U.S. to Take Control of Opium Smuggling in Afghanistan

Click on this map from PBS for interactive features showing Afghanistan's opium production.

Click on this map from PBS for interactive features showing Afghanistan's opium production.

Sometimes the news speaks for itself. I have long contended that one of the main reasons we are in Afghanistan is for the almighty opium poppy dollars.

It’s interesting that by 2000 the Taliban had cut the amount of poppy growth by 90%. But then, by 2002, poppy production increased by about the same amount. Coincidental timing, I’m sure, considering that something historically monumental happened between that time to give the United States a reason to go into Afghanistan.

This is from Al-Jazeera.net in 2008 on opium production:

“The Afghanistan Opium Survey 2008, made public by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Wednesday indicated that there was a decline of 19 per cent in the areas known for poppy cultivation.

The report, also released in conjunction with the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics, said that in the past year five more provinces had become “poppy-free” raising the total to 18 of 34 provinces where poppy cultivation has been stamped out.

Five provinces in southern Afghanistan, including Farah, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Nimroz, now account for 91 per cent of Afghanistan’s poppy cultivation. The province of Helmand alone accounts for 66 per cent of the country’s total.”

The map above is part of a great resource from pbs.org showing this in more visual detail and explaining that the poppy harvest occurs from April until August. Hmmm…did something else start in April, now projected to last until August to keep peoples’ attention otherwise occupied? (Okay, that one is stretching a little, but not by much.)

And this is breaking news from the BBC today:

“The US will take control of about 8,000 British troops in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, later.

The move is part of a restructuring of Nato forces, with command and control in southern Afghanistan split into two.”

“Until now, UK forces took their orders from British Major General Nick Carter, who was in charge of operations in the south.

But the region is being split to make it more manageable.

Gen Carter will oversee Kandahar and Maj Gen Richard Mills, of the US Marine Corps, will command forces in Helmand.”

I guessing that “later” will likely be in the next month or so, just in time to pull another Air America special like they did in Southeast Asia, another opium production hub.

Then again, it could just be another coincidence.

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  • 5by5

    Helmand is also where the most American lives have been lost. If you want to do a really interesting comparison here, I'd recommend going over to CNN's site and checking out their tally of our war casualties, and comparing the maps:

    http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/war.casualties/inde

    If you drew a line from Pakistan through all the major casualty areas, you'll see what amounts to one major smuggling route (through Kunar, Kabul, Wardak, Uruzgan, Argandab, and Helmand) and a smaller route (through Paktika, Zabul, and into Kandahar). It's probably like a drug highway and our guys and girls are getting pinched along the route.

  • Rufus

    Okay, let's see if I understand Disinfo's drug policy:

    Marijuana = good

    Opium = bad

    • justagirl

      maybe it's:
      marijuana – legalize.
      opium – steal.

  • Rufus

    Okay, let's see if I understand Disinfo's drug policy:

    Marijuana = good

    Opium = bad

  • Mark Mansfield

    Not Marijuana=Good, Opium=bad , Rufus. Just the American Government being complicit in smuggling drugs is bad. THat is the point of this post. CIA has long used drug money to fund black ops. Hell, the Tafts (yes President Taft's family and founder of Skull and Bones) made their money on opium. Make no mistake-the US is neck-deep in drug smuggling in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

    It is brilliant social, Malthusian engineering. Historically, the Brits got the Chinese hooked on opium to expand their empire. Currently, keep a portion of the population doped up, make boat loads of money on the sale of the drugs, then lock up or kill through OD, usually the lower class of people, which furthers “cleaning the gutter” as Thomas Malthus might have said.

    So, no, Rufus, you don't really understand much about drug policy in general.

  • Mark Mansfield

    And of course the fact that most of the Marijuana crime and deaths from ODing on pot (??!) stem directly from its prohibition. Have you ever heard of a pothead robbing someone for some kind bud? (Okay, I’m sure that occasionally happens but the point remains the same.)

  • Mark Mansfield

    And of course the fact that most of the Marijuana crime and deaths from ODing on pot (??!) stem directly from its prohibition. Have you ever heard of a pothead robbing someone for some kind bud? (Okay, I'm sure that occasionally happens but the point remains the same.)