Eradicating Opium Production in Afghanistan
A guest column in France’s Le Figaro Aug. 27, headlined, “How the West Let Afghanistan Again Become the Land of Drugs,” presents a devastating rundown of how the opium poppy production was drastically reduced in Afghanistan over the years 1999-2001, under the Taliban rule, but was later increased again, during the occupation by U.S., British and NATO forces. The author is Bernard Frahi, the for mer Director of the UNODC Regional Office for Afghanistan and Pakistan (1998–2002), during the time the UNODC was headed by Pino Arlacchi. He gives dates and places of how, after the post-9/11 invasion, the British and American authorities countermanded the actions needed to end opium production.
For example, the UK was designated as the national responsible for accompanying the new Karzai Administration in the fight against drugs. The British thus poured “some $60 million into buying opium crops in March 2002”, giving large amounts of money to militia leaders in Nangarahar, Oruzgan, Kandahar and Helmand Provinces, with which to compensate those farmers who cleared their land in March-April 2002. But the “result was disastrous”, Frahi observes, as the fields were reconverted to opium poppy one year later. As for the Americans, they “focused exclusively on the fight against terrorism” and refused to intervene against opium cultivation and the notorious traffickers until 2005.
Today, Afghanistan supplies the opium for over 80% of the heroin consumed worldwide, but for Europe, that figure rises to over 95%. It does constitute a source of revenue for some Afghans, estimated by the UN at about $350 million last year. But that is a tiny fraction of the street value of the heroin sold in Europe – which the UN estimated at about 10 billion euros! A significant percentage of that money is recycled through the international banking system, which has
been addicted to drug traffic for decades now.