The Opium War in Afghanistan

  Afghanistan’s opium production ranks first in the world. Since the illegal cultivation of opium poppy by farmers cannot be eradicated, the government is launching a war to eradicate opium.
  The man’s right hand has no middle finger. The man is Brigadier General Akka Nur-Kintoz, a police officer in Badakhshan province in northeastern Afghanistan. Four years ago, Kintoz was tasked with eradicating poppy fields. He said: “It was at the beginning of the mission to eliminate poppies. After destroying a poppy field, my car was blown up by a remote-controlled bomb.” Then, he rolled up his right shirt sleeve to expose his wrist, It was full of knife-cut scars. Since then, he has received an unknown number of death threats. Moreover, his subordinates were also thrown at the peasant girls or children who planted poppies, and even the tractors used to level the poppy fields were set on fire by the farmers. However, in order to show that he is not afraid of drug smugglers or showing weakness to them, Kintoz proudly raised his right hand for me to see.
  The War to Eliminate Poppy Fields 85% of
  Afghanistan ‘s population is engaged in agriculture. The country’s economy relies mainly on economic aid and opium smuggling from European and American countries that want to cut ties with the Taliban, which are also an important backing for the Taliban. They use trafficking Drugs get money to attack European and American troops. Heavy reliance on these two diametrically opposed sources of income is a harsh reality in Afghanistan.
  If Afghanistan wants to continue to receive foreign aid in the future, it must completely free the country’s economy from “drug dependence” and massively destroy existing poppy fields. The government seems to have recently recognized the importance of this state of affairs. However, just as the devoutly religious country did not become the world’s opium supply base overnight, trying to break free from an economy that relies on the cultivation of poppies in this country obviously won’t happen overnight.
  In Badakhshan province, the battle to eradicate poppy fields has paid off. Five years ago, the province’s opium production was second in Afghanistan after the Taliban-controlled Helmand province. About 3,650 hectares of poppy fields were in Badakhshan province when Kintoz was the police chief in 2007, but two years later it was drastically reduced to 600 hectares.
  As soon as the battle to wipe out the poppy fields began, poppy farmers were driven to remote mountainous areas. Because farmers often try their best to hide the poppy fields well, it is generally difficult to detect. Guided by a guide who was familiar with the local terrain, we drove for hours on rough, backcountry roads to a high point. From one end of the road we looked out over the rolling, uncultivated mountains, and upon a closer inspection of a rocky piece of land, we found a patch of garish color on it, which we were sure to be a poppy field.
  As we approached a poppy field, a farmer was squatting with his back to the poppies, weeding the fields next to him. The man was wearing a brown shirt, a headscarf, and had a yellow face unique to the Afghan border area. The man named Mohammad Harit, 37, admitted to the poppy next to him under our questioning. The fields are planted by themselves.
  Harriet pointed to the poppy field while weeding and said to us: “My father told me how to grow poppy 10 years ago. Starting this year, my poppy field can produce about 30 kilograms of opium.” He said he first borrowed money from drug smugglers to grow poppies, weeded, thinned, cracked the round fruit and concentrated the mushy brown emulsion inside. The Harriet family of six planted the poppy field together.
  Although the monotonous homework has to be repeated for 4 months, the family has no complaints when they think of the income. The raw opium formed by drying the lotion was wrapped in plastic bags and sold in the market, with the money used to support the family. “Our lives depend on this guy,” Harriet said. In order to fight the fight against poppy fields, Harriet thought of a “strategy”: He was going to grow wheat and melons on dry fields that were easily visible from the outside, only on the roads from the road. The almost invisible slender corner grows poppies. “This small piece of land can produce nearly a kilogram of opium, and I think it can sell for about $80,” he said. Little did Harriet realize that Afghanistan’s future and U.S. security were tied to his actions. “I don’t understand why the fields are being destroyed,” he said with a frown. “We are poor farmers, all we think about is how to feed our families. That’s all we think about.”
  One day during the harvest, Kintoz decided to implement compulsory removal of poppy fields in Argan district, Badakhshan province. Just two days earlier, nine members of a drug investigation team had been killed by a bomb planted next to a road.
  My convoy departed from Fizabad, the capital of Badakhshan province, in the early morning. Although the new houses are lined up on both sides of the road, they have been stopped since the battle to wipe out the poppy fields began. The 14 kilometers of roads that connect Argen County are in this state. Even though the road was rebuilt at the expense of corporate America, the road is even worse now than it was before the rebuild. We entered the county by passing dozens of shops that used to sell drugs openly, but now they are all closed, while people in the city watched our motorcade go by.
  The drug investigation team stopped near a village called Barras, a few kilometers from the center of Argan County. About 30 police officers entered the hilly area on foot in order to find poppy fields. As soon as I arrived at the scene, I was full of eye-catching poppy fields. If they were connected together, the area would be nearly 40 ares! The police officers entered the poppy field with bamboo sticks, and Kintoz and his subordinates danced wildly with bamboo sticks to knock all the poppies to the ground. And the inspector of the United Nations drug crime agency stood in the poppy field that had been destroyed and took the record very seriously.
  European and American aid agencies headed by the U.S. Agency for International Development have invested a certain amount of aid in Badakhshan Province in order to stop farmers from growing opium poppy. When I asked the young farmer if he had received the aid, the farmer said, “The government has asked the county head to provide farmers with wheat seeds and fertilizer, but none have been distributed.” The old man also said to me: “The government told us five years ago: ‘Roads, bridges and canals will be built so people will forget about growing poppies.’ But until now, the government has done nothing.”
  In order to quell farmers’ protests, the government has also done several things. In addition to the newly built cement road connecting Fizabad, the capital of Badakhshan Province, and the capital Kabul, the advancement of road construction in Tashukan County, and the construction of saffron farms in Baharak, 18 new constructions have been established in Badakhshan Province. A county police station. However, these aids are only a drop in the bucket for the vast Badakhshan province and hardly reach every corner. For example, since there is no clinic in Salabu Village, Yamgan County, the only “drug” for the villagers is drugs, and more than half of the 1,800 farmers are dependent on drugs. In addition, in a dilapidated schoolhouse in the village of Degarat, Allg County, hundreds of children were crammed into small classrooms and sat on the ground for class. Originally, the school was built entirely on drug revenue, but the government destroyed the poppy fields and that plan fell through.
  The ‘black’ relationship between police and drug dealers The next target of the
  drug investigation team is a poppy field owned by a female farmer. The woman watched in tears as the poppy field left to her by her late husband was destroyed. Her husband turned out to be a member of the Iranian People’s Mujahideen, an opposition group against the former Soviet army and the Iranian government, and later became a member of the Afghan government forces and participated in the fight against the Taliban. He was killed by a roadside bomb several months ago.
  After finishing work on eradicating poppies, the officers sat in the shade for lunch. I approached Kintoz and asked him if any of the police had colluded with drug dealers to smuggle drugs. Quietly, Kintoz said to me, “There are a few of them. Let me tell you later.” However, when I asked him again the next week, the answer was that the negligent officers had been arrested. Clear out the police station.
  Kintoz said he did not know that there were politicians involved in drug dealing in Badakhshan province. “If I knew, I would arrest them.” Although he didn’t say it, I learned from other sources that high-ranking government officials were also involved. Involved in drug smuggling. Moreover, it is said that among these drug smugglers, some even say that if they are elected to the parliament, they will continue to encourage farmers to grow opium poppy and buy the opium they produce.
  Although the poppy fields in Badakhshan province have disappeared, local army commanders and government chiefs control the passage of drugs into Central Asia from the northern border and share the benefits. Including these northern areas beyond the Taliban’s control, Afghanistan’s economy remains heavily dependent on the drug trade.
  The history of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan dates back some 300 centuries. The places where poppy cultivation first started were concentrated in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Roma in Badakhshan. The soil there is fertile, and the poppies grow well without fertilizer and rain after they are sown. In the 18th and 19th centuries, with the growth of the heroin market in Europe and the United States, the control of opium production and trade was transferred from India to Turkey, and soon to the plateau and mountainous areas of Southeast Asia. However, opium poppy cultivation was not widespread in Afghanistan at the time, and opium production was very small.
  This situation changed dramatically after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. After the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, some fruit markets were closed, and in order to export some cotton from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union also forced some factories that extracted seeds from cotton to close. In the following 10 years, with the support of the United States, the resistance groups fought tenaciously against the former Soviet army. As a result, Afghanistan’s roads, waterways and food processing plants were severely damaged, and agriculture was also devastated.

  From the withdrawal of the former Soviet Union in 1989 to the Taliban regime in 1994, warlords from all over the world scrambled for power and made Afghanistan into anarchy. Although Afghans engaged in agriculture have tried their best to regain their position in the international market, India and Pakistan have continued to promote and develop their own agriculture and are not interested in importing Afghan agricultural products. In addition, because both countries have successfully eliminated domestic poppy cultivation, drug smugglers have turned their attention to Afghanistan, which is politically unstable and lax oversight of the illicit drug trade.
  Under these conditions, Afghan opium production and sales became rampant from Nangarhar and Badakhshan to the southern province of Helmand. “We’re just pushing the problem across the border (Afghanistan),” says Ginasan Graham, a Pakistani agricultural expert who has worked tirelessly to eradicate poppy fields. Opium production surged from 19% to 90% of the world.
  However, the key factor behind Afghanistan’s largest global opium production is not Pakistan, but the presence of the Taliban. In 1996, the Taliban, which established a new government under a strict Islamic system, gained widespread support from tribal leaders for proposals to allow poppy cultivation. Supreme Leader Omar received regular donations from drug smugglers, and the drug trade became liberalized. At the same time, the new government imposed a 10% tax on all gains related to agriculture.
  In 1999, Afghanistan’s opium production exceeded 4,000 tons. Knowing this, the United Nations Drug Crime Agency put pressure on the Taliban regime to ban opium production and trade. In July 2000, the Taliban regime began an opium eradication campaign. Omar began to crack down on poppy cultivation relentlessly. One poppy farmer even received threats to “set your home on fire.” As a result, opium production in Afghanistan fell by 91 percent within a year.
  In 2001, a multinational force led by the US military invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban regime collapsed, and warlords from all over the country fought each other, which made opium production rise again and expand rapidly. The ousted Taliban also used opium revenue as a source of funding for its activities. “They’re not interfering with the normal lives of farmers, but they’ve come up with this ‘good’ way of running a lot of money,” said US Department of Agriculture official Wes Harris.
  Poppy cultivation has become easier in recent years under the Taliban’s control of the south. Smugglers lend money to farmers before the poppy is harvested, and then recycle the “commodity” after harvest. Drug-trafficking organizations buy local government officials to ensure they buy heroin-refining equipment through shipping channels near the border and ship the produced heroin abroad. It can be said that the purpose of drug trafficking organizations to buy officials with money is to remove all obstacles. A senior drug investigator said: “Afghanistan is controlled by drug trafficking organizations. In recent years, low-income employees have bought luxury properties in Dobay and the United States. Except for bribes, they can’t explain their source of income.
  ” Eradication
  We also visited Helmand province, a stronghold of the Taliban and the heart of poppy cultivation. After World War II, the United States overhauled agricultural waterways in the Helmand region as part of a large-scale development effort. However, the main waterway is not used for irrigation, and local farmers had to dig a waterway bypassing the main waterway to introduce water into their fields.
  Farmers in this area are very smart, and they will come up with all kinds of ways to deal with difficulties. In February 2010, the International Security Support Force (ISAF) entered the Marja area of ​​Helmand Province in order to eradicate the local Taliban forces and gain widespread support from the local residents. The U.S. Maritime Self-Defense Forces who went there as members of ISAF to investigate the status of poppy cultivation were mostly from rural areas, but after seeing vines growing from grapes planted by local farmers on the slopes of the great desert, they couldn’t help being impressed by their planting skills. “No matter how barren the land is, they can use it effectively,” Harris said.
  Helmand province produces 54 percent of Afghanistan’s opium. From this point of view, everyone knows the significance of operating on the poppy fields in this area, but the actual effect is not obvious. While the province has previously been forced to clear opium poppy cultivation, the number of farmers working with the Taliban, who have bought farmers to rebel against the government, is increasing.
  In order to eliminate this situation, the US Maritime Self-Defense Force decided in the spring of 2010 to award some funds to each farmer who took the initiative to eliminate the cultivation of poppy. However, this measure was immediately opposed by a considerable number of farmers, and some farmers who responded positively did not follow the military’s agreement to clear the opium poppy they planted within 7 days. Not only that, some farmers who delayed the eradication even secretly harvested poppy fruits, and went to the military to lie and claim that they had eliminated poppies, and then received bonuses. Fortunately, in 2010, due to pests and diseases, the poppy harvest in Helmand province plummeted to less than half of previous years.
  At the Marine Self-Defense Force’s camp in Marja, a combined 200 tons of fertilizer and crop seeds are piled up like a hill. A truck responsible for transporting these substances was attacked by Taliban militants on the way back from Lahukarga, the capital of Helmand province. The front windshield was smashed by gunshots. Four escorting soldiers were seriously injured and are still living in the city. Hospital.
  In order to eliminate the poppy grown by farmers, the Maritime Self-Defense Force supplies farmers with black beans, early-maturing radishes, alfalfa, watermelon and corn seeds for a fee. However, only a few dozen farmers came to collect fertilizer and seeds the next day. For these farmers, going to the US military base itself is a dangerous behavior, so few farmers care about it. In addition, the Taliban set up cards on the road and took away the fertilizer and seeds that the farmers had just received.
  For most farmers, the Taliban terrifies them, but since it has existed since the founding of the country, they have become accustomed to this terror. This is also the reason why the Taliban can regain control after ISAF withdraws from Afghanistan. An NGO official responsible for providing fertilizer and seeds to farmers said: “Farmers are the weight between the Taliban and us. Whichever side they prefer will take the initiative.” And I asked a man from the Maritime Self-Defense Force base. The farmers who took back the fertilizer and seeds asked, “Probably all you want is to grow the most profitable crops. I think, will you sell the fertilizer and seeds and continue to grow poppies?” The answer was vague: “After the withdrawal of the European and American troops, I will see what the provincial government will do. If the government does nothing, I will continue to grow poppies.”
  A farmer named Levmato has just received fertilizer and seeds from the Maritime Self-Defense Force base. “There are two currencies here, the poppy and the dollar,” he said. The 33-year-old farmer doesn’t have a long beard like a traditional cleric. “That’s the way the economy of this country is. We are not affected by the Taliban. We do this not because of the Taliban, but because of poverty. People here will continue to grow poppies in the future.”
  When asked, “Who can stop drug smuggling? The police?” Levmato replied with a smile: “The police themselves transport opium in their cars. They use the money from embezzlement to buy big villas in Rashukarga and Kandahar.” However, when I asked him ” Is the ‘poppy economy’ that bad for Afghanistan?” Levmato said solemnly: “It’s not a good way to make money. I didn’t have any other training. My father made money by growing poppies. To feed my son, my son will also grow poppies for a living. Besides that, I have no other craftsmanship. There are neither carpenters nor craftsmen, nor machinery, nor anything.” Levmato said with a wry smile: “The drug economy has penetrated deeply. The bone marrow of this country is like cancer.”
  Now that he is terminally ill, removing the cancer cells will not help. The main drug transport channels in Nangarhar province have been established since ancient times. The mountainous areas, including the Khyber Pass and the Tora Bora cave complex on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, have always been “no zone” for drug smuggling.
  Nangarhar province has a warm climate and until 2004 was Afghanistan’s largest opium producer. In 2005, in order to achieve the goal of eliminating poppy fields, the government promised farmers to provide them with other means of life, but because the government did not keep its word, the promise became a dead letter. Even development in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, has stalled and the economy is in a weak state.
  However, now the city of Jalalabad and its environs seem to have managed to break free from the “poppy economy”. These areas were originally the most representative agricultural areas in Afghanistan, and the land was very fertile. Today, it’s full of vegetable fields, with red cabbage and tomatoes exuding bright colors. In the urban area of ​​Jalalabad, there is a famous and prosperous commercial street in the country. Every morning, hundreds of cars loaded with watermelons, potatoes, pumpkins, okra and onions enter the wholesale market.
  Regardless of the crop, its price is nowhere near as expensive as opium. In the wholesale market, a farmer who grows potatoes told me that he had to go to security at night because it was difficult to guarantee the living expenses of growing potatoes. “Even so, I don’t regret it,” he said. “I feel very happy to think that I will never grow poppies again.”
  Heading south from Jalalabad, I visited the village of Yajibond again. The village, which was previously entirely dependent on poppy cultivation, now grows crops such as cotton, rice and cauliflower. In the house overlooking the distant fields, several tribal elders told me about the villagers’ lives freed from the “poppy economy”. An elder said to me: “The standard of living is lower than it was five years ago. The income is only about 60% of the original. We are looking forward to being able to engage in new business.”
  This new business is advancing in Nangarhar province. Agricultural dams, waterways, new bridges, women’s textile unions, french fries, honey refineries, candy factories and retail markets in Jalalabad… It is said that the number of new businesses receiving foreign aid is innumerable. The head of the retail market, Fwaja Mohammed, also spoke highly of the NGO’s contribution.
  However, don’t forget the following sentence: “Afghanistan is still in a state of scuffle. And it cannot rely on self-reliance to restore economic vitality. A country that has been at war for 30 years, the road to recovery may take at least 80 years. If the support for farmers is not sustainable, Poppy fields can’t end up disappearing.”