Saturday, December 02, 2006

In Afghan Fields the Poppies blow...

David Seaton's News Links
Billie Holiday used to sing in her heroin ravaged voice, "Papa may have and mama may have, but God bless the child that's got his own." Afghans are proverbially obsessed with independence and drugs are providing Afghanistan with the liquidity that makes them independent of the strings attached to the "donations" of the "international community"... The drug business, capos, warlords, sicarios, pushers and junkies: now there is a real "international community"! Of course the United States besides consuming astronomical quantities of the stuff, is at "war" with drugs and would like to eradicate the opium poppy, however the soldiers on the ground urge caution. The military who are up to their necks in the shoit (that's Irish for shit) trying frantically to keep the wheels from falling off the entire contraption, fear that reducing the Afghans to total indingency would handicap Nato in its struggle for the Afghan's "hearts and minds" The Afghans with a fine eye for the main chance are naturally now beginning to make their own security arrangements. DS
Abstract from WP: Opium production in Afghanistan, which provides more than 90 percent of the world's heroin, broke all records in 2006, reaching a historic high despite ongoing U.S.-sponsored eradication efforts, the Bush administration reported yesterday. In addition to a 26 percent production increase over past year -- for a total of 5,644 metric tons -- the amount of land under cultivation in opium poppies grew by 61 percent. Cultivation in the two main production provinces, Helmand in the southwest and Oruzgan in central Afghanistan, was up by 132 percent. White House drug policy chief John Walters called the news "disappointing."(...) "They have their own capability to inflict damage, to make sure that the roads and the passages stay open and they get to where they want to go, whether it's through Pakistan, Iran, up through Russia and all the known trade routes. So this is a very violent cartel," Jones said. "They are buying their protection by funding other organizations, from criminal gangs to tribes, to inciting any kind of resistance to keep the government off of their back." Any disruption of the drug trade has enormous implications for Afghanistan's economic and political stability. Although its relative strength in the overall economy has diminished as other sectors have expanded in recent years, narcotics is a $2.6 billion-a-year industry that this year provided more than a third of the country's gross domestic product. Farmers who cultivate opium poppies receive only a small percentage of the profits, but U.S. officials estimate the crop provides up to 12 times as much income per acre as conventional farming, and there is violent local resistance to eradication. "It's almost the devil's own problem," CIA Director Michael V. Hayden told Congress last month. "Right now the issue is stability. . . . Going in there in itself and attacking the drug trade actually feeds the instability that you want to overcome." "Attacking the problem directly in terms of the drug trade . . . would undermine the attempt to gain popular support in the region," agreed Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. "There's a real conflict, I think." READ IT ALL

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