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Afghanistan: Vertical Opium Monopoly

Afghanistan and Its Cash CropThe United Nations has released its 2007 World Drug Report providing stark data on the rise of Afghanistan to world dominance in opium production. In a multi-dimensional challenge to any claim that the 2001 U.S.-led attack on the country made the world safer, the report, together with other official documents, paints a veritable tapestry of grim news about the situation in the country:

  • From 2005 to 2006, opium production in Afghanistan rose from 4519 tons to 6724 tons, a 50% increase.
  • Providing 92% of the global supply of opium, Afghanistan now stands as the most concentrated site of production on the planet for any illicit substance.
  • In conjunction with the surging production of raw opium, Afghanistan now processes almost all of its domestically grown, unrefined field product before exporting it to world markets, thereby making the country a vertical manufacturing monopoly in opiates like street heroin and morphine.
  • Taliban forces ousted in the U.S.-led attack on Afghanistan, which commenced the still-ongoing military phase of Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, are using revenue from opium production to fund their continuing battle with multi-national forces now operating under the auspices of NATO in the country.

The graphic below presents the 2007 World Drug Report data on potential opium production in Afghanistan for the years 1990 through 2006.

Afghanistan Opium Production, 1990-2006

The graphic depicts the rise, fall, and resurrection of the opium production industry in the country. The early years of Taliban rule were marked by a relatively constant output; the dramatic drop that began in the last two years of the 20th Century was the result of the central government bowing to international pressure to stop cultivation of the poppy plants from which the opium comes. As evidenced by the virtually non-existent output by 2001, the success of the Taliban rulers was remarkable, in part because their authority had pervaded most of the country and driven into some degree of inactivity the old, entrenched drug warlords of what would later come to be known as the “Northern Alliance” working with Coalition forces. With the swift collapse of the Taliban regime under the onslaught of Operation Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan, civil law enforcement came to an end, and it would not be long before vast swaths of the country beyond the capitol were back under the rule of local forces that would induce farmers to move fields away from grain and toward the poppy plants.

Interestingly, however, the recent, massive secondary spike in production is the result of the resurgence of the Taliban, itself, militarily and economically controlling larger and larger tracts of the countryside, particularly in southern provinces. With farm gate prices attractive and the willingness of Taliban forces to use violence on those who resist, many farmers who had up until recently continued to commit their fields to grain are now pressing their acreage into service for opium production, this despite continuing (albeit highly variable) risk of drug interdiction raids by Coalition forces working in coordination with central government instrumentalities and personnel.

With the United Nations report predicting a continued increase in opium production through at least 2007, and with much of that increase due to the Taliban consolidating more widespread control, any claim of a lasting beneficial effect from Opertion Enduring Freedom—Afghanistan, either in Afghanistan or beyond, remains far less a realistic assessment than merely another attempt by the Bush Adminstration to divorce its propaganda from any connection whatsoever to the realities its incompetence has wrought on the Middle East and Asia Minor.

The Dark Wraith would like to imagine that Americans are learning a lesson about the unintended consequences of using brute military force, but that would probably be hoping for too much.


Crossposted from The Dark Wraith Forums

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