Afghanistan’s third straight year of opium production increase has stirred concerns that after foreign departure, it may become “the world’s first true narco-state.” However, the United Nation’s report on this growing issue is glaringly incomplete.
The United Nation’s Office of Drug and Crimes (UNODC) 2013 World Drug Report credited Afghanistan with 74 percent of global opium production — a conservative estimate — which placed Afghanistan as the world’s top opium producer yet again.
Production of opium has increased since the arrival of foreign boots on the ground. This marks a contradiction to the widely trumpeted concerns that foreign departure will lead to an increase in opium production.
While the region has always been known for production of opiates, a less cited statistic is that its production since the 2001 U.S. invasion has reached heights it had previously not achieved.
The United Nations claims the need to shut down production of the drug as a means to cut funding to the Taliban. However, a relevant note from recent history shows the Taliban was the largest prohibiting factor of opium production in the year prior to American intervention.
In 2000, Afghanistan produced 3,300 tons of opium, but a harsh Taliban prohibition on the drug cut it to 185 tons. The 2001 yield was the lowest level of Afghanistan opium production in years. The low yield made a large dent in the global opium supply — a multi-billion dollar industry.
The United States invasion, and resulting destabilization of the region, saw opium jump back up to pre-ban levels and continue to soar past them.
Another reason for skepticism surrounds the Taliban’s funding. Poppy production supplied the Taliban with only $100 million in 2012, a number the UN reportedly called an indication they are not taking advantage of the $4 billion industry in the region. The Taliban garners a larger percentage of its funding from protection contracts coming through contractors from the United States and other foreign nations.
This is not the only incomplete facet of the UNODC report. While the report has comprehensive breakdowns for opium, usually heroin, traffic in Europe as well as Canada, its findings concerning heroin in the United States are incomplete.
The report claims that Canada is the only country in the Americas who receives its heroin primarily from Afghanistan. Citing the rest of the countries as receiving supply from within the Americas. It goes on to claim that the United States supply comes from Mexico and Columbia, Columbia being the main supplier.
"Afghanistan credited with 74 percent of global opium production"
Then it states, “there is insufficient information about the role played by heroin originating in Afghanistan for the United States market.”
There are good reasons for the UNODC to fill in this gap of knowledge with a more comprehensive investigation.
It doesn’t seem too far fetched that some of the unaccounted for supply of United States heroin could from Afghanistan, considering it is the largest supplier for the US’ northern neighbor, Canada, and responsible for at least 74 percent of the global supply.
This has historical precedent from the United States’ Cold War involvement in the region. A study by Alfred McCoy cited that Afghanistan supplied 60 percent of U.S. demand in 1979.
The UN report on this issue leaves much to be desired. The numbers it does provide shed light onto what has become a major issue concerning U.S. departure from Afghanistan.
The weaknesses mentioned above provide a watering hole for conspiracy. However, the story they tell seems, above all, to highlight yet another confusing quagmire among the many that have defined a legacy of unsuccessful foreign policy in the Middle East.
Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.
When will we ever learn that it's not government's place to make up laws in what you can do to yourself in your home...
"While the report has comprehensive breakdowns for opium, usually heroin, traffic in Europe as well as Canada, its findings concerning heroin in the United States are incomplete"
This is a very interesting article and it really highlights how the US has not been a knight and shining armor to the drug war and more than likely the US is recieving opium from Afghanistan.
No. The USA needs to GET OUT of Afganistan. No more boots on ground. Assist with drones if the situation, our intel, and their President requests it. Get the hell OUT!
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The US can't seem to get the drug war right anywhere. Fascinating information and great article, Joseph!
The opium problem in Afghanistan is a lot more complex than that. they tried burning the fields and the local warlords went after the farmers. They tried securing areas and getting them to swap crops. That led to the farmers going broke and giving up after first the first yield then switching back to opium. A particular crop really suddenly spiked on the international market because new type of demand and what I last heard they gotten some of the farmers to transition to it but many wont do it because of fear.
What? Why do you think we invaded Afghanistan? The Taliban was interfering with the prime source of off-books funding for CIA operations. Off course opium production is back up. That was the point.
If not for the Single Convention Treaty giving operations in India and Turkey controlled by Big Pharma a monopoly over legal production of opium for pharmaceutical use, Afghan opium could be the basis of a pharmaceutical industry which could use said opium to make medicines more cheaply than the competition. Thus access to medicine for the impoverished in not only the developing world but also the US would be increased, and Afghanistan would also have a better economy. That's the same treaty, BTW, that bans the import and export of cannabis. If the US pulled out of it, it would fall apart. All the more reason we should do so. It's just corporate welfare on a global scale at the price of peace and prosperity.
How else could we have a whole prison and law enforcement industry based on "the war on drugs" without drugs ! Just think of those poor policemen that would be out of work,all those poor construction guys who would be out of work with no prisons to be building and all those poor prison guards who would be on the unemployment line begging Obama for welfare checks.
Probably have a new version of Ollie North somewhere in the mix to sell off the stuff... BIG MONEY never gives up...
" a relevant note from recent history shows the Taliban was the largest prohibiting factor of opium production in the year prior to American intervention." Great work, Joey...this revelation is a chilling reminder that when a country lacks the infrastructure to prevent a narco-state, moralistic islamofascists, who are accustomed to condemning lucrative practices on arbitrary grounds, are paradoxically our only ally in the long-lost war against drugs, both in the region and in the addicted nations.
Just as the Vietnam conflict was fought to preserve the illegal marijuana/illegal drug groves of American Politicians, US invasion guarantees the global opium business will continue and American profits will continue to soar. This is not surprising. US criminal action guarantees Oil theft (diversion) to the US, expansion of opium crop to previous levels, and advancement of the "Christian" US missionaries to convience locals of the Christian God and that he is White ~
Really interesting article Joey. Something that is often overlooked when analyzing U.S. departure from Afghanistan & the implications it will have on the stability, and opium production, on the country.
I like the approach taken here. Reports, while informative and factual, may not tell the whole story. Sometimes it's not on purpose or it's not in the best interest of those who are creating the report. I'm not surprised by the increase in production since the US presence as it creates chaos in the region, but it'd be more telling if production continues to rise after stabilization.
The power of drugs. The power of war. This is a fascinating statistic:
"In 2000, Afghanistan produced 3,300 tons of opium, but a harsh Taliban prohibition on the drug cut it to 185 tons. The 2001 yield was the lowest level of Afghanistan opium production in years. The low yield made a large dent in the global opium supply — a multi-billion dollar industry.
The United States invasion, and resulting destabilization of the region, saw opium jump back up to pre-ban levels and continue to soar past them."
Great point to bring up. Is the beheading of local farmers for doing what they can to make money worth while? I think not. But we also should be careful in pitting opium as a major part of their organization.