Monday, September 18, 2006

Michael Yon on Opium production in Afghanistan

Another important piece from Michael Yon.
Lots of pictures. Plenty of insight. Sad message.

Consensus is growing among experts on Afghanistan that without a sudden and sharp change of plans, the Taliban could regain control of the nation. My own observations led me to the same conclusion, even before I spoke to General McCaffrey: We could lose the war in Afghanistan. As research for this article was being completed, news persisted of Iraq’s slow, seemingly inexorable slide into a bloody civil war, despite two noteworthy accomplishments: the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the election of an Iraqi central government; as things are, hopes diminish daily for any sort of success not defined by embarrassingly low expectations. America faces a historic first: losing two wars simultaneously...
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...Afghan farmers are hardly committed to some sort of agricultural jihad to destroy kids in the West. But years of warfare coinciding with decades of drought devastated not just the land here; they also wiped out much of the connection people had to it as farmers, and much of their collective knowledge base dissipated like dust. Farmers simply want to plant the most profitable crops, and since Afghanistan is one of poppy’s favorite climates, illiterate farmers can grow it with ease. Crops that require more technical savvy to obtain higher yields — and thereby provide a source an income as well as a means of sustenance — are beyond the current capacity of the climate and of the people.
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Nothing in the stars says Afghanistan must remain a narcotics and terrorism factory. The land has excellent agricultural opportunities, yet Western aid programs often refuse to help Afghan farmers with crops that will compete with domestic producers. Perhaps this makes sense on one level, but the end result is that it makes heroin production an attractive option. And diversifying Afghanistan’s agricultural economy won’t happen without substantial investments that go beyond educating farmers.
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The tragedy of all this is that after our military won stunning victory after stunning victory in the early war — crushing and vanquishing the Taliban — instead of setting in to seal the victory, we squandered it and ran off to Iraq, and the Taliban revived and returned. At the current rate, we, along with the Brits, Aussies, Canadians, French, Germans, Italians, and all the rest who are there, will lose the war in Afghanistan. We must change course with great haste.

I've been reading Michael Yon for some time. He pulls no punches. In my opinion he and Totten are the two best reporters on the war. Having risked his life by working in harm's way Michael Yon seems to be enjoying (finally) the fruits of what has to be one of the best reporting adventures of the war. Considering how many others got kidnapped, injured and worse, that is saying a lot. He has credibility in my book. The president could learn more from Yon than Camus.

Michael Yon isn't putting me up to this, but I now link to the Senlis Council, a European (French, already -- shudder...) think tank with some suggestions how Afghanistan's Opium production might be more constructively integrated into the world's need for pain-killers instead of illegal drug use. Without looking I can already predict that this is a notion that will be opposed by drug companies whose global empire of transnational economic influence considers think tank suggestions about as inviting as a puff of second-hand smoke.

Afghanistan faces a reconstruction crisis of an unprecedented scale. The illegal opium economy lies at the nexus of an extreme level of poverty and escalating violence, particularly in the southern part of the country. The US-led International Community has failed to unlock Afghanistan reconstruction crisis with an over-emphasis on aggressive counter narcotics strategies such as poppy crop eradication. The country’s share of opium production remains unchanged at 87 per cent of the world total, with 85 per cent of heroin consumed in Europe originating from Afghanistan. At the same time, however, opium poppy is the traditional crop and the raw material for essential medicines such as morphine and codeine.

Afghan opium represents is a huge potential to be re-directed into legal channels becoming a major driver for Afghanistan’s rural development and addressing the global shortage of opium-based medicines. Existing social control structures at different community levels would maximise the potential of opium, ensuring minimum diversion to the illegal market. The Senlis Council’s Feasibility Study on Opium Licensing in Afghanistan for the Production of Morphine and other Essential Medicines seeks to investigate the potential for Afghanistan to grow licensed opium poppy for the production of essential opium-based medicines. The next step of evaluation comprises a series of local pilot projects that will test the control and pharmaceutical aspects of poppy licensing for the production of an Afghan brand of humanitarian morphine.
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The opium licensing system is based on the comprehension that the opium issue is, at its core, one of economic resource management. By re-directing the opium poppy into the formal rural economy, it could become a major driver for a sustainable and diversified Afghan rural economy. Through the mobilisation of existing local governance structures, an opium licensing system could play a pivotal role in providing sustainable and legitimate income to rural communities, and establishing the rule of law by reducing the amount of opium flowing into the illegal market. By comprehensively addressing the real needs and concerns of the Afghan people, an opium licensing system would crucially reconcile security and development efforts

There is a sound legal basis for the implementation of an opium licensing system in Afghanistan – both in international and Afghan domestic law. In accordance with the UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, no authorisation or notification is required for Afghanistan to produce opium under a licensing system for its own domestic use or manufacture of morphine or codeine regardless of whether these are produced for domestic use or export. The 2005 Afghan Counter Narcotics Law contains extensive provisions for the establishment of a licensed poppy industry. Reflecting the provisions of the Single Convention, the new Afghan drugs law clarifies the conditions for the licensed opium cultivation for medical purposes and provides for the creation of the Drug Regulation Committee to oversee the licensed system.

This suggestion is not without precedent. More details are at the site, as well as this reference to Turkey's similar challenge which was resolved, more or less, to the satisfaction of the world community (no way to know, but I suspect that should read compliance, participation and profitability of global pharmaceutical economic empires).

Turkey‘s Opium Licensing System for the Production of Medicines

The Turkish experience has several parallels to the present situation in Afghanistan as in the 1960s Turkey was one of the world’s main illegal opium producing countries. Faced with vast drug consumption problems, the US demanded for complete eradication, disregarding Turkey’s domestic politics. Emphasising the political weight of the 70,000 poppy farming families, Turkish Prime Minister Demirel deemed “eradication would create a clash between the government forces and the people, and would make the problem worse, since it would create public support for plantings” (April 1970). Years of intense negotiations ultimately resulted in Turkey switching successfully to opium licensing and the bilateral preferential trade agreement with the US known as the 80/20 rule.


Anonymous said...

Dogs always fuck every Afghan women.
All Afghan women always fuck dogs and donkey.
phallus of Persian workers always goto Afghan women.
کیر سگ تو کس زنان افغان
گوه خوک تو کس ننه افغانی ها

Hoots said...

The post was published last September. It is now May, 2007 and my first comment is from an anonymous source using English profanity and probably more of the same in Arabic or Farsi.
I'm leaving it to illustrate the lack of intelligence standing in the way of resolving the challenge Michael Yon describes so well.