12 December 2007

Is our Drug War Fueling Narcoterrorism in Afghanistan?

The Taliban prevents poppies from being eradicated due to their high price on the black market (courtesy of War is Boring). See how opium allowed Taliban back into Musa Qala on the Long War Journal.

The argument against the drug war was gaining steam pre-9/11, but the debate kind of got put on the backburner for obvious reasons due to the nation having higher priorities post-9/11. However, now I think it is more important than ever to frankly discuss how our long-running "War against Drugs" is running contrary to our objectives in the War on Terror. One of the key components of counter-insurgency is to eliminate the source of funding for the enemy. In Iraq, this involves targeting and disrupting extremist financial cells and discouraging foreign infiltration (in Iraq's case this would be from Syria and Iran). Another key component of counter-insurgency is to stimulate small local businesses to keep people well-employed and discouraged from joining the insurgency in troublesome areas. Those principles are being applied in Iraq, but I saw this piece on CNN's "This Week at War" last month and I became a little concerned regarding Afghanistan.

Well, what General Grange is talking about here is classic counter-insurgency. There are so many different opinions in Afghanistan right now how to deal with the drug issue. The United States is pushing the idea of spraying crops which is, according to many people, absolutely counter-intuitive to winning hearts and minds, which is essentially counterinsurgency. What General Grange is proposing is an idea that's been proposed by some other groups, essentially you legalize the poppy growth in certain villages, certain areas. The communities there self-police the amount of poppy cultivation that they've been licensed to grow and you work with them, rather than work against these farmers by destroying their crops. So in essence, this is one solution, but -- and it works, if you will, in a counter-insurgency environment which is what the battle in Afghanistan and the border of Pakistan would be all about. But there are so many different ideas. The British want to help the farmers. The UN wants NATO to take a bigger role. There just aren't enough NATO troops to do the job they're doing at the moment, never mind get in and police poppy crops. So the international community has a whole plethora of ideas and after six years, still can't agree and the poppy production this year was gone up about another 20 percent, 8,200 tons of opium produced this year.

It seems that our endless quest to rid the world of narcotics has proven to be a double-whammy in A-stan. By making drugs illegal, we have driven up the cost (just like prohibition!) of drugs making it a lucrative trade for terrorists to fund their operations. Likewise, by destroying the crops of rural Afghanis, we aren't helping out on the "Hearts and Minds" front, and may be giving them reason to sympathize with the Taliban fascists. While the drug war has a plethora of unintended consequences in our own country (see this website for details), it seems to be having more unintended consequences in our efforts in Afghanistan as well.

By legalizing drugs, we could knock out the blackmarket that fuels narcoterrorism and assist in empowering Afghans who harvest the poppy crop. I know I'm having "armchair weenie syndrome", since I've never been near Afghanistan, so someone weigh in on this proposal. I understand it's radical, but these are drastic times, damnit.

Destruction of our inner city: Another problem with the War on Drugs


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 12/11/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

jimbo said...

"By legalizing drugs, we could knock out the blackmarket that fuels narcoterrorism"

I'm a Libertarian, & support legalizing pot, BUT drugs like Heroin, Crack, and Meth are soul destroyers. Addicts reach a point where they can no longer work and they will turn to criminal means to support their habit. The UK traied legalizing smack & it was a disaster.
I am open to treatment, alternatives to incarceration, etc, but hard drugs do too much damage to be on the counter next to the beer.

dutchmarbel said...

Have you read the Senlis reports? They suggest buying the poppy crop to make medical morphines out of them and have done case studies about it.

They are quite critical about the US/UK approach so far ("An all-military approach and aggressive poppy crop eradication strategies led by the US and the United Kingdom have triggered a hunger crisis and accelerated the return of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.") and want another approach.

I think the French approach would have made more sense, it sounds much more practical. In this (pdf)US gov. report it is described as: "France does not accept the view, held by some U.S. officials but nowhere present in NATO’s ISAF mission statement, that part of NATO’s brief is to build democracy in fghanistan. In the French view, Afghanistan is a highly diverse ethnic state with no tradition of democracy; at best, for the foreseeable future, a more representative and tolerant society can be built."

LT Nixon said...


Thanks for the link. I had not heard of that report and I found it pretty interesting. If there's anyone who's a world leader in responsible drug reform, it is certainly the Dutch, so I appreciate your insight. America is still enacting disastrous draconian like policies when it comes to narcotics.

dutchmarbel said...

Pragmatic is our middle name - for good or for bad.

I follow the Afghanistan news more than the Iraq wars because we are no longer in Iraq but have our troops in Uruzgan (North-Afghanistan, neighbours Helmond).