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Home > English (en) > About us > BULLETIN > Encod Bulletin 138
Published on 27 September 2016  by Richard Rainsford

Encod Bulletin 138

In his book, Afghanistan 2001-2016. The New Opium War, Enrico Piovesana presents a graph, just before the preface, that illustrates the central thesis of the book: it shows the opium production in Afghanistan according to the data of United Nations and describes what happens. The data are surprising.

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano] [français] [Deutsch]

View online : Guerra dell’oppio in Afghanistan

A country of traditional and modest opium production, its cultivation explodes during the conflict against the Soviets.
The high production level persists after the defeat of the Soviets and remains high during the civil wars among the various factions of Mujahideen and in the first years of the Taliban regime.

No irony, the book is a reportage by the journalist Enrico Piovesana. He is close to ’Peace Reporter’ (the magazine of ’Emergency’) recounting a series of stories that are centered in Lash Kargah, a city where Emergency runs a hospital.
The stories told are extraordinary. Thrilling is the report on the intervention of the American soldiers arriving by night on helicopter, shooting at everybody in sight, seizing the opium harvest. Actions of the kind occur on tips of the Afghan police and military that, in order to keep the people quiet, demand 10% of the product.
Then they point at the Americans, the ones who don’t pay.
The Afghan witnesses insist that what is seized by the Americans is not destroyed but turned over to wholesalers who take care of the transport abroad.

Nobody thinks of destroying opium at all. Opium has an economic value nobody wants to give up.
While these things happen, the price of cereals (the best alternative to opium) has crashed vertically. The arrival of tons of grains donated (a gift!) by USAID and by the UN Food Program has made national grain production uneconomic. Today the farmers find it irresistible to give up the old subsistence cultures to turn to poppy growing, the only cultivation that can guarantee a margin of profit. It does not make any sense to break your back for something you could not even sell.

The opium production has created a new social configuration where at the center there are the big drug bosses, the big growers and wholesalers of opium.
Among these figures there was for instance, Ahmed Wali Karzai.

The members of his body guard in 2006 had a truck with 50 kilos of heroin seized. Nothing happened, on the express orders of Washington. Ahmed Wali Karzai was the brother of President Karzai.

Among the new drug bosses there was also Mohammed Qasim Fahim, the commander of the Tagik Militias that, on the side of the US, fought the Taliban in 2002. He was the one who united engagement in the wholesale drug traffic with the posts of Defense Minister and Vice-president of the country.
In these years the increase of opium production has generated trickle down effects that go far beyond personal enrichment. Opium cultivation has created a new social bloc; it is a force that has lots to lose in case the Taliban return to power and which is the only ally of international occupation forces.
The drug trade is the only social force that wishes to prevent the comeback of the Taliban to the power.
The data at our disposition are clear. Under the military occupation by the United States and by NATO, Afghanistan has become a near world monopoly on opium and heroin production.
These commodities are consumed partially in the country but they are especially exported to Iran and Russia (perceived enemies of the US). These same drugs then arrive in the West.
Towards the end of the book the author points out that some air-transport companies of contractors close to the CIA are available for any kind of paid jobs. In the books many of them are quoted.
Summarizing, we see that the occupation of Afghanistan has produced a gigantic boom in world opium production. Brits and Americans have managed the areas where this production has increased.
Afghanistan has been a narco-nation at least since the mid Eighties, but the situation has worsened with the international intervention. Since then a narco-state has produced corruption at all levels, its only reason to be. What are doing over there?

That’s also what Giorgia Pietropaoli is asking, in her Mission Opium. Afghanistan , chronicles and backstage of a lost war in advance. Alpine Studio, 2013.
Why was there an intervention in Afghanistan?
Well, in Afghanistan there is just opium and to omit the question of the political control of its production means not to understand a great part of the reality of that country.
There can’t be many doubts. The witnesses highlighted by the author are quite clear
The whole country relies on opium.
Fifteen years ago the long humanitarian intervention started.
Since then the situation has worsened.
And rhetoric has triumphed.
More times the authorities have declared they had won and that war was over.
In every case the central question is always avoided:, what sense does it have to intervene in a country where there is just opium?
Right after the invasion by NATO, opium production goes back to its historical levels and then explodes, 30 times more. This process does not have anything to do with the Taliban.

Guerrilla has popped up again after 2016, that is, after the poppy cultivation boom.
The intervention by NATO has produced the boom, than only the passivity of the new government has allowed the return of the Taliban. But the Taliban are not the cause of it.
The ISAF mission in Afghanistan had been announced as transitory mission. At the beginning the intervention was limited to the sole area of Kabul, the capital. The aim was of allowing the inset of Karzai. Later on the operation was enlarged to the whole national territory without increasing the resources at disposition.
The military occupation, that never did have the whole control of the territory, has favored the boom of the only commodity that could be sold for profit. The result is the making a a very corrupted administration, put into a narcs-area virtually out of any sort of control.

Today the great part of opium production happens to take place in the southern parts of the countries,in areas ever since controlled exclusively by Brits and Americans.
The growth and empowerment process of the whole criminal line carries on since many years and in many areas of the country there has been stabilized a peculiar economical-social formation.
The production of opium and heroin is broadly consumed in the country and is massively export in Iran an in Russia. But the mechanism has never stopped there for the major part of heroin consumed in Europe and in the US comes from Afghanistan. There is also been formed an international connection among mexican criminal groups and the afghan organizations that deal with the opium trade.
Since long time this stand of things is known by the italian troops that are stationed in the country.The author refers also the incredible story of a tenant colonel of the Italian military police,a certain Cristiano Congiu who was sent to investigate by the italian anti drug organization. On the 4th of June 2011 he had an accident and he died because of a pistol bullet on his head. Among the people on the crime scene also a lady who worked in a civilian company used as front by the CIA.
The author refers that autopsy did not fit to what Italian witnesses had seen on the corpse. At the end the body got cremated.
Since many years the russian press agencies state that the US occupation forces don’t fight the drug production because this raises 50 billions $.
The drug is produced under British and American controlled southern territories. Marginal areas. Even from an Afghan view point. Moreover the production is managed by local groups that apparently don’t dispose of the resources to export it in the rest of the world. Despite all this the opium and heroin production of Afghanistan turns up in Kosovo from where it is distributed in the whole of Europe.

Russian sources add that the links between Bagram (Kabul’s airport) and Kosovo are maintained by some enterprises of contractors named in the book that are quite close to the US services.
The question of the author is the following:
what the hell are we doing in a country where there is just opium?

While the rest comes as a consequence.

By Alfio Blacks

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The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, is a pan-European network of currently 160 NGO’s and individual experts involved in the drug issue on a daily base. We are the European section of an International Coalition, which consists of more than 400 NGOs from around the world that have adhered to a Manifesto for Just and Effective Drug Policies (established in 1998). Among our members are organisations of cannabis and other drug users, of health workers, researchers, grassroot activists as well as companies.

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