logical choice would be to impliment payment for non production, sort of like the old Soil Bank program in the US years ago. That way the taliban and dealers would essentially have to coerce people into working when they are being paid not to work. Who then would the farmers align themselves with? What's the cost of dealing with the crimes associated with addiction, treatment and prevention and narco terrorism? How much LE budget allocation is sucked up by heroin/opium problems alone? I certainly don't pretend this is going to solve the world's opiate addiction problem but it certainly would help would take a huge hunk out of the taliban's coffers.

  4. #44
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    goesh, you hit upon the problem with your plan when you talk about coercion of the farmers or the more likely option (IMHO) that they would just kill the farmers and install their own sharecroppers.

  5. #45
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    Yup, it's a farmer's market all right - the Talimen/buyers would have to give them a higher premium for their crop, say a 10% increase over last year's price and they'd be out with the hoes and donkeys seeding and planting away as usual, then along comes the other side and ups their ante to beat the competition's price. Soon every poppy farmer would have a new 4DW Toyota and lots of other nice things. But on a small scale with a target group in one of the more secure areas, it would be worth a shot simply to see what shakes loose. Such a project would flush out into daylight all kinds of people in the drug food chain offering all kinds of reasons why such a project should not be tried/implemented. It would do that much if nothing else. There is quite a divers crowd between the farmer's market in the field and the addict on the street. I think I saw somewhere in this thread that the Afghan opium trade was valued at 2.6 billion - so what are the farmers getting - 10 million? What would be the buy-out cost at ground level for a target group of farmers? 200K maximum? I don't have a clue

  6. #46
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    U.S. under fire over Afghan poppy plan. - Financial Times, 25 May07.

    The US is proceeding with plans for a big crop-spraying programme to destroy opium poppies in Afghanistan, in spite of resistance from the government of President Hamid Karzai and objections from some senior US military officers who fear it will fuel the Taliban insurgency.
    A US delegation will soon leave for Kabul to persuade Mr Karzai that glycophate, a herbicide that is widely applied by US farmers, is safe to use and that trial ground-spraying should begin for the first time since the US ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.


    But controversy over the proposed spraying is causing rifts within the Nato alliance. Some governments, including Germany, want nothing to do with the eradication programme and are threatening to reconsider their posture in Afghanistan, diplomats say. Afghan security forces trained by Dyncorp, a private US defence contractor, are to carry out the spraying ...

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    Has spraying in any of the South American narcotic producing countries worked at all?

  8. #48
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Everyone's a Winner at Helmand's Drug Bazaars - IWPR, 1 June.

    ... Sayed Gul is new to the retail trade. Until now, he has been a poppy farmer. But lured by the hope of large profits, he decided to sell his own crop this year.

    “I got 36 kilos of poppy paste from my land this season, so I decided to go into business,” he told IWPR.

    It is a difficult market – Helmand’s farmers have grown so much poppy that prices are down, so buyers like “Hajji Sahib” must be courted assiduously.

    Afghanistan is by far the world’s largest producer of opium poppy. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, the country produced over 90 per cent of the world’s heroin in 2006, with Helmand alone accounting for close to 45 per cent of that figure.

    Like most of the other merchants at the Chan Jir bazaar, Sayed Gul is paying the police to leave him alone while he sells his highly illegal wares. The monthly fee for protection hovers around 6,000 Pakistani rupees, or approximately 100 US dollars.

    ...

    Farmers also pay informal “taxes” to police and local officials from the beginning of the process all the way up to the harvest.

    “The government makes a lot of money at harvest time,” said Shah Mahmud, 40, a landowner in Nadali. “We paid about 1,500 afghani per jerib to the police not to destroy our poppy during the eradication campaign. Now we’re paying the government to allow us to sell the product without interference - we are giving them 220 grams of poppy paste per jerib.”

    ...

    The arrangements are quite open and operate semi-officially, according to Hajji Aligul, 55, a tribal leader in Nadali.

    “I attended a shura [council] where we negotiated with the government,” he told IWPR. “We agreed that we would give 220 grams of poppy paste per jerib. The police commander told us, of course, that if we did not reach agreement, they would take the paste by force.”

    ...

    The Taleban are another major player in the drugs game. While evidence is sketchy, many observers assume that the insurgency is being funded by international drug profits. It is undisputed that the Taleban are receiving funds locally from farmers, shopkeepers, and traffickers.

    “Local people collect money for the Taleban,” said Shah Mahmud 40, a landowner in Nadali. “The Taleban contact tribal leaders and say, ‘don’t forget us, we need money too’. Most people give voluntarily.”

    Others pay out of fear, say some residents.

    But cooperation has been so close that farmers say the Taleban scaled down their “spring offensive” this year so as not to interfere with bringing in the crop.

    “It is not beneficial to have fighting during the harvest,” said Shah Mahmud. “The Taleban and the government both receive money from poppy – they lose out if the crop is destroyed by bombing or fighting.”

    In several places, villagers have requested that the Taleban leave the area until after the harvest.

    “We told the Taleban, ‘This year the government was very good to us and did not destroy our poppy,” said one tribal leader who did not want to give his name. “We said, ‘Stop your fighting during harvest time, otherwise we will turn against you, take up arms against you and kick you out of the area.’”

    Najmuddin, 25, a landowner in Zarghon village in Nadali, agreed.

    “The Taleban treat us very kindly and we will support them forever,” he told IWPR. “They left so that people could get their harvest in. The government has also treated us kindly, and helped us set up markets where we can sell our poppy ...”

  9. #49
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    Default From 4100 to 6100 Metric Tons

    - that's what the MSN article is reporting. Opium production is up that much from 2005:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19431056/

    "U.N.: Opium production soaring in Afghanistan
    Nation’s record poppy harvest has boosted global supply to new record high
    ..
    In 2006, Afghanistan accounted for 92 percent of global illicit opium production, up from 70 percent in 2000 and 52 percent a decade earlier. The higher yields in Afghanistan have brought global opium production to a new record high of 6,610 metric tons in 2006, a 43 percent increase over 2005."

    that's beau-coup smoke - no wonder the taliban keeps coming across the border in force.
    Last edited by goesh; 06-26-2007 at 01:54 PM.

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    ISN, 17 Jul 07: Addicted in Afghanistan
    ...Experts warn that high levels of unemployment in Afghanistan, war trauma and wide-scale bereavement are fuelling the population's appetite for the drug.

    "Thirty years of war and social disintegration," Dr Suleman says, "have left ordinary Afghans extremely vulnerable to anxiety, chronic depression and post-traumatic stress disorders. And in such a scenario, the easy and cheap availability of opium, heroin and other drugs is creating a rapid dependency on these harmful pharmaceuticals."

    For treatment of women, a team of female doctors and counselors from the Nejat Centre visit their homes. The trend of opium uses so entrenched, Nadira Yusuf told ISN Security Watch, a female counselor at the clinic, that women use opium as "medicine" to silence a wailing child, or even alleviate medical conditions such as tuberculosis, asthma or the common cold....

  11. #51
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Taliban Raise Poppy Production to a Record Again - NYTIMES, 25 Aug.

    Afghanistan produced record levels of opium in 2007 for the second straight year, led by a staggering 45 percent increase in the Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province, according to a new United Nations survey to be released Monday.

    The report is likely to touch off renewed debate about the United States’ $600 million counternarcotics program in Afghanistan, which has been hampered by security challenges and endemic corruption within the Afghan government.

    “I think it is safe to say that we should be looking for a new strategy,” said William B. Wood, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, commenting on the report’s overall findings. “And I think that we are finding one.”

    Mr. Wood said the current American programs for eradication, interdiction and alternative livelihoods should be intensified, but he added that ground spraying poppy crops with herbicide remained “a possibility.” Afghan and British officials have opposed spraying, saying it would drive farmers into the arms of the Taliban.

    While the report found that opium production dropped in northern Afghanistan, Western officials familiar with the assessment said, cultivation rose in the south, where Taliban insurgents urge farmers to grow poppies......
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 08-28-2007 at 01:15 PM. Reason: Added link, edited content.

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    UNODC, 27 Aug 07: Afghanistan: 2007 Annual Opium Poppy Survey
    In 2007, Afghanistan cultivated 193,000 hectares of opium poppies, an increase of 17% over last year. The amount of Afghan land used for opium is now larger than the corresponding total for coca cultivation in Latin America (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined).

    Favourable weather conditions produced opium yields (42.5 kg per hectare) higher than last year (37.0 kg/ha). As a result, in 2007 Afghanistan produced an extraordinary 8,200 tons of opium (34% more than in 2006), becoming practically the exclusive supplier of the world’s deadliest drug (93% of the global opiates market). Leaving aside 19th century China, that had a population at that time 15 times larger than today’s Afghanistan, no other country in the world has ever produced narcotics on such a deadly scale.....

  13. #53
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default Follow Up

    Follow up to Jed and Tequila:

    Second Record Level for Afghan Opium Crop KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 27 — Opium cultivation in Afghanistan grew by 17 percent in 2007, reaching record levels for the second straight year, according to a United Nations report released Monday.

    Despite a $600 million American counternarcotics effort and an increase in the number of poppy-free provinces to 13 from 6, the report found that the amount of land in Afghanistan used for opium production is now larger than amount of land used for coca cultivation in all of Latin America.

    Afghanistan now accounts for 93 percent of the world’s opium, up from 92 percent last year, the report said.

    Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes Policy, which issued the report, called the new figures terrifying. “Afghanistan today is cultivating megacrops of opium,” he said at a news conference. “Leaving aside China in the 19th century, no other country has produced so much narcotics in the past 100 years.”

  14. #54
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    Default is it the drugs or the funding to the Taliban that is the problem?

    Two issues I'll present:

    1) Recognizing the larger monetary return of growing poppy as opposed to another crop, would we necessarily have the desired effect if the money flow to the Taliban is through their protection of farmers and the transport routes? Won't the Taliban continue to get their piece of the pie of another crop?

    2) Can we influence the farmers without addressing the land owners and the corruption within the Afghan government?

  15. #55
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    U.S. Counternarcotics Strategy in Afghanistan - Aug 07. The official public release. There is a classified release which deals with problems of official corruption that are too sensitive for open discussion.

  16. #56
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    How Afghan anticorruption chief once sold heroin in Las Vegas - GUARDIAN, 28 Aug. Passed on via Afghanistica.

    Fighting sleaze is no easy task in a country like Afghanistan, as anti-corruption tsar Izzatullah Wasifi can testify. The economy is awash with opium money, and bribery and backhanders are rife, as confirmed by yesterday's alarming UN report.


    Then again, Mr Wasifi is unusually well acquainted with the perilous lure of easy drug money.

    Twenty years ago US police arrested a young Afghan emigrant at his hotel room in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. The Afghan, who introduced himself as Mr E, tried to sell a bag of heroin to an undercover detective. At his trial, prosecutors said it was worth $2m.

    The man spent three years and eight months in a Nevada state prison before being released on parole. His wife, who had stood lookout in the hotel corridor, received a probationary sentence.

    Now Mr E - or Mr Wasifi - is the director general of the Afghan government's main anti-corruption agency.

    He plays down the 1988 drug bust as a little youthful fun gone wrong. "It was my honeymoon. I was a youngster and youngsters do stuff," he said with a shrug during an interview at his modest Kabul office. "Stuff like gambling, drugs" - he rubbed a finger against his nose and sniffed - "and girls. I was a Las Vegas boy ..."
    The rest of the article has good details on the massive corruption ongoing in Kabul which is undermining the war effort.

  17. #57
    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Default California

    Isn't marijuana the largest revenue producing cash crop in Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia? In fact, it is the #4 cash crop in the United States. Only corn, soybean, and hay being more profitable to the American farmer. This is one area in a country such as Afghanistan where we have and will never have any amount of measured control to change an outcome.
    "But suppose everybody on our side felt that way?"
    "Then I'd certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way. Wouldn't I?"


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    Default Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy Updated September 14, 2007

    Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy Updated September 14, 2007

    In addition to describing the structure of the Afghan narcotics trade, this report provides current statistical information, profiles the narcotics trade’s participants, explores narco-terrorist linkages, and reviews U.S. and international policy responses since late 2001. The report also considers current policy debates regarding the counternarcotics roles of the U.S. military, poppy eradication, alternative livelihoods, and funding issues for Congress. The report will be updated to reflect major developments. For more information on Afghanistan, see CRS Report RL30588, Afghanistan: Post-War Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman.

  19. #59
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    U.S. renews bid to destroy opium poppies in Afghanistan - NYTIMES, 8 Oct. Ground spraying raises its head again. Can someone explain to me a good case for spraying? Because the negatives for COIN and population legitimacy seem screamingly obvious.

    After the biggest opium harvest in Afghanistan’s history, American officials have renewed efforts to persuade the government here to begin spraying herbicide on opium poppies, and they have found some supporters within President Hamid Karzai’s administration, officials of both countries said.

    Since early this year, Mr. Karzai has repeatedly declared his opposition to spraying the poppy fields, whether by crop-dusting airplanes or by eradication teams on the ground.

    But Afghan officials said the Karzai administration is now re-evaluating that stance. Some proponents within the government are pushing a trial program of ground spraying that could begin before the harvest next spring.

    The issue has created sharp divisions within the Afghan government, among its Western allies and even American officials of different agencies. The matter is fraught with political danger for Mr. Karzai, whose hold on power is weak ...

  20. #60
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    I don't think ground spraying would mean much. The Afghans could slow things down enough so that it would have only a marginal effect. But the article seems to suggest the ultimate goal is aerial spraying. Aerial spraying would not be a good thing.

    Spraying is great for American politicians and functionaries. They can stand in front of a TV camera and courageously state they are DOING something about the drug problem. Pictures of airplanes spraying fields make great backdrops for this kind of photo op.

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