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Southwest Asia: Afghan Opium Eradication Effort Sparks New Violence

Afghan police briefly fled from a town in Bakwa district in Farah province after four of them were killed in a roadside bomb attack as their 10-vehicle convoy returned from a day of eradicating opium plants. Taliban militants moved into the town and seized three vehicles before abandoning the area, local officials said.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/afghanistan-map-small.jpg
Meanwhile, in Ghor province, one poppy farmer was killed and two wounded when police opened fire on a crowd of 500 people protesting government eradication efforts. The protest came after police began eradicating plants in the area.

In Bakwa, the roadside bomb targeted the province's police chief. He was uninjured, but four officers riding in his vehicle were killed. "Three policemen were killed on the spot, and another died of his injuries in the hospital today," district Police Chief Afgha Saqib told Deutsch Presse-Agentur Monday.

Saqib blamed the Taliban for the attack. The resurgent guerrilla group is widely seen as benefiting from the drug trade in Afghanistan, which now produces more than 90% of the world's opium.

Taliban militants also seized the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province on February 1 and remain in control there. Helmand is now the largest opium producing province in the country.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai rejected US offers to spray poppy plants with herbicides and vowed to undertake an extensive eradication campaign this year. Last year, the Afghan opium crop grew by a whopping 49% over the previous year, producing an estimated 6,700 tons of opium, enough to make 670 tons of heroin.

Australian help sought for drug fight

Location: 
Australia
Publication/Source: 
Herald Sun (Australia)
URL: 
http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,21255046-663,00.html

The Drug War Chronicle Andean Coca Tour 2007 is about to get underway

Friday night, I will be bedding down in Peru, after a day-long flight from Sioux Falls to Denver to Houston to Lima. That will be the first of 21 nights in Peru and Bolivia as the Drug War Chronicle explores the coca industry and its unsavory relative, the cocaine industry, in the Andes. While the process of making connections is ongoing and always a little shaky in developing countries, things are falling into place. While I will spend most of that first weekend resting and getting oriented, it looks like I'll have lunch Monday with Peruvian psychologist and coca expert Baldomero Caceres and Anthony Henman. Henman is a legendary name when it comes to coca. The British anthropologist (since gone native) is the man who, under a pseudonym, wrote "Mama Coca" back in the 1970s. That was the first serious ethnographic study of coca's history and use in the Andes for lay readers in English. I look forward to seeing what Henman has to say about the current state of affairs. Later that day, I will go to the upscale suburb of Miraflores for dinner with Ricardo Soberon, a leading Peruvian drugs and security expert. He was an advisor to coca grower leader turned congresswoman Nancy Obregon, but has since departed over unspecified political differences. I'll be sure to query him (and Nancy) about the nature of those differences. Speaking of Nancy, she is currently back home in northern Peru, so I won't be able to talk to her during that first week. But she will be back in Lima at the end of the month, and I will do an interview with her then. (I have to be out of Bolivia by February 28 because their visa requirements kick in on March 1.) I think I will fly from Lima to Ayacucho next Wednesday. That ancient city high in the Andes is the historic heartland of Sendero Luminoso, the Maoist guerrillas who led an uprising in the 1980s where tens of thousands were killed. The Senderistas are still around, though much weakened, and they try to gain the support of coca growers by killing policemen and anti-government drug workers. But Ayacucho is also the home of national coca growers' union leader Nelson Palomino, whom I will interview. Palomino and his crew have also promised to show me the coca fields and let me talk to farmers, so that should be enlightening. After that, I'll take a couple of days for the mandatory tourist visit to Machu Picchu outside Cusco, then I'll bus it from Cusco across the altiplano to Bolivia. At least that's the plan right now; there are reports of severe flooding right where I'll be crossing the border. I'm still trying to set things up with the American embassy in Lima and with the big Peruvian drug bureaucracies, ENACO (the coca monopoly) and DEVIDA (the drug enforcement bureaucracy). I've been talking with the US press officer in Lima about getting a meeting, but because I don't represent established media, I can't get official press status with the embassy, which means the press officer won't officially deal with me, but may manage to hook me up with some of the drug people in the embassy. Similar plans are in the works for Bolivia. Stay tuned.
Location: 
United States

GOP lawmakers press Bush on Afghanistan

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-drugwar7feb07,1,6836767.story?coll=la-headlines-world

Southwest Asia: British Conservatives Call for Afghan Opium to Be Licensed, Converted to Pharmaceuticals, Not Destroyed

As they prepare for pending elections, British Conservatives have joined the call for licensing of the Afghan opium crop. The move comes just days after the British Medical Association called for Afghan opium to be processed into heroin and prescribed to addicts.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium-smaller.jpg
the opium trader's wares (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith during September 2005 visit to Afghanistan)
The US and its NATO allies in Afghanistan have an official policy of eradicating the country's poppy crop, but given the potential dangers of pushing opium farmers into the waiting arms of the Taliban, politicians and officials across Europe are increasingly seeking other options. A 2005 proposal by the European defense and drug policy think tank the Senlis Council to license the crop and divert into the legitimate medicinal market has proved to be a convenient starting off point for those seeking alternatives to eradication.

Conservative leader Lord Howell told parliament last week that the "very dangerous" policy of eradication was "just not working." He said alternatives like licensing the crop needed to be looked at. "The more we try to eradicate, the more poppies seem to get grown," he said. "Trying to stop poor farmers growing poppies to survive and live and feed their families is going to be almost impossible," he said.

Lord Howell's comments came just days after the British Medical Association argued that Afghan opium could be used to help deal with a shortage of prescription heroin, or diamorphine, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of science and ethics, told the BBC. "If we actually were harvesting this drug from Afghanistan rather than destroying it, we'd be benefiting the population of Afghanistan as well as helping patients and not putting people at risk," said Nathanson. "There must be ways of harvesting it and making sure that the harvest safely reaches the drug industry which would then refine it into diamorphine," she suggested. "It should be possible, and really Government and the international groups that are in Afghanistan should be looking at this and saying how can we convert it from being an illicit crop to a legal crop that is medicinally useful."

Op-Ed: Destroying poppies isn't path to Afghan stability

Location: 
Philadelphia, PA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Philadelphia Inquirer
URL: 
http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/editorial/16602379.htm

Winning at Whack-A-Mole

Here's Robert J. Caldwell at Human Events gloating over our extradition of 11 major drug traffickers from Mexico:

A counter-narcotics war popularly disparaged as a chronic loser, yet vital to the national interests of both Mexico and the United States, is producing its biggest victories ever.

Heck, let's give it to him. Biggest drug war victory ever! If there's such a thing, this has got to be it. We've made "an enormous leap forward" Karen Tandy proudly exclaimed from atop the first rung of her towering ladder to the moon.

This glowing triumph will provide a great opportunity to see if the drug war actually works. Maybe the Biggest Victory Ever will lead to a rock shortage down on crack street. But if it doesn't (and it so totally won't), then this grand achievement will serve only to illustrate that top priorities of the international drug war still don't bring us a day closer to the fairytale ending our drug warriors daydream about.

Indeed, the black market is a dragon with a thousand heads that regenerate if you cut one off. We can battle it for generations, but the beast will only grow stronger until we stop feeding it.

Location: 
United States

AP Interview: Former Afghan customs chief says Afghanistan losing war against drugs

Location: 
London
United Kingdom
Publication/Source: 
International Herald Tribune (France)
URL: 
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/01/29/europe/EU-GEN-Britain-Afghan-General.php

Afghan government won't spray poppies

Location: 
Kabul
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Canadian Press
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=1e00c9cb-4e8a-4cfc-b72f-9ae140579008&k=41498

Is the Bush Administration Getting Nervous About Afghan Opium Licensing Schemes?

When the European drug policy and defense think-tank the Senlis Council in late 2005 unveiled its proposal to deal with illicit Afghan opium by licensing growers and diverting production to the global legal medicinal market for opioid pain medications, just about nobody thought the idea had a chance of going anywhere. Since then, as opium production there has continued to increase—Afghanistan now accounts for 90% of the global illicit opium supply—and Taliban insurgents have gathered strength, the licensing scheme has picked up support from politicians in Canada, England, and Italy, but still remains a long-shot. This week, as I will report in the Chronicle on Friday, the licensing notion gained new support, as the British Medical Association is suggesting that Afghan opium be used to produce medicinal diamorphine (heroin) for use in the National Health Service. The licensing idea also made it to the op-ed pages of the Washington Post last week, when columnist Anne Applebaum wrote a piece, "Ending an Opium War; Poppies and Afghan Recovery Can Both Bloom, arguing that the US should do in Afghanistan now what it did so successfully in Turkey under President Nixon. Then, faced with an influx of Turkish heroin (the stuff of the infamous French Connection), the US worked with the Turkish government and farmers to regulate poppy production. Now, Turkey is the main supplier of medicinal narcotics to the US. The current US administration, however, is adamantly opposed to any such effort in Afghanistan. Instead, drug war extremists in Washington are pushing the Afghans to make stronger efforts to eradicate the poppy crop and are even trying to push herbicidal eradication down the throat of the Karzai government. That idea has little support in Afghanistan or even among our NATO allies. Both groups fear a sustained attack on the country's economic mainstay will lead to political upheaval and end up benefiting the Taliban, a not unreasonable worry. But it seems like the Bush administration is starting to worry that the licensing scheme is gaining too much ground. Or, at least, it has bestirred itself to attack the notion. In a letter from James O'Gara, the drug czars deputy for supply reduction in today's Washington Post, the administration tried to fight back:
The Wrong Plan for Afghanistan's Opium Anne Applebaum's proposal to foster legal Afghan opium ["Ending an Opium War; Poppies and Afghan Recovery Can Both Bloom," op-ed, Jan. 16] is based on a misdiagnosis of the problem. First, there is no licit demand for Afghanistan's enormous supply of opium, currently more than 90 percent of the world's illicit market and almost double the world's entire licit production requirement. The United Nations reports a current global oversupply of opium-based products from existing licit producers. Pouring vastly more legal opium into the world system would cause prices to plummet, making the illicit trade that much more attractive to farmers. Second, Afghanistan produces opium because some regions remain under attack and lack security, to say nothing of the controls that are a prerequisite for any legal trade in narcotics. In the absence of such institutional controls, the distinction between legal and illicit opium is meaningless. Afghanistan needs peace, a flourishing economy and the rule of law. Each of these conditions is undone by narcotics production. Nowhere in the world do narco-warlords willingly relinquish their stranglehold on poor opium farmers, and nowhere in the world do such farmers become rich. The opium trade must be broken, not fostered, before it undoes the rest of Afghanistan.
O'Gara first claims there is no global need for more opioid pain relievers, citing the International Narcotics Control Board. That claim is debatable. In its proposal, the Senlis Council begged to differ, citing serious undersupplies, especially in the underdeveloped world. Second, O'Gara suggests that opium is being grown in Afghanistan only because of a lack of security and an effective national state. But the US government's insistence on attacking the poppy crop is precisely what contributes greatly to continued insecurity and political conflict within the country. Does he really think an all-out assault on the poppies is going to bring peace and tranquility? Whether the idea of licensing Afghan opium production is a good idea is open for debate. It is certainly as reasonable a response to the problem as heavy-handed repression efforts, and is much less likely to incite peasant resistance and support for the Taliban. But what is really interesting about all this is the fact that the drug czar's office feels a need to attack supporters of the idea. That suggests the idea is getting enough traction to pose a threat to the drug war as usual. We'll be staying tuned to this debate.
Location: 
United States

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