Afghanistan - A solution?

#1
Sorry , fairly lazy topic starter , but follows on from a post made in ST's Afghanistan thread.

Is the key to solving the Afghanistan problem , controlling the production and distribution of opiates in the region?

Could this problem be solved, and the locals enriched, by bringing opiate production under our auspices , protecting the farmers and their livelihood , as well as having secondary and tertiary benefits as regards medicine production and our own domestic drug problems?

I envisage a situation where we control opiates. Now the warlords will want to move in on the action , so it means reaching an agreement with them to set up contolled farms from which we buy the produce, and sell to pharmaceutical companies at an agreed price.


As regards historical precedent , didn't we do this before the first Afghan war , and only got kicked out after Elphinstone tried to diddle the warlords on their money? Didn't we actually gain Hong Kong in a similar initative?

As I say , lazy topic starter, but I think some of you had some views on the subject , especially Mr. PVR'd.

Is it a possible solution?

PTP
 
#2
#3
The Economist has had a couple of articles about this over the last few months...

This article reviews the Senlis idea which MSR referred to. www.economist.com/disp...id=4494134

Senlis proposes a tightly regulated system of licensed farming, not as a substitute for the existing carrot and stick system of “alternative livelihood” schemes and eradication threats, but as a complement to them. It sounds neat, but the details are unrelentingly vague and the Afghan government and the UN are so far unimpressed. Both point to the fragile state of security in the country as the primary obstacle to administering any such scheme, at least for the time being.
Corruption is rife within all Afghan government organs, and central authority is barely felt in the lawless south and south-west, where opium production rose several hundred percent in provinces such as Farah this year. In such circumstances it would be hard for the authorities to prevent legally-produced opium from being diverted into the illicit market—as long as the price for illicit, rather than pharmaceutical, dope remains far higher.

Incidently, this article discusses why farmers like to grow poppies.... http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=1955328
1. Price!!! (at 2002 prices you could earn 60 dollars/hectare growing wheat or a whopping 15,000 dollars/hectare growing poppies)
2. Poppies require less water than wheat and their irrigation systems are stuffed.
3. Roads are stuffed and they can't transport bulky wheat to market (heroin goes on motorbikes).
4. Once harvested you can store resin for years before processing to heroin.

Tricam.
 
#4
The responsibility for implementing such an idea would likely fall on one of 2 organisations: the UN or the EU. It's certainly not in NATOs remit and the US could have tried something similar in S America years ago and didn't. The fact that those two are the only ones in line to take this on raises one major problem.

They'll make a pig's ear of it.

The EU won't concur on the way forward, and doesn't have the financial will to fight the supply/demand battle with the illegal trade. The UN...well, it's the UN - I'm not being flippant, I just balk at describing how unsuitable that corrupt, inept gang of bipedal primates would be at administering the global heroin trade.

Next, and without donning my tinfoil tricorn, the Pharmaceutical industry will be slavering at the fangs over getting a piece of that particular cake. Their influence would scupper any EU attempt to agree on a solution. They would also be trying hard to prevent anyone controlling that crop without including them, it could cause some serious damage the industry, not to mention adversely affect the economies of the legal opiate-producing countries (who can ill afford to be muscled out of a multi billion $ trade). In short, an agreement would never leave Turtle Bay alive.

It would also take much more than ARRC to persuade the bad guys to give up their raison d'etre and become nice, missunderstood islamic freedom fighters instead (like what their supposed to be). They'll fight, hard. I don't know how organised the global heroin trade is, but if they've got their act together to any degree, they could persue a worldwide assymetric conflict with greater reach and resources that AQ could ever muster.

They'll also fight an economic battle. we won't be able to dominate the ground with the forces available in afghanistan. The illicit trade will just up what they're willing to pay, and the farmers will comply. Or the bad guys will be old fashioned and just make them deliver under pain of death. the illicit trade has the advantage in that its customers are willing to pay whatever it takes. A legal trade will be subservant to an industry that will not pay above the odds for afghan opium when they know they can go to their already established suppliers.

I've not thought much into it, but my initial thoughts of an ideal solution would be to provide a permissive environment and let the big companies divvy up the afghan plains for themselves. The days of us being able to provide permissive environemnts anywhere other than small Sierra Leonian villages, however, are long gone. I also doubt that the overheads involved in operating from afghanistan would make business viable for the pharmaceutical industry.

We could think outside the box and nuke the existing legal opium fields outside afghanistan. It would provide the aim, incentive and reason why for the pharm companies to sort out afghanistan for us - we just make ARRC a PMC and hey presto, job jobbed.
 
#5
The Afghan adventure is fcuked before it even starts.

ARRC will be sucked into combat operations in the south against the Taleban, as the Yanks withdraw. The rest of NATO will say "fcuk that for a game of soldiers" and it will be brown envelopes all round as TCR scrabbles to fill the ranks in another attempt to maintain the Dear Leader's flagging libido and self-esteem.

The chances of a drawdown in Iraq over the next 12 months? Hah!

Torching the poppy fields will only generate unemployed farmers with no money and some time on their hands, and a few RPGs in the back of the hut. It is easy to see where that will lead....unless you live in No 10 or Whitehall.

The most powerful weapon is money - we could pay the farmers to grow opium or beans or anything, as long as they were getting more cash to behave than they would otherwise. It would be cheaper than a long gruelling troop deployment, an argument that might move HMG in a way that the cost in lives obviously does not.
 
#7
This problem is all about money - and needs to be considered as a whole. Tackling one part in isolation cannot succeed.

Why are drugs big business - because people will pay money for them. The drug lords will fight back at any effort to stop opium production reaching them as long as they have a market for the product. That market funds their resistance. If they do fight back we're screwed because they can field larger forces then we plan to, they can afford better kit and have a more rapid procurement cycle. They can also lean on the locals.

(As an aside try reading up on Colombia - the druggies tapped into the local telephone firm, plugged in their computers and got the tel no and address of everyone who rang the Govt anti-drugs hot line. Then they shot them. Think the MoD could react as fast and innovatively ?)

So the only way - the only way - we can neutralise the drug lords is to cut off their money supply. That means supplying addicts free of charge at state expense.
 
#9
MrPVRd said:
...or neutralise the effect of the drug lords money by spending more than they can on the product.
The drug lords can then up the price themselves - they just raise the price it's sold at to compensate. This causes more disruption over here as addicts have to rob more stuff to pay for their fix. As they are still getting an income they can afford to lean on the farmers to supply them using violence. Then we're into a shooting war. Unpalatable as it seems, I feel the only way to cut them out of the game is to cut off their income. Addicts are addicts, they're still going to want their fix so this leads inexorably back to the state providing said fix for them free of charge.
 
#10
It is obvious that USA+NATO are unable to solve the problem. So answer is an obvious one. Others should be involved, Russia for example. Significant part of Afghani drugs goes in Russian direction. And of course, Afghans themselves (not only tiny group of American puppets) should be involved in solution of the problem.

Btw, Russia delivered military aid to Afghani government - $100 mln. - tanks, helicopters, planes and so on (including Kalashnikovs). But recently it was declared that the aid will be stopped in 2006. What is the reason to feed pro-American regime? And what are options for influental Nothern leaders (ethnically Uzbeks and Tdjiks)? They haven't power in Kabul. Why should they do anything for pro-American government? Only they, local leaders are able to stop drugs traffic.

So only new Afghani government that would inlude representatives from all regions whould be able to solve tha task with help from USA, NATO, with Russian military aid. Yes, in this case it would not be openly pro-American government. So probably this variant will be never realised.
 
#11
KGB_resident said:
It is obvious that USA+NATO are unable to solve the problem. So answer is an obvious one. Others should be involved, Russia for example. Significant part of Afghani drugs goes in Russian direction. And of course, Afghans themselves (not only tiny group of American puppets) should be involved in solution of the problem.

Btw, Russia delivered military aid to Afghani government - $100 mln. - tanks, helicopters, planes and so on (including Kalashnikovs). But recently it was declared that the aid will be stopped in 2006. What is the reason to feed pro-American regime? And what are options for influental Nothern leaders (ethnically Uzbeks and Tdjiks)? They haven't power in Kabul. Why should they do anything for pro-American government? Only they, local leaders are able to stop drugs traffic.

So only new Afghani government that would inlude representatives from all regions whould be able to solve tha task with help from USA, NATO, with Russian military aid. Yes, in this case it would not be openly pro-American government. So probably this variant will be never realised.
"Afghans fight each other for pleasure but they fight a foreigner with fury" Given the late Soviet Union's experiences in Afghanistan, do you really think any Russian intervention in the Kingdom of Light is goint to be tolerated?!
 
#12
Yes Sergey , but what would you do as regards the Drugs issue? Don't forget , it funds terrorism and criminality in Russia as well..
 
#13
PartTimePongo said:
Yes Sergey , but what would you do as regards the Drugs issue? Don't forget , it funds terrorism and criminality in Russia as well..
You are absolutely right. Look at my logic:

1. Only Afghans are able to stop drug traffic.
2. So strong army, police, special forces should be created.
3. It require involvements of all non-Taleban factions in power-keeping.
4. It require military aid (for many reasons mainly Russian made arms).

So practical steps are obvious:

1. New government should be established on multi-region, multi-ethnical basis.
2. Local militias should be parts of Afghani army (Uzbeks led by general Dustum formed 10th(?) division in 80's).
3. Russia should be invited as one of decision maker in Afghanistan.

Btw, Taleban nearly stopped drug traffic, so the task is not unrealistic. Taleban used tough measures (including capital punishment). It is impossible for USA-NATO to repeat them but effective Afghani govermnet could do it and Western democracies would rather close eyes in this case.

Economical measure could work in the future but unlikely. The only realistic way is a brutal force.
 
#14
"Afghans fight each other for pleasure but they fight a foreigner with fury" Given the late Soviet Union's experiences in Afghanistan, do you really think any Russian intervention in the Kingdom of Light is goint to be tolerated?![/quote]

No of course. Russian intervention in Afghanistan? What is a possible reason? Drug traffic? Not too serious cause. Establishing pro-Russian government? Senseless idea. To help Americans? For what?
 
#15
KGB_resident said:
The only realistic way is a brutal force.
And that didn't get your mob very far the last time they tried it... but then again it didn't us very far either.

I'll wager sending soldiers to try to reduce drugs production will have two effects: 1) More dead soldiers 2) No impact whatsoever on the street price of drugs.

msr
 
#16
Taleban MONOPOLISED opiate production. There is a difference and once they'd control they began selling the huge stocks they'd accumulated. Even fundamentalists need money. I think they realised that the drug production was creating rivals to their power in Afgani society, and used the religious card to get control over it.

Looking at the value chain report:
http://www.drug-policy.org/modules/...es/feasibility_study/fs_study/value_chain.pdf its shows some interesting figures. The average farm size is .4 hectres. However, due to land ownership patterns, many of the larger 'farms' are broken into share cropping and tennancy arrangements. The production/hectare is 39kg, and per farmer thats 15kg per average farm.

The farmgate price and costs they talk about is are bit optimistic and takes the easy road on some aspects, but makes enough sense.

However, they talk about reducing the illegal farm gate price of 113/kg to a legal system modeled on India, with a price of 52/kg. However, they do not mention how they are going to avoid prevent local commanders from demanding protection money (10% of crop normally, 50% is some places where the commander has a different ethnic origen) nor how the practise of Saalem would be stamped out. Thats the tradition when a store keeper would provide the goods needed for live while the crop was growing and they'd buy the opium at 50% of value when the harvest came.

That practice was common in every peasant community, and can only be stamped out with difficulty. In my own communtiy, we formed a Co-operative in 1927 to eliminate the old local equivelent of Saleem, and a Credit Union in 196? to eliminate loan sharking. It is possible, but it needs micro credit organisations to succeed, and they need security and legal protection to succeed.

In agriculture, its all about the market, Currently, the cash crop is opiates, the market is controlled by the drug gangs and is spread all over the developed world. The logistics are expensive, and absorb much of the street value of the crop. Production is cheap, fairly uncomplicated and fairly low risk, once the farmer pays the local warlord his share.

Our concerns lie with the local damage done by drug gangs in Afganistan, and the international damage done by the heroin trade. Its not the crop, its the gangs that are the problem.

They control their local markets for poppys by force, and by cash. They've the money and they wont take no for an answer.

A state purchasing organisation, subsidised by the western countries suffering from drug abuse would give forward contracts the farmer to produce x drugs, at a price that allows a reasonable standard of living. These fields are mapped, and monitored by satelite much as fields in Europe were monitored for setaside. All other fields are burnt. That removes the cash weapon from the druggies, while it increases the risk when illegal production is discovered.

The druggies second weapon is force. That's as much a policing issue as a military one. The security forces must regain the trust of the local peasant communities, becoming their preferred protection. This is difficult, while the druggies still are present in any numbers.

Now. thats a nice, westernised strategy using nice fussy words like 'sustainability,' and 'community policing' How it would actually work is anybodys game

I disagree in general with the idea that only brute force works, and especially in Afganistan. I mean, Sergey, are you of an age that served there? Looking at histories of that time, it seems that the Afgani's could absorb brute force indefinatly, even more so than the Vietnamese ever could.

The two methods work hand in hand. The policing and economic aspects are complementary, not conflicting.


(edited to add more info on farm gate prices)
 
#17
msr said:
KGB_resident said:
The only realistic way is a brutal force.
And that didn't get your mob very far the last time they tried it... but then again it didn't us very far either.

I'll wager sending soldiers to try to reduce drugs production will have two effects: 1) More dead soldiers 2) No impact whatsoever on the street price of drugs.

msr
Taleban was against drugs for religious reasons and its method was a simple one. Local tribal leaders were told not to produce opium under threat of severe punishment and the leaders were highly motivated to stop drugs producing and trafficing.

Now tribal leaders should receive the same order from lawfull government that they recognise or fear (preferably both). Some tribal leaders could refuse to cooperate. In this case American or NATO soldiers shouldn't be used but Afghani army and special forces could do the work nicely. The "little" problem is in absence of Afghani army (I don't even speak about special forces).

Afghanistan is not Columbia. If tribal leaders would think that it is more profitable or too dangerous (preferably both) for them not to produce opium them be sure it will be never produced.
 
#18
msr said:
KGB_resident said:
The only realistic way is a brutal force.
And that didn't get your mob very far the last time they tried it... but then again it didn't us very far either.

I'll wager sending soldiers to try to reduce drugs production will have two effects: 1) More dead soldiers 2) No impact whatsoever on the street price of drugs.
msr
I reckon that whilst the wholesale price will remain unaffected the street price will go up.

Traditionally major drug siezures have led to an increase in the street price even when the actual supply actually been unaffected, suppliers are quick to exploit supposed reasons why the flow of drugs is reduced and the price forced up.
 
#19
Yes yes Yes, NATO out and let ya Rooshins have their day.
And they can take India when the've finished, no problems after all thats been their objective since time immoral.
john
 

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