Way back in May, I wrote about the bumper crop of Heroin that was going to be coming out of Helmand province in Afghanistan, and what to do about it.
It’s better to pay the farmers for 610 metric tons of opium than to have it all flooding the EU and US streets in the form of cheap heroin, with the revenues paying for weapons and salaries for Al Qaeda. There are contractual and social solutions for the problems noted in Transform, and it would help to decouple the ordinary people in Helmand from Al Qaeda and associated criminal gangs.
Today the CFR interviews Romesh Bhattacharji who provides valuable data in support of this idea.
India is one of only a dozen countries allowed to grow opium poppies to export for the manufacture of legal drugs such as morphine. Romesh Bhattacharji, former narcotics commissioner for India, says he thinks India’s system of legalized opium growing can work in Afghanistan. Bhattacharji says India’s success with poppy growing (PDF) though an international licensing program for medicine production is largely due to a village control system, where if one farmer sells their crop illegally the entire area loses its license. He urges the adoption of this method in Afghanistan, where he says eradication efforts are ineffective and swaying support for the Taliban.
It took long enough for the lefties in the CFR to wise up to this idea!
Musa Qala, recently retaken from the Taliban in a battle that killed hundreds of Taliban fighters, was home to dozens of heroin processing labs that paid protection money to the Taliban and most likely sold the heroin to Taliban approved smugglers for transport over the mountains to someplace where it could be shipped to Europe and the US. The resurgence of Afghan Heroin has provided funds that enable the Taliban and Al Qaeda to return to action in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But the fighters did collect “taxes” from businesses, farmers and others, money used to help fund the insurgency that raged across the northern part of Helmand province in 2007, a year of record violence in Afghanistan.
Fariq Khan, a Musa Qala resident in his early 30s who owns a telephone shop, said the Taliban would take about $8 from each family every month during a collection at the mosque. Though small, the amount is significant; teachers in Afghanistan are paid only $50 a month.
Trucks passing through paid $50 and poppy farmers had to turn over 10 percent of their profits, Khan said, speaking to The Associated Press in Kandahar.
Musa Qala was the site of 50 to 70 heroin labs used to process the opium poppies.
Musa Qala is iconic for the battle in Helmand province. But every little village and town around it is in the same situation. It is smack in the middle of the Afghan poppy belt, and those opium poppies grow everywhere. Every village has more than its share of heroin labs. Every lab and farmer pays protection money to the Taliban and the Taliban smuggles the heroin out of Helmand using the same smuggling lines they use to smuggle themselves and their weapons across the border with the ungoverned parts of Pakistan.
How bad is the heroin problem exactly?
Afghanistan this year produced 93 percent of the world’s opium, the main ingredient in heroin. Helmand produced more than 50 percent of the country’s opium. More than 80 percent of the province’s farmers are involved in the opium trade.
Afghan Heroin is not just a problem for the US and Europe, but also for Afghanistan.
“I have been addicted to heroin for five years now,” said Faqirullah, sleepy and half-stoned in a bombed-out building in Kabul just a short walk from the national parliament.
Today Online has more to report from a story that appears to be written by Sardar Ahmad for AFP. Snippets follow.
Nearly a million Afghans, about four percent of the population, use drugs, according to the last UN survey in 2005.
The figure is no doubt higher now, says counternarcotics ministry spokesman Sayed Amanullah Abdali, flicked upwards by the return every year of thousands of refugees from neighbouring Iran and Pakistan, where many first take drugs.
Afghanistan is estimated this year to have produced 93 percent of the world’s illegal opium — about 8,200 tons, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Until a few years ago, most of it was exported in its raw form. Today the lion’s share, perhaps 90 percent, is turned into heroin inside the country, a UN official said in June.
This means more profits for the drug traffickers, who are said to be linked to Taliban insurgents, and more heroin for the local addicts.
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