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Thread: Afghanistan's Drug Problem

  1. #61
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Helmand drug profits fund alms for the poor - IWPR, 16 Oct. Unsurprising.

    Drug traffickers in the war-torn Helmand province have been winning public support by distributing some of their ill-gotten gains to the poor during the fasting month of Ramadan.

    Many people interviewed by IWPR said the traffickers had given out food and clothing to some of Helmand’s neediest families during the holy month and the Eid al-Fitr festival which marks its end.

    “May God bless them [the traffickers],”said Faizullah, a resident of the Washir district, which has been under Taleban control for over six months. “People have been very happy during Ramadan. The traffickers have helped us in many ways, like giving out clothes for Eid, distributing food and other things.”

    The growing Taleban insurgency in Helmand has proved a boon to the drugs trade, since government eradicators cannot get into many areas to monitor or destroy the opium poppy crop. The chaos has kept out aid agencies and prevented any meaningful development from taking place, something that has caused resentment and anger among local people.

    In return for protection, drug traffickers are believed to be providing money and weapons to the Taleban.

    One smuggler in Washir, who did not want to be named, said he had distributed goods worth 200,000 Pakistani rupees, or 3,300 US dollars, in the last four weeks. The rupee is in common use in this southern province, often edging out the national currency, the afghani.

    “I distributed [charity] to the poor in the shape of food and clothing during the holy month of Ramadan,” said the smuggler. “We are Muslims and we are obliged to give alms. I gave most of it to the poor, and a small amount to the Taleban who are fighting for Islam ...”

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    Default A Possible Legitimate Use for Opium?

    New Scientist - Grass-munching bugs could charge rural phones

    To tackle the problem, a team of students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, US, has designed a microbial fuel cell (MFC) that runs on plant waste. Their prototype won the $5,000 first prize in a contest called MADMEC, which was sponsored by Dow Chemical to encourage new uses of materials that allow alternative or non-traditional sources of energy.

    ...

    MFCs use electrons released by feeding bacteria on sugars, starches, and other organic material, to produce electricity.
    "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

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    Opium Funding Up To 40 Percent of Afghan Unrest: U.S. General

    Army Gen. Dan McNeill, head of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), added he had been told by an international expert that this figure was likely low and could reach up to 60 percent.

    ”It is my best subjective estimate that the insurgency enjoys fiscal resources from the cultivation of poppy probably to the level of 20 to 40 percent of its total fiscal resources,” the general told journalists.

    The cultivation of opium — 93 percent of which comes from Afghanistan, according to the United Nations — is undermining everything the government and its international allies were trying to do, he said.

    Despite internationally-backed efforts to cut the drugs trade, Afghanistan’s opium production grew by 34 percent this year, according to a U.N. survey.
    Michael Yon has more on this.

    The Perfect Evil: Coming to Roost

    I have characterized Afghanistan as little more than a hunting lodge for our special operations forces. Since the Afghan campaign has been largely a special forces war from the beginning, we have been able to transition with great secrecy from near victory, to abysmal performance, to what has now become a sustainable human-hunting resort. Our special operations forces are out there hunting Taliban and al Qaeda, outside of public view—although it appears that “the public” is hardly clamoring for news from Afghanistan—while the country devolves into the consummate narco-state.
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 03-21-2008 at 12:20 PM.

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    I don't know how extensive the eradicate and pay 'em program was - I sense it was mostly experimental. Therapy and treatment isn't working too well at home for the end users, drug money runs to the top and the Geneva Conventions and the Constitution won't allow the slaying of drug smugglers. Drugs get the money, money gets the guns, guns get the power and we can't even make them an offer they can't refuse like Vito Corleone did.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default The latest proposal

    From CBC.ca

    Think-tank suggests Afghans grow ingredient in anti-malarial drugs
    Last Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2007 | 12:21 PM ET
    CBC News

    A security and development policy group wants to add another option to its Poppy for Medicine Proposal, a initiative announced earlier in 2007 intended to encourage Afghan farmers to use their fields to grow drugs other than opium.

    More...
    More on the Poppy For Medicine proposals here.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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    A key step in a successful COIN effort is forcing the population to choose sides.

    Economically, they have no choice but to go with the side that buys their opium. I heard one of the CNN generals say that we should buy opium from the population and use it to make morphine. I think that is about the only thing that might solve the problem.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Default War on Drugs / Protect the Poppy

    One of the factors that undermines Western involvement in Afghanistan, well at least those who in the frontline, are the occassional pictures of troops amdst fields of opium poppies and the public knowledge the heroin is heading home. Even with opponents of the UK's role this causes bewilderment.

    Hence the byline a "War on Drugs" in one place, e.g Caribbean and "Protect the Poppy" in Afghanistan.

    Good knows what the impact is on those serving there.

    Personally I've long believed we should each year buy the crop and then mix it in bitumen for road construction. When I was in NWFP years ago the UN drug adviser I met reported 3k tones p.a. were being produced in Afghanistan; the only time production dropped was when the Taliban imposed a ban.

    davidbfpo

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    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).

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    Default yes, but...

    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?
    I shudder to think of the leakage, fraud and corruption that would result if you had millions of dollars having to paid out to rural farmers, and tons of poppy to be collected and destroyed. I suspect much of the former would end up in the wrong pockets, and much of the latter would enter the market anyway (or be repeatedly resold).

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    Not to mention that if you start buying up supply while other demand stays the same - and the demand from heroin addicts isn't going to decrease - you push up the price, which means that the Taliban will be paying "their" farmers even more than the farmer makes now.

    Nonetheless, I do not see how you can create an "inkspot" in certain parts of the country without agreeing to buy their most lucrative cash crop. (Opium makes up a huge percentage of the GDP. You can't replace that with a series of $300 microloans.) And we do need some opium. Lots of patients get a morphine drip at the hospital.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Council Member Stan'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).
    Hmmm, why do you conclude the farmers wouldn't sell their cash crop to the first person that rolled in with cash, regardless of how long the 'client' was around for ? I think the language issue is long gone, and these folks communicate sufficiently enough to conduct daily transactions.

    I agree with Rex. Air on the side of caution...Such a mission is not a soldier's, nor should it be considering the already full plate they have. I really like Rank amateur's recent post -- buy out the competition and pump the price up well out of the reach of criminals, and, make the client's life living hell (but save a smiggin for those on the drip canisters).

    Ya know Oakfox, I've asked you several times to introduce yourself on the Dumped German Ordnance Thread. It's hard to take you seriously with no background to support your claims and opinions with
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

  12. #72
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi RA,

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    Not to mention that if you start buying up supply while other demand stays the same - and the demand from heroin addicts isn't going to decrease - you push up the price, which means that the Taliban will be paying "their" farmers even more than the farmer makes now.... You can't replace that with a series of $300 microloans.) And we do need some opium. Lots of patients get a morphine drip at the hospital.
    I'm just wondering if anyone else is getting a desire to pick up a package of Head On ("APPLIED DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD!!!!! - Gods I hate that commercial!)? I wish Tom OC would comment on this since he knows more about criminology than I do, but there appears to be a direct correlation between demand, making something illegal and price. Thinking back to the Volstead Act and the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution I really have to wonder who, outside of organized crime,benefited? Come on folks, back to some basic economics - if you want to reduce the price on a product then destroy the monopoly that runs it; in this case, it is a monopoly supported by various governments and given to various and sundry "drug lords". Legalize them and watch the bottom fall out of the market.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Hi Marc:

    Never going to happen, but I do think we need an economist or two on the council. COIN and nation building distorts markets and I think that the results are relatively predictable. It'd be nice to know the results in advance, instead of waiting to see what happens.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    The Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor, 26 Feb 08:

    Russia, Afghanistan and the Drug Trade
    Alarmed by the rise of opium cultivation in Afghanistan, Russia’s Federal Drug Enforcement Service has opened a permanent office in Kabul, Afghanistan.

    Federal Drug Enforcement Service Director Alexei Milovanov said of the move, “Russia advances cooperation and interaction with Afghanistan in the war on drug production and proliferation…As for the office in Kabul, our representative there will be in charge of efficient interaction between Russian and Afghani structures dealing with trafficking. With an emphasis, needless to say, on what channels lead to Russia. All of that will be carried out in close cooperation with our Central Asian colleagues.”

    Milovanov also suggested that Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan establish border checkpoints and customs offices and make a joint effort to draw up an international agreement to track and confiscate drug trafficking profits.....

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    Default Drugs

    A few things to remember when thinking about poppies in Afghanistan. My last tour ended in early '07, but I think I'm still fairly current.

    1. With a very few exceptions, the insurgents are not using the drug lords for support - they are working for them. It's the second job they have to support their fight against infidels and the tribe pissing in the river upstream. They provide security, intelligence, and muscle. In return, the drug lords allow a few crumbs to fall in their plates. It is not narco-terrorism on the Columbia model.

    2. The drug lords - who are often also into weapons and human trafficking - have no great problem with NATO, so long as interference in their trade is limited to a few photo ops. Any concerted effort to do more will trigger violence on a scale far greater than that seen recently, and across the country. Just ask the Iranians what happened when they seriously attempted to interfere with trafficking across their borders.

    3. Buying up the supply is a simple solution, but probably not an effective one. First, see paragraph 2. The drug lords won't stand idly by. Second, as has been pointed out, even if it is successful, it will merely push production outward. Do we want to solve the problem in Afghanistan by destabilizing one of the other 'stans, at least one of which has nuclear weapons?

    Not to sound negative, but the tone of some posts is that there are easy solutions out there being ignored. There aren't, only long, hard, costly solutions.

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    Chatham House's The World Today, Apr 08: Afghanistan - Drugs: Hard Habit to Break
    ....Those who benefit from the opium trade have a vested interest in seeing the continuation of the insurgency in the south. Perpetual conflict there will derail progress in other parts of the country. At their meeting in Bucharest, leaders may fixate on the ‘the military burden’ but the first step to stability lies in addressing Afghanistan’s corrosive opium dependence. The only certainty is that it will be a long and hard road, with no quick fixes.

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    Default Short & hard

    Excellent short article and perhaps a few here in the UK government will read it. I still think buying the opium closer to the producer is an option, before conversion to heroin. The merchants and local officials will still make money.
    Oh yes, then we burn the damm stuff or mix it with tarmac for new roads.

    davidbfpo

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    Default Context

    When I've asked people involved in the Afghan endeavour the following question I have not received a compelling reply:

    Which is the greatest threat to the long-term security of the Afghan government/nation:

    a. the insurgency in the south of the country, or
    b. illicit narcotics?

    I suggest this question is important as the international CN and COIN efforts overlap and can conflict. If the answer is 'a', then the CN campaign should sit within a broader COIN strategy; if the answer is 'b', then the COIN campaign should accord with a larger CN strategy. Which one sets the context for the other?

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    Default Good Question...Wrong question, but good

    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.

  20. #80
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    A few things to remember when thinking about poppies in Afghanistan. My last tour ended in early '07, but I think I'm still fairly current.

    1. With a very few exceptions, the insurgents are not using the drug lords for support - they are working for them. It's the second job they have to support their fight against infidels and the tribe pissing in the river upstream. They provide security, intelligence, and muscle. In return, the drug lords allow a few crumbs to fall in their plates. It is not narco-terrorism on the Columbia model.

    2. The drug lords - who are often also into weapons and human trafficking - have no great problem with NATO, so long as interference in their trade is limited to a few photo ops. Any concerted effort to do more will trigger violence on a scale far greater than that seen recently, and across the country. Just ask the Iranians what happened when they seriously attempted to interfere with trafficking across their borders.

    3. Buying up the supply is a simple solution, but probably not an effective one. First, see paragraph 2. The drug lords won't stand idly by. Second, as has been pointed out, even if it is successful, it will merely push production outward. Do we want to solve the problem in Afghanistan by destabilizing one of the other 'stans, at least one of which has nuclear weapons?

    Not to sound negative, but the tone of some posts is that there are easy solutions out there being ignored. There aren't, only long, hard, costly solutions.

    Eden I think your post was excellant very good analysis... from my armchair as davidbfpo says.
    I have been out of the loop on Intel for quite a few years now but here is some real wisdom here. However I agree with davidbfpo about buying the crop (which is not a new startegy) in this case it is worth the shot.

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