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The Economic Effect of Opium in Afghanistan

The Economic Effect of Opium in Afghanistan - The Economic...

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The Economic Effect of Opium in Afghanistan By: James Ball, Mike Amodeo
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Afghanistan as of March, 2008, the greatest illicit opium producer in the world, before Burma part of the so-called "Golden Crescent". Opium production in Afghanistan has spiked since the downfall of the Taliban in 2001. Based on UNODC data, there has been more opium poppy cultivation in each of the past growing seasons than in any one year during Taliban rule. With more land now available for opium in Afghanistan than for coca cultivation in Latin America. In 2007, 93% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan. This amounts to total drug value of about $64 billion, with a quarter being earned by opium farmers and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords and drug traffickers. In the years prior to a Taliban opium ban, the Afghan farmers' share of gross income from opium was divided among 200,000 families. As the Afghan government began to lose control of provinces during the Soviet invasion of 1979-80, warlords flourished and with it opium production as regional commanders searched for ways to generate money to purchase weapons, according to the UN. At this time the US was pursuing a supporting strategy of the Afghan freedom-fighters or Mujahedeen, the main purpose being to cripple the USSR slowly into withdrawal through attrition rather than affect a quick and decisive overthrow. U.S. officials had refused to follow through on charges of heroin dealing by its Afghan allies 'because U.S. narcotics policy in Afghanistan has been subordinated to the war against Soviet influence there.' In 1995, the former CIA director of the Afghan operation, Charles Cogan, admitted the CIA had indeed sacrificed the drug war to fight the Cold War. 'Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets. We didn't really have the resources or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade,' 'I
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don't think that we need to apologize for this. Every situation has its fallout. There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.' It was known by the Soviets on multiple occasions that American CIA agents were helping smuggle opium out of Afghanistan, either into the West, in order to raise money for the Afghan resistance or into the Soviet Union in order to weaken it through drug addiction. According to Alfred McCoy, the CIA supported various Afghan drug lords, for instance Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. When the Soviet Army was forced to withdraw in 1989, instant civil war was created. Numerous Mujahedeen factions started fighting against each other for power. With the discontinuation of Western support, they had to resort ever more too poppy cultivation to finance their war efforts.
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