Social - Iran blame USA & UK for Afghan flow of Opium

Discussion in 'Opium & Poppy' started by Alfa, Apr 13, 2004.

  1. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,318
    Messages:
    38,297
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    UK ACCUSED OVER AFGHAN OPIUM FAILURE

    Britain has bungled its command of an international campaign to rid Afghanistan of opium poppy, and its failure has contributed to an unprecedented increase in heroin production, a senior US official said on Thursday.

    In an unusually critical report, the state department's senior narcotics official, Robert Charles, told a congressional committee hearing that British efforts had been painfully slow at a time when Afghanistan was poised for a bumper heroin season. Charles claimed this would be disastrous for Afghanistan. Without a crackdown on opium poppy, the country would rapidly slide into the grip of drug lords and become increasingly lawless. Last year, there was a bumper crop of Afghan drugs, and this year promises an even better season. Unseasonably warm temperatures in the southern provinces of Helmand and Nangarhar have brought forward the planting season.

    The early spring -- and Britain's ineffectual policing -- now threatened to expand the area of Afghan farmland under poppy cultivation by as much as 100% in 2004, Charles said. Despite the urgency, Britain had barely begun to destroy about 5 000
    hectares of poppy that were slated for eradication this year in Nangarhar and Helmand, the committee was told.
    The two provinces are at the centre of poppy cultivation, and Britain's reluctance to crack down here could encourage farmers throughout Afghanistan to plant poppy.

    "Unless direct, effective and measurable action is taken immediately, we may well be looking at well over 120 000 hectares this year," Charles said. Such criticism of America's closest ally is rare in Washington -- particularly on the issue of Afghanistan, where Charles commended Britain's efforts in training local Afghan drug forces. But, since taking charge of the campaign against the Afghan poppy, Britain has presided over a staggering rise in opium production.

    According to US intelligence, more hectares of Afghan farmland were devoted to poppy production in 2003 than ever before. The United Nations drug enforcement agency has charted a similar rise. The US believes Britain needs to be more robust in its approach to Afghan poppy growers rather than trying to find the farmers other means of survival. Charles also accused Britain of being overly concerned with winning the political support of local Afghan notables. "We believe that if there is heroin poppy that needs to be eradicated we shouldn't be picking and choosing, we shouldn't be delaying, we shouldn't be making it conditional on finding an alternative income stream," he said. "Our priority here should not be a misplaced sympathy for someone who has to do a little more work."
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2006
  2. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,318
    Messages:
    38,297
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    IRAN POLICE BLAME US, UK FOR FLOW OF AFGHAN DRUGS

    TEHRAN, June 26: Iran's police blamed Britain and the United States for bumper poppy crops in Afghanistan that are inflaming social problems in a country where more than two million people are drug addicts. Iranian forces marked the UN International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Tehran on Saturday by blowing up a huge mound of seized drugs topped with a picture of a bat-like monster with blood-red eyes.

    They chanted "Death to America" as the contraband exploded. "We hold America and Britain responsible for this situation ... Americans are in charge of Afghanistan's security and Britons are responsible for fighting fight drugs there," said anti-narcotics commander Mehdi Abuee. Iran is the main route for Afghan drugs heading west. The police announced they reckoned almost 48,560 hectares of Afghan farms were under poppy cultivation, adding this was unprecedented in the
    country's history.

    Iran has built chains of walls and forts across its porous eastern borders but smugglers have gone back to old ways, taking drugs through mountain passes by rucksack and camel. "Only 10 per cent of poppy farms have been destroyed and of what remains, 4,100 tons of opium will be produced this season," Abuee added. Many Afghan farmers felled their citrus groves to turn to the more lucrative crop. Some 3,300 Iranian servicemen have died in battles with traffickers since the 1979 revolution. "This is an on-going, all-out, weary war," Abuee said.

    PUBLIC CAMPAIGNS: Iran, where 70 per cent of the population is under 30, is open about its drugs problem has shown drug awareness programmes on television through the week. Cartoons for children showed an addict in a park turn into a skeleton then flake to dust. Opium smoking has been the traditional Iranian vice and is ingrained in the culture of southern provinces.
    But programmes for youngsters focused on the risks of recreational drugs such as ecstasy, taken at raves where young people let off steam from the strict confines of their society. Last year Iran said it seized three tons of heroin, 72 tons of hashish and 111 tons of opium. But Ali Hashemi, head of the presidential anti-narcotics staff said this was only about 10 percent of the opium flooding across the border. Hashemi said fighting drugs should be an important focus for international
    co-operation.

    "Political differences aside, we welcome cooperation with any country to defuse this dangerous phenomenon," he said. He added economic dependence, lack of powerful central government and the international drug mafia were to blame for the increase in Afghan poppy cultivation. "Apart from the 4 percent of Iran's population who are addicts, the rest ask why the Western powers are not using the new opportunity in Afghanistan to put an end to drugs problem in the world," Hashemi said.-Reuters
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2006
  3. GDxCAT

    GDxCAT Titanium Member

    Reputation Points:
    148
    Messages:
    621
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    from U.S.A.
    Afghan Poppies Bloom
    By Christian Parenti, The Nation.
    Posted January 11, 2005.
    Link

    After three years of ignoring opium poppy cultivation in war-ravaged Afghanistan, the United States has suddenly changed
    course.

    The rotund landlord, Mr. Attock, sits on the carpeted floor of his little office and living quarters in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. From this one room he publishes a slight and sporadic weekly or sometimes monthly newspaper, but like most people around here, his real business is farming opium poppy. Mr. Attock's land lies about an hour and a half away in the countryside of Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, not too far from Tora Bora.

    "My dear, everyone grows poppy. Even me," says Mr. Attock in slightly awkward English as he leans over to grab my leg, again. Mr. Attock is a bundle of physical and intellectual energy, not all of it well focused. "My dear, you see. Listen. My dear, wheat is worthless. Everyone grows poppy. We will go to my village and you will see." The next day we tour the village where Mr. Attock owns or manages a farm (it's not entirely clear who actually owns the establishment, but he is in charge). Nangarhar is one of Afghanistan's top three drug-producing provinces. The surrounding fields rotate between corn and poppies. Mr. Attock says he has almost 100 people living and working here as tenant farmers and laborers.

    For the past three years, growing poppy in Afghanistan, as Mr. Attock and his tenants do, has been a relatively risk-free and open business. The Taliban had imposed a ruthlessly successful ban on poppy cultivation in 2000; more than 90 percent of cultivation stopped. But since the U.S. invasion in 2001, eradication efforts have been minimal and ineffective and production has again soared. Globally, Afghanistan's opium business is estimated to be worth more than $30 billion a year, with the vast majority of that cash being captured by players in other countries. One Western counternarcotics official estimated that poppy production increased by 64 percent in 2004. Afghanistan now produces an estimated 87 percent of the world's opium, most of which becomes heroin and morphine. Income from poppy and its associated processing and trafficking are said to contribute $2.8 billion annually to the Afghan economy, a sum equal to 60 percent of the country's legitimate GDP. About a quarter of this money ends up in the hands of common farmers; the rest goes to traffickers.

    UN researchers believe that 2.3 million of Afghanistan's 20-25 million people are directly involved in poppy cultivation, with many more working in processing, trafficking, moneylending, laundering and other associated activities. The warlords who run this country tax both farmers and traffickers alike. The British, who are part of the international coalition now occupying
    Afghanistan, have been in charge of establishing a Counter Narcotics Directorate in Kabul. Its efforts have not been aggressive, and until recently the Americans have openly avoided the issue of poppy cultivation, preferring to focus instead on hunting down the Taliban and al Qaeda and training the new Afghan National Army.

    But after three years of ignoring poppy cultivation and heroin production, the United States has suddenly changed course. In
    mid-November Washington pledged $780 million toward Afghanistan's war on drugs. If a rigorous campaign against poppy actually materializes, it could radically destabilize the relative calm that now obtains in much of Afghanistan. Already there is trouble brewing in Nangarhar, where next year's crop is just starting to sprout. Farmers report low-flying planes spraying
    poison on their fields. Doctors in the area say they've seen a sudden jump in respiratory illness and skin rashes, while veterinarians are seeing sickened livestock. In a harbinger of what a real war on drugs might bring, one farmer in Nangarhar whose son had been poisoned by the spraying told a local journalist, "If my son dies, I will join the Taliban, and I will kill as many Americans as I can find."

    Nangarhar's provincial governor, a former mujahedeen commander named Haji Din Mohammed, has said there is "no doubt that an aerial spray has taken place." Other Afghan officials have called it illegal. The United States controls Afghan airspace but denies that it has sprayed, though it is promising a "robust" eradication campaign come spring. Mr. Attock is reveling in his role as country squire and host. At his village we sit on cots made of rope and wood to eat a breakfast of thick clotted butter cream, honey and flat bread, washed down with lots of sweet tea. As I wait beneath a huge tree in the courtyard of Mr.
    Attock's kala, a fortress-like family compound, he corrals three farmers and tells them to fetch opium and opium seeds, to take seats and to explain the trade to his guest.

    The three farmers, all of them lean and sinewy and looking a bit skeptical, take seats and politely start talking shop. For the most part, growing opium in Afghanistan is like growing any other crop. Though technically illicit, it's all rather undramatic: Farmers are concerned with irrigation, weather, pests, disease and prices. Their tasks are similarly prosaic, consisting mainly of weeding, watering and tending the crops. The most talkative and inquisitive farmer is Abdul Rakmon. For every
    few questions from me he has one of his own. "Have you been to Fremont, California? Some people from around here live there now. Where exactly is Fremont?" Rakmon and his less talkative mates explain that in the warm climate of
    Nangarhar there is one crop of poppy, though in other areas there are two seasons, the second less productive than the first. In Nangarhar the land is fertilized with manure in late October, and then the poppy seeds are sown in November. By February the flowers bloom, then the blossoms fall away to reveal a bulging seedpod. In March the farmers start harvesting the opium by cutting or scraping the seedpods with small trowels.

    From the little scrape wounds oozes a sticky white sap – raw opium. The milk-colored opium turns brown with exposure to air. In Nangarhar the farmers cut the seedpods in the evening and collect the congealed sap in the morning. "We cut the seedpod with a ghoza," says Rakmon, and he gives me a little wooden tool with a serrated metal edge. "You can have this ghoza
    as a present. People in New York will be impressed when they see that,"he says with a grin. He's making a sage but cryptic comment on the huge physical, but even greater social, distance between heroin's site of production and its site of consumption. In front of us sits a big sickly-sweet-smelling block of opium.

    Ms. Attock has become bored with the interviews and is done eating. He struts around the dusty courtyard, occasionally hoisting himself up off the ground on a tree branch. He wants my colleague, the photographer Teru Kuwayama, to take snapshots of his buildings and retinue of friends and employees from the village. "What is his name? He looks like a Hazara," says Attock, referring to the Afghan ethnic minority known for their East Asian facial features. "His name is Teru."
    "Yes, OK. Steve!" shouts Mr. Attock, still unable to get Teru's name right. "Steve! Come. Take photos." The farmers tell me that the flowers come in red, white and purple. "Red flowers are the best," says Rakmon.In cooler climates other farmers inform me that white blossoms are superior.

    Rakmon and his two friends explain that in most parts of Afghanistan a farmer can get up to seven collections from each seedpod. Eventually the plant is tapped out and left to dry. The desiccated seedpods are harvested for next year's planting and the seeds are used to make edible oil. Mothers sometimes boil the dry pods into a tea that they use to drug their infants during long hours of work, or when the children are sick or hungry and unable to sleep. To illustrate the financial plight that drives people here to grow poppy – which, as good Muslims, they see as a sin – the farmers explain the math of poppy versus wheat. The local unit of land measurement here, a jerib, is roughly half an acre; and this part of Afghanistan is so close to Pakistan that commerce is conducted in Pakistani rupees instead of afghanis.

    "It costs 1,000 rupees to plant one jerib of poppy, and that one jerib will yield at least 15 kilograms of poppy, which is worth 300,000 Pakistani rupees [$5,000], at least," says a farmer named Lal Mohammed. (Later in the central highlands, some farmers tell me they can get 28 kilos of opium per jerib.) "Wheat takes twice as long as poppy to grow, and we can buy almost ten times as much wheat as we could produce if we grow poppy instead," says Mohammed. "We have no choice but to grow poppy." To top it all off, Afghanistan is in the midst of a hellacious six-year drought. Unlike wheat and vegetables or cotton, poppy is very drought-resistant. "All it really needs is a little water early on,"says Mohammed.

    The farmers confirm what I've heard elsewhere: The opium boom of the past three years has delivered many farmers from onerous debts and allowed them to keep land that they would otherwise have been forced to sell off to the local mujahedeen commanders. After all the details of poppy growing are explained, Mr. Attock takes us on a tour of his village and invites me to shoot at a tree with one of his double-barreled shotguns. "Into the leaves, my dear. Up into the leaves. Yes!" The tree survives. Then we have more tea. Later about six of us pack into a little Toyota four-wheel drive and slowly bounce and lurch down a sandy road lined with tall reeds through a string of small villages. At one of these clusters of mud-walled
    compounds we stop, interview another group of farmers about local politics and opium, then have a lunch of greasy rice and lamb and smoke hash with our hosts. This is haram, forbidden, in Islam. But way out here, is Allah really counting the minor indiscretions? Apparently some farmers think not.

    On the dirt road back to Jalalabad, we stop to take photos. Around the bend rolls a small convoy of menacing U.S. Special Forces, all mirrored sunglasses, beards and guns. The dreamy afternoon starts to feel creepy and not safe.

    In the central highlands of Wardak province – which along with Nangarhar is one of the top opium-producing areas in Afghanistan and set to be targeted in the upcoming American-led eradication efforts – a different group of poppy farmers explains other aspects of the trade and the process of smuggling. Teru and I are visiting friends of his who live in a series of
    picturesque villages strung out along a stunningly beautiful valley – lush and green at the bottom but hemmed in by huge, dry rocky mountains.

    The family we're staying with is fairly prosperous, with some brothers and cousins working in Kabul, others involved in trucking and many others farming the valley's abundantly watered land. We spend most of our time drinking tea, cracking jokes and eating. There's growing political tension around here, so our hosts allow us to take only one hike. Nor do they want too many people to see them wandering around with foreigners. I ask the farmers here about loans, because debt is said to be one of
    the ways big traffickers control little farmers. "No, no. The smugglers do not lend money," says a man named Nazir. "Mostly we have to borrow from merchants in the bazaar. You have to come up with your own money."

    Western experts had told me the smugglers make cash loans that are repaid at 100 percent interest, but in opium instead of cash. The system in Wardak seems to be less onerous, more streamlined, less formalized. And it externalizes risk for the lenders: Farmers purchase on credit from shopkeepers to survive, then repay in cash after payment from smugglers.

    "Why would the smugglers want to lend us money? They know we have to grow poppy to survive," says Nazir, sounding like he wishes he could get a cash loan instead of store credit. "The smugglers who take the opium away have the most dangerous job, you know. They get robbed. The commanders and police can attack them. It's very dangerous," says Nazir. "The worst that happens to farmers is their crops get destroyed. And this year we lost most of our poppy to disease anyway." Nazir and his cousins say that the smaller smugglers tend to sell their loads to wholesalers, who often work with the authorities and use official vehicles and state-issued travel documents to move their consolidated loads into Iran and Pakistan. But such cover isn't always necessary.

    "The border at Chaman, in Pakistan, is wide open," says one of Nazir's cousins. "I've crossed there without talking to anyone. You just drive across." To turn opium into heroin it must be boiled down with lye to make morphine, then further refined with other chemicals. Western counternarcotics specialists and UN researchers say that Afghan opium has typically been processed into heroin by labs in Pakistan. But with the new opium boom, these labs are said to be moving into Afghanistan,
    making the smuggling operations more efficient and profitable. The guys in Wardak say there are some small labs in the area around their group of villages.

    "Some young people smoke heroin, about 100 of them around here. That's a big problem for us," says a man named Hazrad. He speaks English, which most of his cousins can't understand too well. "They dip cigarettes in it and just smoke it. Some of them steal to get money." When I ask how the community is dealing with this he grows reticent and uncomfortable.
    According to the farmers, the route into Pakistan seems to rely heavily on concealment within other commodities like wheat and rice or in fuel tankers, and the official border crossing is used. Smuggling into Iran is usually done with long, well-armed convoys of trucks or camels that try to avoid, or if necessary outgun, any Iranian border police they might meet. Violent clashes are routine, and Tehran reports that it has lost 3,100 security personnel over the past two decades in battles with
    well-armed and -organized smugglers on the Afghan border. Almost 200 soldiers and 800 traffickers were killed in 2003 alone.

    When I ask about U.S. plans to target Wardak in the spring of 2005, Nazir and the others grow concerned. "We have many former Taliban and mujahedeen commanders here who are getting angry at America because of what is happening in Palestine and Iraq and because the economy here is no good," says Nazir. "Cutting down poppy will only make them more angry." Already violence is on the rise in Wardak. People who work with the occupying forces are starting to be targeted by unknown assassins.

    If poppy eradication threatens instability in Afghanistan, why is the United States now stepping up its war on drugs? Officially, the counternarcotics wonks in Kabul give all the right ethical arguments: Poppy is an evil fueling everything from Islamic terrorism to the spread of HIV.

    But the poppy revival has also been clearly linked to a decline in rural indebtedness and an improvement in the status and standard of living of many women. Because opium harvesting is both labor-intensive and lucrative, it provides economic opportunities for Afghan women, many of whom either cultivate poppy on their own land or work as relatively well-compensated wage laborers in the fields of others. The average wage for gathering opium can be as high as $7 a day. In Kabul a day laborer who works on a construction site or hauls goods can expect to make only $3 a day. And the practice of turning a blind eye to the opium industry has functioned as a de facto development strategy in Afghanistan: It is probable that ordinary Afghans receive more income from drugs than they do from all the international aid they receive.

    But across the planet in Washington, Afghanistan's poppy crop is viewed through the lens of reactionary moralism and domestic political theater rather than imperial pragmatism. And now powerful politicians want a better Afghan drug war.
    The first demands came in 2003, when Republican Rep. Henry Hyde sent a high-profile letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressing his "growing concern about Afghanistan and the impact of illicit drugs on the fight against global terrorism." This plea seemed to bear fruit. On a surprise visit to Kabul in August 2004, Rumsfeld singled out drugs as a problem "too serious to be ignored." In turn, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said he expected "some broadening" of the U.S.-led coalition's military efforts against poppy.

    A Western official in Kabul told me that the United States was indeed ramping up its war on drugs and building a "pretty full partnership with the UK and Afghan government." He said that economic aid of between $30 million and $40 million had already arrived and would soon be invested in antipoppy economic development, or "the alternative livelihoods program." This scheme will involve creating cold storage facilities, communications links and improved roads, all with the aim of connecting traditional crops such as apples and raisins to world markets. But even the program's proponents admit that "nothing will
    replace opium." This bit of carrot will then be followed by the stick: an aggressive campaign of crop eradication to begin in February.

    "In 2005 eradication will be considerably more robust. At least five times as much poppy will be cut down as compared to last year," said the official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. But to destroy the flowers is to destroy the lives of poor farmers. If wide and aggressive, such an assault could lead to a new jihad. Some observers have even credited the quick fall of the Taliban to the former regime's unpopular ban on poppy cultivation, a policy that left them with very few allies once the U.S. bombs began falling. Further complicating any real war on drugs would be the international community's open alliance with Afghanistan's mujahedeen warlords, or jangsalaran, many of whom might turn on the occupation if their sub
    rosa economic activities are attacked. As one U.S. soldier in Kandahar explained to the English Independent, "We start taking out drug guys, and they will start taking out our guys." The security chief in Nangarhar, Hazrat Ali, a U.S. ally, is said to be heavily involved in the drug trade. And now American officials have started to threaten him. "One day, he will wake up and find out he's out of business," Col. David Lamm, chief of staff for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said of Hazrat Ali in a recent press interview. If Hazrat Ali is targeted, it's unlikely that he'll go quietly.

    Back in Wardak the impending war on poppy is viewed by the Muslim farmers as hypocritical and cruel. Just before we take leave of Nazir and his cousins, he asks me: "Why does America allow people to sell alcohol but not heroin? What is the difference? At least in Islam both are haram." Christian Parenti is the author of The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq (New Press) and a visiting fellow at CUNY's Center for Place, Culture and Politics.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 4, 2006
  4. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,318
    Messages:
    38,297
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    AFGHANS PROBE 'POPPY SPRAY' CLAIM

    The Afghan government has said it is investigating reports that an unidentified aircraft sprayed opium poppies with herbicide.
    It comes amid continuing controversy over how to curb Afghanistan's booming drugs trade.
    The governor of Helmand province in the south of Afghanistan told the BBC that poison had certainly been sprayed, but he did not know who was responsible.

    US diplomats in Kabul have said they do not know anything about the incident.
    The US government had previously announced that it had suspended plans to use aerial spraying to destroy opium poppies, following opposition from the Kabul government and aid agencies.

    Destabilise country
    It is the second time since November that Kabul has launched an investigation into allegations of aerial spraying. The last inquiry proved inconclusive. Both Washington, which had previously earmarked cash for aerial spraying programmes, and the British government, which leads the international counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan, denied responsibility. Washington has since shelved proposals for aerial spraying.

    But the debate is still raging over what else should be done, with aid agencies arguing that if widespread eradication is carried out before providing alternative livelihoods for poor farmers, it could destabilise the country. Peter Marsden, of the British Agencies Afghanistan Group, said: "The Afghan government would certainly prefer to take its time and see what is possible in terms of building up the economy. "The major concern really is over statements by the US that it plans to engage in manual eradication this year, and also over statements by the British government that they feel the need to be seen to be doing something quickly.

    "They're worried that if one waits for too long, the narco-mafia economy will become entrenched. "There's a lot of unease in many quarters about the best way forward, in terms of achieving a balance between eradication and alternative livelihoods."
    Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has declared a holy war against drugs but objects to aerial spraying as a health hazard.

    Some reports suggest that his talks in December with powerbrokers from key poppy-producing provinces may already have led to some major cutbacks in cultivation - at least for now. But with the drugs industry making up about 60% of Afghanistan's economy and with one in 10 Afghans involved, he could be facing a long and difficult battle.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2006
  5. sunyata

    sunyata Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    575
    Messages:
    512
    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2004
    from norway
    Apart from destroying destroying opium-crops, this is probably very bad for the environment. Whoever's responsible they should be killed. The US tried a similar operation in Colombia I think, only they were using germs and parasites they had made in a laboratory. Those germs also destroyed sweet-potato crops which were essensial to the farmers. The supreme court in Colombia decided it was illegal and I think(hope) the US stopped it. That was actually biological warfare, but unfortunately the Geneve convention only applies during war-time, and the war on drugs is only a war in propaganda speaches. It's a very dangerous development in the war on drugs, this hurts everybody.
     
  6. Woodman

    Woodman A very strange person. Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    711
    Messages:
    1,393
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    116 y/o from U.S.A.
    Perhaps US military getting even with Afgan
    druglords who failed to make kick-back payments to
    CIA .
     
  7. poweredbyhate

    poweredbyhate Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    8
    Messages:
    120
    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2004
    from Canada
    This is disgusting. I can understand the desire for the
    authorities to stop drug production, but this "stop it at all costs"
    mentality isn't good for anyone. Like sunyata said, I think this
    would be terrible for the environment and for other potential crops in
    the area.
     
  8. enquirewithin

    enquirewithin Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    3,605
    Messages:
    5,754
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2004
    from bermuda
    Afghanistan retakes heroin crown

    anewsimg.bbc.co.uk_media_images_38877000_jpg__38877239_opium2032.jpg
    Production has surged since the end of the Taliban regime

    Afghanistan retook its place as the world's leading producer of heroin last year, after US-led forces overthrew the
    Taleban which had banned cultivation of opium poppies.


    The finding was made in a key drug report, distributed in Kabul on Sunday by the US State Department, which supports almost identical findings by the United Nations last week.
    Low-grade heroin is refined in Afghanistan from opium, which is manufactured from the extract of poppies. "The size of the opium harvest in 2002 makes Afghanistan the world's leading opium producer," the report said. The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report said the area of land used to cultivate opium poppies reached 30,750 hectares, compared with 1,685 hectares in 2001.

    Afghanistan overtook Burma - whose production fell for the sixth straight year, to 630 tonnes - as the leading opium producer. The British government is the leading sponsor of the anti-drugs campaign in Afghanistan.

    Contradictory claims
    The report said fighting illegal drug trafficking was key to the US war on terrorism.
    anewsimg.bbc.co.uk_media_images_38877000_jpg__38877239_opium2032.jpg
    Production has surged since the end of the Taliban

    "The US campaign against global terrorism in 2002 highlighted the importance of our international drug control programs,"
    it said. Despite its own figures showing the Taleban had cut Afghanistan's heroin production by about 95%, the report claimed that heroin had "financed the former Taleban regime". The UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) report, released on 26 February, said that Afghanistan produced 3,400 tonnes last year, up from 185 tonnes in 2001. While the US report praised US-backed Afghan president Hamid Karzai for the measures he has introduced to cut heroin production, the UN report said his two executive orders had no practical impact.

    Growing problem
    The Pentagon and the State Department are reportedly split over how heroin production should be tackled in the country.
    anewsimg.bbc.co.uk_media_images_38902000_jpg__38902931_taliban_bbc_203.jpg
    The Taliban banned production

    While the Pentagon insists that the military operations in Afghanistan should be limited to fighting terrorists, while the
    State Department thinks armed forces should tackle opium production. The US report also praised Pakistan for "excellent" co-operation with US anti-drugs efforts. Last week the head of Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force, Major General Zafar Abbas, said that heroin production in Afghanistan this year is expected to reach more than 4,000 tonnes.

    Russian guards patrolling Afghanistan's 1,340-kilometre border with Tajikistan, the main transport route for Afghan drugs to
    European markets, have seized 1.5 tonnes of heroin already this year.

    Last year, Russian and Tajik border guards seized 6.7 tonnes of drugs.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 4, 2006
  9. adzket

    adzket R.I.P. Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    618
    Messages:
    1,078
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2005
    37 y/o from U.K.
    as i understand it herrion production has increased since the taliban where taken from power but thats probibly because they had control over production the contry with largest opium output is india with most of the worlds legal and illegal opium comming from there. it is regulated by iindian gov for use in pharmicuticuls but large amounts get onto black market every year.
     
  10. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,318
    Messages:
    38,297
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    AFGHAN FARMERS DEFY U.S. OPIUM CLAMPDOWN

    MAYWAND, Afghanistan -- Afghan farmers have begun harvesting this year's opium crop, exposing the limits of a U.S.-sponsored crackdown on the world's largest narcotics industry despite claims Tuesday by President Hamid Karzai that drug cultivation was down sharply.

    The sobering harvest news came a day after the arrest in the United States of an Afghan accused of being one of the world's biggest heroin traffickers and of close ties to the ousted Taliban regime.

    On Tuesday morning, farmers could be seen gathering resin from opium poppies near the main road through the southern province of Kandahar, a key growing region belatedly targeted by American-trained eradication teams.

    "Now, even if we do our best, we cannot eradicate it all," in Kandahar, Gen. Mohammed Daoud, deputy interior minister for counter-narcotics, told The Associated Press. "It is a bad example for the other provinces and will make our job much harder."

    Production of opium, the raw material for heroin, has boomed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Last year, cultivation reached a record 323,700 acres, yielding nearly 80 percent of world supply and buoying the economy.

    Karzai last year called for a "holy war" on a trade he says could make Afghanistan an international pariah. Farmers in some areas have switched to wheat, partly for fear of eradication, and Karzai said Tuesday that U.N. and British government surveys showed cultivation was down by 30 to 40 percent.

    But U.N. drug experts have cautioned that cultivation is shifting to more remote areas and rebounding opium prices could encourage a revival in planting next year.

    Countries, including the United States and Britain, are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the anti-drug campaign. The cash is being used to train police units to destroy laboratories, arrest smugglers and destroy opium crops, as well as to fund irrigation systems and other agricultural projects to help farmers grow legal crops.

    The U.S. military has promised to provide intelligence on targets and police have raided a string of laboratories in the north and east, smashing equipment and seizing drug stocks.

    But Afghan authorities have yet to make a high-profile arrest to match the one announced Monday in New York, when Bashir Noorzai, an infamous Afghan drug baron, was charged with trying to smuggle more than $50 million worth of heroin into the United States. A U.S. prosecutor said Noorzai, 44, was arrested in New York, but didn't elaborate. Daoud said Bashir had moved between Pakistan and Dubai, though Maj. Gen. Nadeem Ahmed, chief of Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force, said intelligence reports earlier this year placed him in Afghanistan. Both officials denied he had been detained in their territory. Bashir was a "very big fish" still intimately involved in drug smuggling and financing Taliban militants, Daoud said. "The arrest was very good, but it was made abroad, and what we need is for Afghan authorities to get active and make arrests," Daoud said.

    He blamed the slow pace on sluggish legal reforms and said late funding and reluctant governors had held up the eradication campaign. Farmers complain they have seen little of the aid supposed to soften the blow of stopping the lucrative drug trade, raising the prospect of an anti-government backlash ahead of September parliamentary elections. "Afghans are very hopeful for their future and confident about the country, that it is going toward reconstruction," Karzai told reporters in Kabul. "But the international community has great responsibility (to help farmers), otherwise they have to return to their old life."

    On Tuesday, wide expanses of poppy were in full bloom along the main road west out of Kandahar, and farmers were quietly gathering the opium, which will likely end up as heroin sold on the streets in countries such as Britain or Russia. Mohammed Nahim, a 40-year-old working in the fields dotted with red and white flowers near the town of Maywand, said he had cultivated about 2 1/2 acres of land with poppy because no assistance had materialized. "A lot of money is coming for our farmers. But we didn't get a penny, not one sack of wheat," Nahim told an AP reporter, clutching a black plastic bag filled with thick opium paste from his poppy crop. He said returns from opium were 10 times higher than from wheat and were the only way to cover the cost of hired tractors and diesel to pump water into his fields.

    Nahim and his neighbors said they were very nervous about losing their crops to the eradication teams so close to harvest time - a factor that has contributed to violent clashes with farmers in Kandahar and other provinces in recent weeks. "Now I am very relieved," Nahim said. "This poppy is my gold."
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2006
  11. Woodman

    Woodman A very strange person. Platinum Member & Advisor

    Reputation Points:
    711
    Messages:
    1,393
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2003
    116 y/o from U.S.A.
    HA, Ha!!

    All that government "aide money" is being
    scooped-up by the administrators who were charged
    with it's distribution.

    The middle-men of the new Afgan government are
    stealing international aide money meant for rural
    agricultural development.

    They are STEALING from the POOR.

    What the fuck did they THINK would happen?

    The farmers aren't STUPID!
    They're NOT just going to sit around waiting for
    subsidies while their families STARVE, and the best
    angle the media can find on this story is that opium
    production is up?

    How long do you think it'll take before the media
    clowns can pull their heads out of their asses long
    enough develop any kind of story about the
    crooked administrators who are ripping-off the
    pesent farmers?

    What a warped slant to a sad story!
     
  12. MrJim

    MrJim Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    565
    Messages:
    823
    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2005
    Just an intereseting note to see what has happened in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban.


    Afghan opium production predicted to reach new high

    JANE'S INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
    , OCTOBER 01, 2004
    Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy

    <BLOCKQUOTE>
    awww.rawa.org_opium.jpg



    Despite being outlawed by the Afghan government, opium poppy cultivation has expanded rapidly since 2001. Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy examines the dynamics behind the increase, and the impact of opium cultivation on stability in the country.


    Afghanistan's opium production is expected to exceed 1999's record high of 4,581 tons in 2004. Sources in the US administration and the UK Foreign Office have reported, ahead of the forthcoming UN Afghanistan Annual Opium Survey, that farmers will produce between 5,400 and 7,200 tonnes of opium in 2004, depending on total acreage and average yields.


    The opium economy has now been outlawed by a fatwa signed by Afghanistan's Council of Ulemas in August 2004, which reinforced the ban pronounced by the Afghan transition government of Hamid Karzai on 17 January 2002.


    However, opium production is clearly rising in Afghanistan, as opium poppy cultivation has spread to new provinces and districts across the country. It should be noted, however, that what has been widely presented as a major expansion of production in 2002 and 2003 consists mainly of a restoration of previous normal levels of production.


    Although it is clear that the opium trade has a destabilising effect in the country it is argued by some that the opium economy, because of its importance for the resource-poor, should not be wiped out precipitately or without compensation. As noted by Frank Kenefick and Larry Morgan in Opium in Afghanistan: People and Poppies, the Good Evil (2004) 'the growing of opium poppies in Afghanistan can be viewed, as an interim measure, as beneficial in many respects'.


    The authors argue that 'the production of opium poppy has created paying jobs (perhaps 30 million person-days of work annually) for at-risk Afghans, pumped needed money into the rural economy, helped to lower rural debt burdens, and provided resource flows for rebuilding the homes and rural asset bases that no External Donors' assistance could have executed'.


    Opium production since 2001


    Several factors have favoured the rapid restoration of opium production since the Taliban prohibition. Prior to 2004 at least, the US largely condoned opiates production both in areas traditionally controlled by the Northern Alliance, for example in Badakhshan, and in areas held by local commanders whose support was deemed strategically necessary to fight the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Before 2003, when opium came to be denounced as the greatest threat to Afghanistan's stability, peace and forthcoming democracy, the US had been less interested in waging the 'war on drugs' than in using drug traffickers and affiliated warlords as allies to support its short-term Afghan strategy. In doing so, the US re-enacted a strategy largely used during the Cold War, notably in Afghanistan.


    Had the US cracked down on opium production and drug traffickers during its new war on terrorism in Afghanistan, it would have alienated intelligence sources and strategic allies in the country. Clearly, pursuing and arresting Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders has been a goal of considerably superior political and strategic value than dealing with the issue of the drug economy. However, renewed drug production is now denounced as being a major threat to the fostering of democracy and stability in Afghanistan. Indeed, the trade is increasing the wealth and power of local warlords - many of them former allies of the US-led war on terrorism - who are reluctant to submit themselves to the authority of a central government that they do not always recognise as legitimate or independent of foreign influence.


    Equally seriously, the opium economy also partly funds - though it is not clear to what extent - opposition groups, such as the remnant Taliban movement and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami, that are attempting to disrupt the national election scheduled for 9 October 2004.


    Ironically, it was the ousting of the Taliban, immediately after their successful 2000/01 prohibition on cultivation, that has made such a resurgence possible and the magnitude of the increase in production can be partly attributed to the economic consequences of the ban itself, which was almost certainly economically and politically unsustainable.


    Opium and Al-Qaeda


    Facing a deteriorating security situation and with the 3,600 tonnes of opium produced in 2003 likely to be surpassed in 2004, concerns have been rife that the country is on the verge of becoming a 'narco-state' - a state ruled mainly through, and in favour of, the development of a drug economy - and succumbing to 'narco-terrorism', particularly with regard to funding for Al-Qaeda. However, evidence that links Al-Qaeda directly to the drug economy is scarce.


    Mirwais Yasini, the head of Afghanistan's Counter Narcotics Directorate, who estimates that the Taliban and its allies derived more than US$150m from drugs in 2003, has said there are 'central linkages' between drug traffickers, Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden. However, the US commission investigating the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US noted: 'The US government still has not determined with any precision how much Al-Qaeda raises or from whom, or how it spends its money.' It also stated that there is 'no substantial evidence that Al-Qaeda played a major role in the drug trade or relied on it as an important source of revenue either before or after 11 September 2001'.


    Should Al-Qaeda really be involved in the opium economy in Afghanistan, it would not be at the production level but higher up in the chain of drug processing and trafficking, most likely to protect heroin laboratories and trafficking caravans. As for where the money generated from drug production and trafficking goes, it has always been divided iniquitously, among farmers who receive the smallest share, producers, warlords who condone or encourage production in their territory, and local and regional traffickers - who get the biggest share.


    If Al-Qaeda's alleged involvement in the drug trade is real, it is something that developed only after the ousting of the Taliban who levied Islamic taxes on the opium trade. It should be noted that it was the Taliban who benefited from Al-Qaeda's funding and not the opposite. Indeed, as stated by the 11 September 2001 commission, 'prior to 11 September 2001 the largest single Al-Qaeda expense was support for the Taliban, estimated at about $20m per year'. Observers estimate that the drug trade was the Taliban's second largest source of revenue, estimated at $80m to $100m in 1999, after finance from the trade and smuggling of consumer goods. The same commission declared that 'intelligence collection efforts have failed to corroborate rumours of current narcotic trafficking. In fact, there is compelling evidence the Al-Qaeda leadership does not like or trust those who today control the drug trade in Southwest Asia and has encouraged its members not to get involved'.


    Rensselaer Lee, a long time observer of global drug trafficking, has also dismissed speculation that Al-Qaeda draws tens of millions of dollars from the drug trade, arguing recently in the Baltimore Sun that 'narcotics traffickers are not natural allies of Al-Qaeda's Islamic warriors'.


    The value of Opium


    That the drug trade plays a significant role in perpetuating instability in Afghanistan is well understood. However, the opium trade is also vital for Afghanistan's broader economy since it generates farmer and trafficker income that is estimated to equal half of the counrty's legitimate gross domestic product (GDP). On the one hand, the war economy has favoured the growth of the drug economy and opium trafficking has given warlords the means to perpetuate conflict. But, on the other hand, the opium economy has made survival possible for many farmers and contributed a great deal to the overall country's economy. Hence, to some extent, the opium economy has helped stabilise a country coming out of over two decades of war and facing a derelict economy.


    In recent Afghan history, opium poppy cultivation has been fairly regular, ranging from 54,000 to 80,000 hectares and depending mostly on climatic factors. As for the 91,000 and the 8,000 hectares harvested respectively in 1999 and 2001, yielding 4,581 and 185 tonnes of opium, they clearly stand out as statistical extremes and exceptions. However, while both occurred under the Taliban rule, only the second (185 tonnes/8,000 hectares) can be clearly attributed to a political decision, that of Taliban-imposed opium suppression, and not to economic or climatic factors. However, the Taliban prohibition has had consequences for today's production (quick restoration and, most likely, increase) that should be remembered before any other similar ban - enforced hastily and without compensative income available for the resource-poor - is planned.


    Until 2000, Taliban policies were influenced by a combination of internal and external factors, many of which are still prevalent today. On the internal level, Afghanistan's socio-economic situation made, and still makes, opium production one of the only means of providing access to land, labour and credit for many of its farmers, most of whom are either tenants or sharecroppers. The Afghan peasantry's heavy dependence upon opium production, associated with politico-territorial realities of a tribal society with fragile political allegiances, prevented the Taliban from making any attempts at eradication during their few years in power. Abdul Rashid, the director of drug control for Kandahar province in 1997 said at the time that, at least without external aid, it was 'simply not possible to eradicate the poppy without alienating the farmers'. Nevertheless, the Taliban banned opium production in 2000, either to secure international support or, as some have speculated, to drive opium prices up to benefit from additional income. The move was unexpected and extremely successful, at least in the short term, as only 185 tonnes were harvested in 2001, much less than the 3,276 tonnes of 2000. Moreover, only 35 out of the overall 185 tonnes was effectively harvested across Taliban-held territory. The rest came from northern areas controlled by the United Front, notably from Badakhshan.


    The 2002 restoration of opium production to pre-ban levels (3,400 tonnes) suggests that the Taliban prohibition was most likely politically and economically unsustainable without strong international aid. Factors in the micro-level economics of opium production in Afghanistan even suggest that the Taliban prohibition made the renewal of production at increased levels an imperative. Under the salaam loan system, Afghan peasants without capital traditionally borrow important sums or benefit from advances against takings: their opium crops are thus sold one or two years in advance at half the price of their value. This credit system, the only available in the country, keeps many farmers in debt at the same time as it makes their survival possible. But when climatic conditions or an enforced ban diminish or even destroy the opium crops, their unpaid debts grow. As was shown by a few close observers of Afghan opium production, the Taliban prohibition thus deeply affected the payment of the farmers' debt. Once the prohibition was lifted, after the ousting of the Taliban, opium farmers immediately resumed cultivating poppy at increased levels in order to repay the accumulated debt.


    In many provinces and districts, poor farmers survive mainly from the salaam system and, in many areas opium is the only crop that will be accepted in exchange for a loan. Moreover, opium not only provides access to credit but also to land. As shown by David Mansfield in The Economic Superiority of Illicit Drug production: Myth and Reality (2001), while landless peasants, a majority in Afghanistan, must resort to tenancy or sharecropping, landowners have increasingly adapted the price of their lease to that of the most attractive crop: opium. However, that opium poppy cultivation became increasingly entrenched into micro-level Afghan economics and that the opium economy recently came to equal half of Afghanistan's legitimate GDP does not mean that the country is on the verge of becoming a 'narco-state'. First, opium poppy cultivation is not widespread. In 2003, for example, opium poppy cultivation covered only one per cent of total arable land and less than three per cent of irrigated arable land. Opium poppy cultivation is prevalent in areas where land holdings are small (such as where wheat cultivation alone does not provide enough for a tenant's family), where irrigation is problematic and where access to markets is especially difficult.


    Mansfield explains also that 'the proportion of household land dedicated to opium poppy in Afghanistan rarely exceeds 70 per cent and that mono-cropping is particularly infrequent'.


    Afghanistan thus seems to be a country that is not taking full advantage of its potential for opium production, rather than one on its way to become a 'narco-state'. Nation- and state-building is only beginning in Afghanistan and its economy is only just starting to recover from over two decades of war and internal feuding. Thus, a growing legal economy will most likely drive up the price of hired labour, something that will in turn make opium harvests increasingly expensive and opium farming economically less attractive. There is hardly any doubt that the country's legal economy will grow considerably and that it will make the share of the opium economy smaller, thus removing the danger of Afghanistan turning into a 'narco-state'.


    Dr Pierre-Arnaud Chouvy is research fellow at CNRS, France. He studies the geopolitics of illicit drugs in Asia. His last book is Yaa Baa. Production, Traffic, and Consumption of Methamphetamine in Mainland Southeast Asia, published in September 2004 by Singapore University Press. For more information on his work and other publications, visit www.geopium.org</BLOCKQUOTE>Edited by: MrJim
     
  13. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,318
    Messages:
    38,297
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    US BLAMES BRITAIN OVER AFGHAN POPPIES

    US OFFICIALS are holding Britain "substantially responsible" for the failure of a poppy eradication program aimed at curtailing Afghanistan's soaring heroin trade. Britain has overall charge of the counter-narcotics assistance program, but the US has mounted a creeping takeover after last year's bumper poppy crop. The eradication program is largely financed by US taxpayers, while Dynacorps, a US civilian security company, trains the Afghan force responsible for destroying the crops.

    In a leaked communique to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the officials at the US embassy in Kabul said the British administration was to blame for a failure to reach the levels of eradication that they had hoped for. They complained that the British were often targeting less important growing areas. Since beginning work last month, the eradication force has destroyed fewer than 102ha. The original target was 15,000ha.

    The communique also criticised Afghan President Hamid Karzai for failing to take a strong line against opium farmers, partly for fear of a backlash in elections this year. Mr Karzai, in Washington to meet US President George W.Bush, rejected criticism of his efforts, saying his Government had worked hard to eradicate poppy fields. He blamed Western countries for a lack of support.

    Mr Karzai has committed himself to destroying the heroin trade, but favours an approach that concentrates on finding other crops. Britain was put in charge of counter-narcotics efforts because most Afghan heroin ends up in Europe.

    Britain prefers to find alternative livelihoods for farmers, but Washington favours aerial crop spraying. Last month, the US-trained eradication force's first outing ended in fiasco and two deaths. The team was ploughing up a field when farmers threw themselves in front of the tractors. The Afghan authorities later struck a deal whereby the farmers agreed to allow a third of their crop to be dug up in return for non-resistance. The profits of the heroin trade, now at record proportions, fund many local commanders and warlords who object to Mr Karzai's rule.

    At his meeting with Mr Bush, Mr Karzai is expected to demand that "very, very strong action" be taken against US soldiers who tortured two Afghan prisoners before leaving them to die. He is also expected to ask that his Government be given greater control over US military activities in his country and that all remaining Afghan prisoners be handed over to Afghan control.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2006
  14. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,318
    Messages:
    38,297
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    FORCES RAID AFGHANISTAN'S BIGGEST 'DRUGS BAZAAR,' SMUGGLERS GET AWAY

    KABUL, Afghanistan With scarves hiding some faces and guns at the ready, a new secretive Afghan anti-drug squad zoomed into a desert village as part of a crackdown on the country's booming narcotics trade, authorities said Tuesday. They seized 2 1/2 tons of opium and 550 pounds of heroin, but hundreds of smugglers sneaked out the back and fled to safety across the Pakistani border just 80 yards away. No one was arrested. Under fire for not being tough enough on drugs, the government Tuesday showed a video of the weekend raid which it said proves it is cracking down on an industry that last year produced nearly 90 percent of the world's opium.

    The market in Bahram Shah village in southern Helmand province is used by up to 1,000 drug traffickers every day and is on smuggling routes to Pakistan and Iran. It had not been targeted before because it was considered too remote and too well protected, the Interior Ministry said. But the latest raid by dozens of squad members "totally disrupted the activities of drug traffickers," the ministry said in a statement. "We are determined to bring to justice the drug smugglers and you will soon witness that all smugglers will be brought to justice," Gen. Mohammed Daoud, deputy interior minister for counternarcotics, said at a news conference in the capital, Kabul.

    When asked why the anti-drug forces didn't manage to arrest any of the traffickers, he noted the proximity of the Pakistani border and said a framework for cooperation between security forces on both sides of the frontier was still being finalized. The video shows members of the Afghan Special Narcotics Force riding across the desert on the back of pickup trucks toward the drug market. It then cuts to a shot of a small fire, which the deputy minister said depicted the seized drugs being destroyed.

    Also seized in the raid were 3 1/2 tons of chemicals used to process opium into heroin, Daoud said. He said anti-drug forces have arrested 26 suspected smugglers across the country recently, be he declined to elaborate. The government says figures in the past three years since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban show police are confiscating larger amounts of opium, from 3 tons in 2004, and 50 tons so far this year. Despite the numbers, many fear Afghanistan is fast becoming a "narco-state," less than four years after the U.S.-led invasion ended its role as a haven for al-Qaida.

    A U.S. presidential report in March said the area devoted to poppy cultivation in Afghanistan last year was more than triple the figure for 2003 and set a record at 510,000 acres. Opium poppy is the raw material for heroin. The Afghan narcotics situation "represents an enormous threat to world stability," the report said.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2006
  15. Alfa

    Alfa Productive Insomniac Staff Member Administrator

    Reputation Points:
    14,318
    Messages:
    38,297
    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2003
    117 y/o from The Netherlands
    BRITAIN LOSING OPIUM WAR WITH BOOMING AFGHAN POPPY GROWERS: UN

    Growth of opium poppies in Afghanistan - which Britain plays the leading role in combating - has reached unprecedented levels, the UN said today. The area under cultivation for the heroin crop leapt from 80,000 hectares in 2003 to 131,000 hectares last year.

    Today's UN World Drug Report said global poppy cultivation increased 16% last year, entirely due to the situation in Afghanistan, which was responsible for 67% of crops worldwide. Opium cultivation has surged in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime, which prohibited farmers from growing the crop. Home Secretary Charles Clarke has acknowledged that Britain has not made as much progress as hoped in defeating the Afghan opium growers. The UN report said: "Of greatest concern is the fact that opium poppy cultivation has been introduced into previously unaffected areas and is now found in all 34 provinces of the country."

    In contrast, cultivation in Laos fell 43% to 6,600 hectares and in Burma (Myanmar) 23% to 44,200 hectares. The report added: "Opium prices in Afghanistan were declining with increasing supplies." "The average price for fresh opium at the time of harvest amounted to 92 US dollars per kilo in 2004, a 69% decline compared to the previous year." It said global opium production increased 2% to 4,850 metric tons in the year, due to relatively low crop yields in the year. This amount could potentially produce 565 metric tonnes of heroin, said the report. Opiate seizures worldwide increased by a third to a record high of 110 metric tonnes.Comparing the production and seizure figures suggested law enforcement agencies were intercepting nearly a quarter of all opiates produced, it added.

    The UN document said an estimated 200 million people aged 15 to 64, or 5% of the world's population, have used illegal drugs in the last 12 months, 15 million more than last year. It said the figure remained significantly lower than the number using legal psychoactive substances such as alcohol and tobacco. An estimated 16 million used opiates, including 10.6 million heroin abusers. Shadow home secretary David Davis said: "Britain was charged with responsibility for controlling heroin growth in Afghanistan in 2001.

    "This report clearly shows that the government continues to fail." "Heroin exported from Afghanistan makes its way through our porous borders into our communities. "This, in turn, fuels the escalating problem of violent and gun related crime on our streets." He added: "It is no wonder the number of hard drug users in this country now tops a million people and is increasing. Labour have not just failed in the war on drugs, they haven't even begun to fight it."
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2006
  16. enquirewithin

    enquirewithin Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    3,605
    Messages:
    5,754
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2004
    from bermuda
    This is especially ironic since Tony Blair (an honest man, who konws a waepon of mass destruction when he sees one!) gave eliminating the opium trade in Afghanistan as a major reason for helping the US to invade Afghanistan. Therewere many naive voters in the UK who actually belived this motivation.[​IMG]
     
  17. BlueMystic

    BlueMystic Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    237
    Messages:
    363
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2005
    from The Netherlands
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dy...5070401182.html

    AIDS Crisis Brings Radical Change In Iran's Response to Heroin Use
    Health Concerns Given Precedence Over Prosecution


    By Karl Vick
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Tuesday, July 5, 2005; A09

    TEHRAN -- Fearing an AIDS epidemic, Iran's theocratic government has dropped a zero-tolerance policy against increasingly common heroin use and now offers addicts low-cost needles, methadone and a measure of social acceptance.

    For two decades, Iran largely avoided the global AIDS crisis. But today, officials are alarmed by a 25 percent HIV infection rate that one survey has found among hard-core heroin users and worry that addicts may channel the virus into the population of 68 million.

    Supporters of the government's new approach laud it as practical and devoid of the wishful thinking and moralism that they contend hampers policies on drug abuse and AIDS in some other countries, including the United States. "I have to pay tribute to Iran on this," said Roberto Arbitrio, head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Tehran.

    Bijan Nasirimanesh, who heads a drop-in clinic that dispenses needles, bleach and methadone in a hard-hit area of south Tehran, said, "It's ironic that Iran, very fundamentalist, very religious -- very religious -- has been able to convince itself" to embrace such policies.

    Opponents often argue that tolerance of life-destroying drugs is simply unacceptable and in the long run breeds acceptance and higher drug use. But in the theocracy's most dramatic rejection of that approach, the ayatollah who heads Iran's conservative judiciary issued an executive order embracing "such needed and fruitful programs" as needle exchanges and methadone maintenance.

    Ayatollah Mohammad Esmail Shoshtari, the justice minister who has shut more than 100 newspapers and imprisoned political opponents, instructed prosecutors in a Jan. 24 letter to ignore laws on the books and defer to Iran's Health Ministry to counter the spread of AIDS and hepatitis C.

    "This was a very crucial step," said Ali Hashemi, director of Iran's Drug Control Headquarters, a cabinet-level office. "Inevitably we have to do this in order to reduce the risk of AIDS."

    The policy demonstrates the complexities of Iran a quarter-century after the Islamic revolution and U.S. Embassy takeover that still defines its theocratic government for many Americans. Though power remains concentrated in unelected clerics who brook little political dissent, the government has demonstrated flexibility on a variety of subjects, including birth control and sex-change operations, which the clerics recently authorized.

    After the revolution, Iran treated drug users as criminals, throwing hundreds of thousands of them in jail. Now it has joined the ranks of countries that acknowledge the difficulty of eradicating drug addiction and focus instead on curbing the most immediate dangerous behaviors that go with it.

    Surveys of Iranians who test positive for HIV show that two-thirds were infected by dirty needles. To reduce the spread of infections, the government not only makes needles available without a prescription, but through subsidies makes them extremely cheap, so as to discourage re-use.

    "You pay less than 5 cents for a syringe," said Azarakhsh Mokri, of the government's National Center for Addiction Studies. "People purchase up to 100 at a time."

    The government also encourages addicts to stop injecting by providing free methadone, a surrogate opiate that is taken orally. This spring, the parliament, dominated by conservatives, voted to allow any doctor in Iran to dispense methadone, though under strict monitoring guidelines.

    "It's quite amazing there's been this shift," said Rich Schottenfeld, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University, which won a waiver from U.S. sanctions on Iran to carry out a study financed by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to compare drug treatments. "Five years ago, my colleagues there didn't anticipate that methadone would even be allowed," he said.

    Robert Newman, director of the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, said Iranian policies are "in very dramatic contrast to what has been happening with increasing frequency in America, where the judiciary and the criminal justice system in general . . . does not let the patients receive the treatment that the physician says is necessary."

    Newman, who has traveled twice to Iran in the last five years to consult on addiction programs, said only a quarter of an estimated 900,000 heroin addicts in the United States receive treatment. He attributes that in large part to laws that restrict methadone to large-scale treatment facilities. "In other words, the AIDS epidemic has done nothing to open the way for treatment with methadone or any other treatment for heroin addiction" in the United States, Newman said.

    In Iran, heroin addiction is rising in a population of drug users estimated at between 2 million and 4 million. Heroin use rose abruptly about five years ago, when the Taliban rulers in neighboring Afghanistan sharply reduced opium production. That drove up the price of opium, leading people who had been smoking or swallowing it to switch to heroin, which remained comparatively cheap.

    Because heroin is often injected, the switch resulted in a surge of HIV infections as users shared needles.

    Until recently, the HIV infection rate among intravenous drug users in Iran had been estimated at 5 percent. But in blood tests of 900 users over eight months, the Persepolis clinic headed by Nasirimanesh found a rate of 25 percent. "The bomb exploded," he said.

    Officials said that rate was confirmed by a more recent study conducted through Japan's Kyoto University. A lower rate, about 13 percent, was recorded among users who get their methadone at the addiction studies treatment center. Mokri said that was presumably because the center's clients are typically better off than the often homeless junkies at the Persepolis drop-in center and have avoided time in prisons where dirty needles are far more common.

    But the rates in all surveys are headed up. "The potential is very bad," said Arbitrio of the U.N. agency. "If you have 160,000 injecting plus 3 million drug users, you have all the elements to have the spread of HIV/AIDS very quickly."

    How quickly the virus might reach into the general population via sexual contact is a sensitive issue in Iran. Experts here do not see transmission though gay sex as an important avenue, but fear HIV will spread in a big way through heterosexual sex.

    Though the government has promoted a puritanical view on premarital sex, it has tolerated prostitutes, who by many accounts have risen sharply in numbers in recent years.

    "I know some who are drug addicts," said Sorraya Heidari, 39, as she waited for methadone at the Persepolis clinic. "To get the money they need for drugs, they have to work as prostitutes."

    There is also evidence that young people -- half of Iran's population is under age 20 -- are more sexually active than some researchers believed. Fully 70 percent of capital residents ages 15 to 20 have had sex outside marriage, and almost none reported using condoms, according to a survey of 2,000 Tehran young people by Tehran University and the State Welfare Organization.

    "Before, Iran always said this is something from outside," said Hamid Reza Setayesh, the UNAIDS officer for Iran. "Now they are accepting this is not only for drug users, but growing among people who are sexually active."

    Experts say the official reluctance to promote condom use generally is a major drawback in Iran's evolving policy toward AIDS. Another is the lack of anonymous testing for the virus. "They ask for your name," Setayesh said. "And they should not ask."

    Public health specialists also caution that many of the new policies have yet to be launched on a large scale. "The policies are very good," said Gelareh Mostashari, a physician in the U.N. drugs office. "But there are practical applications that have to be executed."

    Still, many drug experts say the government has shown a consistent disregard for orthodoxies in this fight. Mokri said he was astonished to encounter no official resistance when he set out to launch a pilot program that will dispense actual opium instead of methadone to addicts.

    He noted a bill pending in the U.S. Congress calling for imprisoning Americans who failed to report marijuana dealers. "Sometimes I think the ayatollahs are more liberal," Mokri said.
     
  18. enquirewithin

    enquirewithin Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    3,605
    Messages:
    5,754
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2004
    from bermuda
    Opium has been part of their culture for centuries. Its only the absurd US war on drugs that makes it a problem.
     
  19. BlueMystic

    BlueMystic Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    237
    Messages:
    363
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2005
    from The Netherlands
    ^ Agreed.
     
  20. BlueMystic

    BlueMystic Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    237
    Messages:
    363
    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2005
    from The Netherlands
    http://news.ft.com/cms/s/dc795010-fca8-11d9-8386-00000e2511c 8.html


    Afghans to consider legalising opium production
    By Andrew Jack in London

    Afghan farmers could from next year be able to grow opium for legal medicinal purposes, under an innovative plan designed to curb illegal production being drawn up by a drug policy think-tank.

    The Senlis Council, a group that studies narcotics, is in preliminary talks with international organisations and Afghan regional administrations to garner their support for pilot programmes designed to tackle the country's problem with opium by using it to produce the legal painkillers codeine and morphine.

    The council, due to present in September a feasibility study funded by a dozen European social policy foundations, calculates that Afghan farmers and intermediaries could receive revenues from the scheme that almost match their current earnings from unauthorised opium production for smuggling abroad.

    The plan could help bring greater stability to Afghanistan and reduce illegal flows of opium to the rest of the world.

    It could also help fill developing nations' large demand for painkillers. The group calculates this demand could be for twice the amount of Afghanistan's annual opium harvest.

    "This may be the only chance Afghanistan has to solve its drug problem," said Emmanuel Reinert, co-ordinator of the study for the Senlis Council, who emphasised that discussions were at an early stage.

    He hoped agreement for pilot projects could be reached later this year. "We think there are some good possibilities for shifting the debate," Mr Reinert said.

    He said the plan had met cautious interest from officials including Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, although some members of the Afghan cabinet and foreign governments had expressed concern it could undermine current efforts to eradicate domestic opium production.

    However, he argued neither eradication nor alternative employment programmes provided a realistic short-term alternative for Afghan farmers of opium, which accounts for an estimated 60 per cent of the country's gross domestic product and 80 per cent of the world's illegally consumed heroin.

    The Senlis plan is modelled on programmes in India and Turkey, which have helped reduce illegal opium production through a strictly supervised licensing scheme backed by the US Congress.

    Congress requires 80 per cent of painkillers for the US market to use materials originating from these two countries.

    Mr Reinert said Turkey may be supportive because Afghan drug smuggling threatens its security, while India may resist new suppliers of painkillers.