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Friday, May 2, 2014

U.S. Involvement In Afghanistan Stimulates World Opium Trade

"The U.S. has spent $7.5 billion trying to eradicate Afghanistan’s poppy crop since invading the country on Oct. 7, 2001, shortly after Osama bin Laden oversaw the 9/11 attacks from his sanctuary inside the country. But since 2008, the U.S. and its allies have succeeded in eliminating less than 4% of it, according to satellite imagery. Seizures of opium are even less, accounting for about 1% of production."

(Mark Thompson. "Ending Afghanistan’s Drug Addiction Is Looking Like 
‘Mission Implausible.’" Time. May 1, 2014)

Afghanistan is the source of about 90% of the world’s opium. The United States hasn't been able to tame Afghanistan's drug problem in 13 years. It is evident that a weak Afghan government left to control the problem after the American withdrawal is doomed to failure. The United States government again will prove its inability to establish a successful, new society in a war-torn, foreign land. Deju vu all over again.

“We don’t really have an effective strategy” to counter Afghanistan’s expanding narcotics industry, John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said in a recent interview. “Cultivation is up, drug usage is up, production is up, seizures are down, eradication is down, corruption is up—if you look at all those indices, it’s a failure.” The 2014 harvest is expected to match or even exceed last year's record.

I am giving my own opinion in the blog entry. Read this carefully:

The political decision to continue the United States' military involvement in Afghanistan is stimulating the opium drug trade and contributing to untold addiction and death in America. 

I believe this. I can defend my opinion. And, I also believe that a solemn promise to bring all troops home from Afghanistan has been broken, leaving me with the impression that U.S. interests are profiting from this war, profiting from the opium trade, and willing to continue indefinitely their efforts to hoodwink the American public. Oil and heroin = money.  

America has lost 2,300 GIs and spent billions and billions of dollars to prevent Afghanistan from being a terrorist sanctuary. Surely, you can connect the dots between drugs and terrorists.

Much of opium crop is sold to the Taliban, who pocket an estimated $100 million annually to fund anti-government forces. “The drug trade undermines the Afghan government because it funds the insurgency, fuels corruption, and distorts the economy,” said Sopko in his latest quarterly report. “Moreover, the number of domestic addicts is growing.” Opium funds weapons and terrorist violence.

The root of the problem is economics, not narcotics. The U.N. estimates the potential gross value of Afghan opiates last year was around $3 billion -- equal to 15 percent of the country's gross domestic product. The U.S. insists on painting a "rosy picture" that we are instilling democracy and building a new society in a country dependent upon stimulating drug addiction to survive.

It is common sense -- the subsistence farmers growing poppies will grow whatever puts the most food on their tables. “They are not inherently criminals, they are not even politically motivated in what they are trying to do,” William Brownfield, who heads the State Department’s counter-narcotics efforts, told a congressional panel in February. “They conclude that they can make $500 a year if they grow wheat, but they can make $2,000 a year if they grow opium poppy, so they grow opium poppies.”

I guess this makes the farmers smart dope dealers we consider to be "nice guys." Look at the war this way: go to Afghanistan to fight and kill terrorists, but allow "decent" drug dealers to kill Americans with heroin in the process. Where is the logic in this?

Opium poppies are easier to grow than other crops, they are easy to convert into quick cash and far more profitable. Will you listen to a common Afghan farmer, Mohammad Ayub, tell about his willingness to sell dope? Ayub says:

"Opium has a good income, and that is why people are cultivating it with all its problems. We are not scared from the government because most of the officials have their share in the harvesting."

While government officials generally blame the Taliban for opium production, poppy fields can be found all over the country, even in areas where the government has full control.

Despite the U.S. government's efforts to encourage provinces to attain “poppy-free status,” which makes them eligible for $1 million to build schools, hospitals, roads and other public works, fifteen of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces were declared poppy-free last year, two fewer than in 2012. That focus has actually “contributed to the concentration of poppy cultivation in limited, remote, and largely insecure areas of the country.”

The Cold, Hard Truth

From all indications, the two fronts of the Afghan War -- the war on terrorism and the war on opium addiction -- will be lost. Hell, they are already lost. The Obama administration has announced it has started planning for the possible withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of the year if no security agreement is signed. But, Obama made clear that he views a residual force as a way to prevent Afghanistan from becoming once again a haven for terrorist groups. And, if you believe a residual force is going to do this, let me sell you a beautiful falls in Niagara.

Damn, damn, damn ... when will the government ever learn? We have plenty of work to do tightening our own security at home. As well-intentioned as plans to thwart terrorist threats abroad may be, even the mighty power of the United States military has not effected lasting, positive changes because of inept political maneuverings.

In fact, I believe it is impossible to destroy the will of a country with force unless the aggressor is willing to fight a total war. In reality, America is not willing to do this: fighting a full-scale, total war would mean complete destruction, and it would cause untold innocent civilian casualties. We will not "win" a war in Afghanistan doing what we do now.

Neither can the war on drugs in Afghanistan be won. The U.S. has tried hacking down and burning fields of poppies, persuading farmers to plant alternative crops, and giving away millions of dollars in "poppy-free" initiatives. Predictably, none of these strategies has worked because in Afghanistan, poor farmers will continue to grow the greatest cash crop, especially since Taliban arms are cocked are ready to slay those who don't comply with "their program."

To win a guerrilla war takes commitment to guerrilla tactics. Even with the best fighting force in the world, America will never commit to the barbarity and the ruthlessness necessary to clean out all those "terrorists" who fight without regard to human life and without respect for ideals of combat. In addition, fighting on foreign soil against an enemy who not only knows the terrain and the people but also accepts war as an ongoing condition to hold home grounds is too costly, and, perhaps, it is just unjustified.

After our forces are gone (if they ever are all "gone"), Afghanistan's government will face an impossible battle in stemming the opium economy -- especially since so many influential Afghans are profiting from the trade. Even Afghan President Hamid Karzai was installed by the U.S. as a puppet government leader. The other main areas of criticism surrounding President Karzai involve nepotism, corruption, electoral fraud, and the involvement of his late half brother Ahmed Wali Karzai in the drug trade. That's right, the drug trade.

Just recently, Karzai's administration and the Afghanistan Intelligence agency were found to be communicating with the Pakistani Taliban about the shifting of power that may occur when the American Forces withdraw in 2014.

(Desk, Web. "US Catches Afghan Govt 'Red Handed in Plotting with Pakistani Taliban: Report." The Express Tribune. October 29, 2013) and (Azam Ahmed and Matthew Rosenberg. "Karzai Arranged Secret Contacts With the Taliban." The New York Times. February 3, 2014)

For God's sakes, bring all of the troops home now and leave the poppy fields and corruption before one more American life is lost. The strategies currently employed by a foreign power are not working, and possibly some other means of internal solution could lend to a semblance of peace in Afghanistan. Here is some wisdom about current ops from Karen Kitkowski, retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel:

"What in affect we are doing is building new targets. How many schools and roads have we built for how many times over? Once built, it becomes a new target for the Taliban or some other unhappy faction in Afghanistan. So we measured contract awards and that is what we did, hundreds of billions of dollars worth."

Yanira Farray, Junior Editor at, says this:

"Reconciliation itself isn’t the problem. Giving reconciled criminals a legitimate place in the Afghan government -- who are paid by foreign interests, are directed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and have never been held to account for their crimes against the Afghan people -- is the problem." 

As Khalil Nouri of the New World Stategies Coalition, an Afghan-American organization seeking to implement a de-militarized tribal solution to the conflict puts it like this:

“If this is the reality, then can reconciliation work? The Answer is ‘NO’ it will never work in the long term; first the country has not healed from its past 35 years of war, the ethnic divide has widened and has complicated the path to nationalism, and there is not a unifier figurehead to calm the country down.”

(Yanira Farray. "What the Afghans Want." Veterans Today. October 22, 2010)

Nouri believes that the only solution that will work before NATO withdraws its troops is a traditional Afghan tribal council (Jirga) free of the kind of outside interference that brought Hamid Karzai and the warlords to power in 2002. The irony remains that today’s crisis occurred not because the Jirga failed, but because the will of the Jirga was overridden by the political desires of the Bush administration.

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