Afghanistan: January 13, 2002


The next phase of the war in Afghanistan will have to deal with drugs, and the powerful drug gangs that make enormous sums of money buying the poppies from farmers, processing the plants into opium, hashish, morphine or heroin. Other gangs then smuggle the drugs out of the country through Iran, or the other central Asian nations. The drug trade shifted to Afghanistan after a Pakistani anti-drug drive made the trade untenable in northern Pakistan. The Pakistani drug gangs (often Pushtun tribal groups with kin across the border in Afghanistan) are still heavily involved in the trade. This drug trade is a major source of money for poverty stricken tribesmen and these guys are not eager to give up all the money, and goodies it buys (trucks, weapons, gadgets, wives). The Taliban and Northern Alliance dealt with the drug trade by taking bribes to allow it to go on. The new Afghan government knows that billions of dollars of foreign aid comes with the assumption that there will be a crack down on the drug business. The tribes will resist, as there is no economic alternative that is as attractive (poppy crops bring in 30 times as much cash as wheat and require a quarter of the water.) The drug gangs are also willing to support terrorists, if the price is right. The drug gangs provide a well armed and well funded criminal infrastructure that will support all sorts of nasty stuff if the money is there.  The likely result will be government attempts to look like they are suppressing the drug trade without starting a war with the tribes. This will keep the foreign aid coming. The donor nations will have their hands full trying to insure that much of the foreign aid is not embezzled. Afghanistan has long been cursed with some of the most corrupt government officials on the planet. 


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