While the Canadian media hyped the latest UN Drug Report on the increased opium production in Afghanistan quoting the RCMP claim that we are getting more heroin from there than from the old Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle; Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, etc. was the result of the CIA's involvement with black ops there during the Viet Nam war as Afghanistan production is a result of CIA involvement during the anti-Soviet offensive. The fact remains that NATO and American operations against opium production in Afghanistan have been a failure because they have no real alternative to the value of this agricultural product a historic crop in the region. A product first used by British Imperialism to spread its power through out Asia in the 19th Century.
However, in Afghanistan as in other parts of the world, in Burma for example, opium has long been at stake in armed conflicts as its trade has allowed these conflicts to be prolonged. As the complex history of opium in Asia demonstrates, opium production and trade have been central to world politics and geopolitics for centuries and the role of the opium economy in Afghanistan does not represent a new trend. In many ways, history reinvents itself.
It was not until the British Empire started organizing and commercializing opium production in the 19th century that the opium poppy became entrenched in the world economy. The opium produced in British India was the first drug to become integrated into the then emerging globalization. Tea, which was then only grown in China, was bought by British merchants with silver extracted from South American mines. This triangular trade went on at least until the British Empire, together with the East India Company it had set up, created a thriving opium market in China, first through illegal smuggling and then through forced imports. The two so-called “opium wars” (1839-1842 and 1856-1860) waged by the British to impose their opium trade onto China resulted in “unfair treaties” that not only made Hong Kong a British colony but also provoked, in China, the biggest addiction ever to happen in world history. Eventually, opium consumption and addiction also spurred tremendous opium production in China. In response to the Chinese national consumption that drained its silver reserves, China became the world’s foremost opium producer.
This trend emerged first in Laos and in Burma, then in Afghanistan in what came to be known as the Golden Crescent. In both Southeast and Southwest Asia, the Central Intelligence Agency’s anti-Communist covert operations and secret wars benefited from the participation of some drug-related combat units or individual actors who, to finance their struggles, were directly involved in drug production and trade. To cite just two, the Hmong in Laos and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Afghanistan.
Today, Afghanistan’s opium production is the direct outcome of Cold War rivalries and conflicts waged by proxies who helped develop a thriving narcotic economy in the country. Afghanistan has been the world’s leading opium-producing country for years now, with Burma and Laos ranking second and third respectively.
And NATO has not engaged the Iranians in controlling the border and transit points used by the opium producers in Afghanistan. And they will continue to fail until they engage the Iranians as allies in the fight against opium.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a major transit route for opiates smuggled from Afghanistan and through Pakistan to the Persian Gulf, Turkey, Russia, and Europe. The largest single share of opiates leaving Afghanistan (perhaps 60 percent) passes through Iran to consumers in Iran itself, Russia and Europe. There is no evidence that narcotics transiting Iran reach the United States in an amount sufficient to have a significant effect. There are some indications that opium poppy cultivation is making a comeback in Iran, after a long period during which poppy cultivation was negligible. There are an estimated 3 million opiate abusers in Iran, with 60 percent reported as addicted to various opiates and 40 percent reported as casual users. With record levels of opium production right next door in Afghanistan, the latest opiate seizure statistics from Iran continue to suggest Iran is experiencing an epidemic of drug abuse, especially among its youth.And contrary to the RCMP reports in the press, the United States government report above states that NO Afghani opium is getting into North America. Now do ya think the RCMP may be doing a bit of PR for their pal the PM to justify his war in Afghanistan?
NATO has relied upon American forces practicing large scale opium field eradication supported by air strikes which has led to large scale civilian deaths and friendly fire deaths to NATO forces.
International Crisis Group analyst
Aerial eradication of poppies is not the solution. While some ground-based manual eradication is important as a stick, to discourage particularly new growers, it hits the poorest hardest. Aerial eradication can be too indiscriminate and would enrage a large sector of the population possibly driving them into the arms of the insurgents. On the other hand the proposal to license opium for medicinal use is unfeasible at this stage. Most of the drugs grown in Afghanistan are in Helmand which they haven't been able to stop when it is completely illegal. How would you then insert a massive licensing bureaucracy there and stop those who continue to grow for the black market? The price differentials would be so large there would be no incentive to grow for a licensed market.
The American war on opium production, like the rest of its Afghanistan mission, has been a failure, since it is America's allies in Helmand Province that turn out to be the opium producers themselves.
Eradication in Helmand
This season, the governor of Helmand asked the AEF to eradicate in Helmand. Despite making progress due to the AEF's heavy use of mechanized eradication, insecurity and waning political will hindered the AEF's efforts. Helmand will likely continue to be Afghanistan's largest opium cultivating province. Any future eradication strategy for Helmand needs to first account for security and political will.
It should be noted that 75% of the opium poppy cultivation in Helmand is new cultivation that did not exist two years ago. By definition, then, at least 75% of the poppy in Helmand is not being grown by poor farmers who lack licit economic alternatives-two years ago these farmers were doing something else.
In other words, the vast majority of the poppy in Helmand is not being grown by poor farmers who have been growing poppy for generations and lack economic alternatives. The reality is that cultivation has expanded rapidly in the past two years as opportunists have scrambled to exploit Helmand's lawlessness for profit. Many of Helmand's poppy growers are wealthy land-owners, corrupt officials, and other opportunists. Helmand's land is fertile; infrastructure and access to markets is good, and alternatives to poppy are available. Moreover, if Helmand were a country, it would be the fifth largest recipient of U.S. development aid in the world, having received over $270 million in USAID funds in recent years. Opium poppy grown by wealthy land-owners and corrupt officials funds the insurgency. There is no reason to avoid eradicating their poppy fields aggressively.
Find blog posts, photos, events and more off-site about:
Afghanistan, War, Harper, Conservatives, Liberals, Canada, politics, military,
NATO, peacekeeping, Karzai, heroin, opium, Iran, Soldiers, Death, Injury, Afghanistan, Government, Politics,