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Afghan Narco-Trafficking: Europe is Financing the Taliban

Robert I. Rotberg with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government writes in The Boston Globe about "Losing the war in Afghanistan:"
THE UNITED States and NATO are about to lose the war in Afghanistan to an insurgent, revived Taliban. Deprived of sufficient firepower and soldiers, Allied forces are failing to hunt down and contain the Taliban, especially in the southern part of the country. Moreover, the crucial battle for Pashtun hearts and minds is also about to be lost. Only the rapid provision of security, roads, electricity, and educational and health services can counter the appeal of the renewed and reinvigorated Taliban. Urgently required are more troops for security and more funds for rebuilding essential services.
The op-ed focuses on the drug problem:
Narco-trafficking is fueling the Taliban, and fat profits from poppies and opium are partially responsible for the militants' resurgence. Indeed, Afghanistan is supplying about 90 percent of the world's opium and nearly all of the heroin that ends up in Europe. A recent study by the UN Office for Drugs and Crime forecasts a record crop of poppies this year, on top of last year's bumper harvest. To undercut the ability of the Taliban to purchase arms, pay soldiers, and buy the support of villagers, the United States and NATO need to break the back of the drug trade in and out of Afghanistan. However, reliance on eradication -- the current weapon of choice -- is foolish and wasteful. Uprooting crops and spraying have both had limited local effect. What is needed is a radically new, incentive-based method to provide better incomes to farmers from substitute crops.
Personal comment: So, basically, Europe is financing the Taliban, if the above mentioned numbers are correct. A few months ago, I read some criticism about these statistics, but I don't think it matters much if 90% or "just" 60% of Afghanistan's opium end up in Europe. It is a disgrace that our drug addicts finance criminals, insurgents, terrorists etc.
The "war on drugs" is not very effective, but is doing a lot of harm. A recent example: "Austrian sniper rifles that were exported to Iran have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi terrorists, The Daily Telegraph has learned. More than 100 of the.50 calibre weapons, capable of penetrating body armour, have been discovered by American troops during raids. The guns were part of a shipment of 800 rifles that the Austrian company, Steyr-Mannlicher, exported legally to Iran last year."
Iran has a big drug problem as well. Iranian drug addicts finance the Taliban and others involved in narco-trafficking as well.

Legalizing drugs in Europe would cut the huge profits the Taliban and other middle men make. Adult drug consumers could take their drugs under supervision in European hospitals, who would buy opium and heroin from some small Afghan coops, i.e. providing an income for them. All the money wasted in the "war on drugs" could be used to tell every European once a week that drugs are bad. If they don't listen, it is their problem. I don't mind if people are stupid and ruin their health by taking drugs; that's freedom of choice. I just don't want Europeans to finance militants in Afghanistan and elsewhere, because that causes international problems and makes Europe less secure.
Alcohol is causing big problems in European societies as well, but it is still legal. A few days ago, a sixteen years old Berliner died after drinking dozens of Tequilas in one of the popular "flatrate" parties.
What do you think? Am I underestimating the risks and overestimating the benefits of the legalization of drugs?

UPDATE: Our reader Axel brought us this interesting story in Spiegel International:
Governments in Berlin, Paris and Rome, along with NATO leadership are discussing a potentially explosive new idea: the legalization of Afghanistan's opium production. The plan envisages farmers being able to sell their poppies to officially licensed buyers for the same price they currently get from the drug barons. The product could then be sold to the pharmaceutical industry for pain medication and other products.


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2020 on :

On such a large scale drug trafficking is not possible without logistics. You need trucks to transport the raw opium, the trucks need fuel and a secure transit to the heroin labs in Pakistan. So if the international forces cannot even stop the production and the export of drugs, how will they prevent the same trucks from bringing weapons to the mujahedin in return? Answer: This hasn't any priority. Drug trade in Afghanistan is tolerated in order to maintain stability. It's better to watch it and control it than to force the poppy farmers to go underground and become mujahedin themselves.

Axel on :

"...But a change of strategy may be on the horizon. Governments in Berlin, Paris and Rome, along with NATO leadership are discussing a potentially explosive new idea: the legalization of Afghanistan's opium production. The plan envisages farmers being able to sell their poppies to officially licensed buyers for the same price they currently get from the drug barons. The product could then be sold to the pharmaceutical industry for pain medication and other products..." [url=,1518,473933,00.html]Spiegel Online: The Poppy Problem: NATO to Legalize Afghanistan's Opium?[/url]

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Thank you, Axel! Very interesting. I will write an update and link to this story.

Pat Patterson on :

Also such a proposal will cause the green-eye shade group to rejoice over the prospect of new taxes to collect.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Absolutely! Another good argument! Governments lose soooo much tax money, because drug user buy their stuff on the illegal market. Nobody in the whole industry is paying taxes...

pen Name on :

As I have posted in this forum before: the way to help Afghanistan is through Iran. The State (Stadt) is being built by funds from foreign powers - Afghanistan at this time does not have the resources to build a state after 20 years of coup, revolution, and war. Foreign powers cannot do so indefinitely. Afghanistan has to develop economically and Iran is the only country that can do so in an organic manner. EU & US policy is to isolate Iran. It is foolish and only helps Paksitan, Taliban, Drug Barons & Traders. My recommendation to you is to advise your governments to change their Iran policy. Without Iran, you will fail in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.

pen Name on :

Forgot to add: Has any one bothered to discuss this idea of the "the legalization of Afghanistan's opium production" with the Iranian Government? We have lost 3000 security officres, anti-narcotics police, and border-gurads to the Afghan Drug Lords. I really hope that this idea has already been discussed with Iran - else there would be anger and frustration in Iran and it will be considered another slap in the face by US & EU. And Iran will respond.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I agree coordination with Iran is necessary. Though, I also think it is good to point out that it is not just Iran that can cause trouble for the West in Iraq and Afghanistan. Actually NATO could have an impact on Iran with this legalization thing... So, Iranians should not feel all too powerful, but realize that it is also in their interest to cooperate with the West. Iran, the US and the EU would benefit a lot from cooperation, but every power can cause trouble for every other power as well. Often the Iranian/EU/US governments sound more confident than their actual power suggests...

alec on :

Actually, I'll disagree with both of you to say that Pakistan has been the biggest problem in terms of stabilizing Afghanistan. The Pakistani/Afghani border is a nightmare and the inability for Musharaf to do anything outside of Islamobadis not only destabilizing Pakistan but providing cover for extremists and terrorists that operate in Afghanistan as well. If you're interested, Frontline has a great documentary on the issue:

pen Name on :

Yes you are underestimating the dangers of drugs - look at China after the Opium War and see for yourself. Look at US and see what drugs are doing to that country - the wreckage is everywhere. The "Freedom of Choice" argument is bogus: what do you do to the addicted children when drugs find their way into schools - like in America? What are you going to do to those drug addicts that are no longer able to function in the scoiety? Are you willing to let them die on the street? Or will your bleeding-hearts take them to Rehabilitatio Centers s and make the rest of population -in effect - subsidize their Freedom of Choice? Do not try to run a social experiment such as this. Other states and countries have done that in the past with dire consequences.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"Do not try to run a social experiment such as this. Other states and countries have done that in the past with dire consequences." Got any examples from the second half of the 20th century? "what do you do to the addicted children when drugs find their way into schools - like in America?" It seems to me that the "war on drugs" is a failure, and whoever wants to buy drugs can do so already. Of course there are regional differences, but by and large... A big problem is that drug addicts prostitute themselves or steal or rob in order to be able for the smuggled drugs. If drugs were legalized, there would be less crime. Crime is a problem for all of society, while an individual's drug addiction is a personal and family problem. You can get soft drugs in the Netherlands, but the Netherlands probably has less crime than the US...

pen Name on :

The "Daily Telegraph" article was never substantiated. The Austrian company repeatedly has asked for serial numbers from US - there was no reply to those requests. This was a lie - a planted propaganda story. Shame on you for repeating it here - shame, shame, shame.

Pat Patterson on :

Speaking of unsubstantiated stories, I'm still waiting for links to the lithium bomb that France supposedly has and the citations for the actual numbers of refugees hosted by Iran. Also it should be noted that The Daily Telegraph has not withdrawn the story either. Plus it turns out that Steyr Mannlicher has never formally requested from either the US or Iraq governments the serial numbers. These "requests" were only in the newspapers with no follow up. As to the legalization of the opium crop that is up to Afghanistan,NATO and the UN not Iran.

pen Name on :

Pat Patterson: I never stated that I will supply URLs for the Lithium bombs. I know from my knowlege of nuclear physics that they can be built. Go ask any experimental heavy ion physicist in UK. And I have understood that the French have them (through the grapevine). The following is from the Wall Street Journal (3/22/2007): The management and employees of Steyr-Mannlicher share your deep concern about reports that weapons we produced may have fallen into the hands of Iraqi insurgents ("Iran's Smoking Guns," Review & Outlook, Feb. 16). As you rather backhandedly acknowledge, Steyr-Mannlicher agreed three years ago to deliver a shipment of HS50 rifles to Iran for legitimate and important law enforcement purposes -- to equip drug interdiction forces patrolling that nation's border with Afghanistan. Iran's effort to close off the routes of a violent and dangerous drug trade -- one that is operated by Afghan warlords, is reportedly the source of most of the heroin reaching Western Europe, and is helping finance the activities of America's terrorist enemies -- is certainly one area in which Americans share a common cause with the regime in Tehran. As you also acknowledge, our company sought and received written assurances from Iranian authorities that use of these weapons would be limited to this intended and worthy law enforcement purpose. If -- and Steyr-Mannlicher has not yet received confirming evidence from the U.S. government that this is the case -- any of the rifles we manufactured and sold to the Iranian government have made their way into Iraq, we will seek a full explanation and pursue all remedies available under this agreement. The American people can be certain that we do not want to see the high-quality weapons that we build with pride to assist law enforcement personnel misused for purposes and in countries other than those authorized. In the meantime, we reiterate our pledge to provide full support to the U.S. government in investigating whether Steyr rifles legally exported to support law enforcement efforts against drug dealers in Iran have been used for another purpose and, in the event these weapons are indeed proven to be involved, to take any and all steps within our power to prevent any further unauthorized and illegal use. Franz Holzschuh Chief Executive Officer Steyr-Mannlicher, GmbH Kleinraming, Austria So, please do not repeat propoganda. The burden of proof is on you guys.

Pat Patterson on :

The pleadings of a company already banned from any government contracts by the US and Britain in the pages of the WSJ are not proof. The Austrian government itself quickly distanced themselves from the issue on 2/13/07 when the government spokeswoman, Astrid Harz said, "We checked the proposal very thoroughly...what happened to the weapons then is the responsibility of the Iranians." In other words the Austrians and Steyr-Mannlicher made sure all the t's were crossed and the i's dotted after repeated warnings not to go forward with the sale by NATO as early as 2004. And I'll repeat the Austrian government and Steyr-Mannlicher have made no official request for serial numbers but rather claim the sale was legal but the diverson is the reponsiblity of Iran alone. I would think that by now you would desire to show some proof of the existence of this lithium bomb would be paramount rather than dar alludings to secret knowledge of the grapevine. Plus, and here's where it gets really curious, I have scrolled through at least 200 references through Yahoo and Google, using various descriptions of a lithium bomb, and still find only references to the use of lithium as one part of the detonator. Plus I find the intensity of the demand to be consulted in regards to the legalization of the opium industry in Afghanistan rather strange coming from a country that certainly is not allowing "consultation" with its neighbors regarding nuclear weapons.

pen Name on :

Pat Patterson: Sir - you do not seem to understand. You have to furnish the proof; the burden is on you. We cannot prove a negative. Ask your American friends to furnish proofs. Have not US & UK lied before? About Lithium bomb - I stand by what I have said. Please walk into a Physics Department and ask them. It is an specific of isotope of Lithium that has to be used. And pray Sir tell me since when Yahoo & Google hav bcome the reliable repository of human knowledge? I am just telling you if you are interested to work with us you will consult us. And please spare me your old story of nuclear isue whereby you were trying to scare us to accept your "trade goods" for nothing - we are not colonial nig-nogs.

Pat Patterson on :

Obviously Google and Yahoo are not the sum total of human knowledge but rather the source one would go to research the claim of the existence of a lithium bomb. Not one paper, not one rumour, not one source, not one physics text, nothing! Which specific isotope of lithium? Did you mean the trade goods from the NPT of which Iran is a signatory? Point well taken about disproving a negative but then I might ask why neither the Austrian government or Steyr-Mannlicher have made a formal request for the serial numbers? That would solve the issue but I suspect that would embarass the country and the company.

pen Name on :

From: Mark 24 nuclear bomb From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search The Mark 24 nuclear bomb was an American thermonuclear bomb design, based on the third American thermonuclear bomb test, Castle Yankee. The Mark 24 bomb was tied as the largest weight and size nuclear bomb ever deployed by the United states, with the same size and weight as the Mark 17 nuclear bomb which used a very similar design concept but unenriched Lithium. The Castle Yankee thermonuclear test was the first bomb to use enriched Lithium-6 isotope, up to perhaps 40% enrichment. The device tested was called the Runt II design; it was reportedly very similar to the Runt design tested in Castle Bravo, other than the enrichment level. Castle Yankee had a demonstrated yield of 13.5 megatons. The yield for the weaponized Mark 24 was predicted to be 10-15 megatons. The EC24 bomb was a limited production run of the Castle Yankee test device, with 10 produced and stockpiled through 1954. The EC24 was 61 by 225 inches and weighed 39,600 pounds. The EC24 was a purely free-fall bomb design. The production model Mark 24 nuclear bomb was 61.4 by 296 inches long, with a weight between 41,000 and 42,000 pounds. It was in service between 1954 and 1956, with a total of 105 units produced. The Mark 24 included a 64 foot diameter parachute to slow its descent. Please do not waste my time more with your incompetence.

Pat Patterson on :

Ok, finally a link. And as I argued Lithium [6] is used to trigger the fusion bomb by its place in the fission bomb inside it. It increases the amount of tritium which increased the yield not the lithium. Therefore I stand by my original point that lithium is used as part of the trigger to detonate the bomb and it is not used to increase the effects of radiation proceeding the weapon. So no paraffin wrapped lithium coatings, no secret French bombs in the Metro and the insults simply reveal more about the author then the target. [url][/url] Plus note that the first line in the link says, "...was an American thermonuclear bomb design..." Past tense, and you can check by going into any English Department on a college campus to check the tense.

Zyme on :

Oh these hot-tempered southerners :)

pen Name on :

My point was that you can find information - that's all. And I stand by my Lithium bomb story. You can dig further and see what you can find regarding the so-called electromagnetic pulse weapon- sounds eerily similar.

Pat Patterson on :

EMPs have been a well documented threat for over 30 years in the West. Batman in the Dark Knight Returns used that as a plotline over 22 years ago. Unless someone is in a part of the world where news travels by horseback and sailing ship this "new" weapon is hardly new. Plus standing by a story, or near it or on it without citation or documentation means the story is just that, a story.

Don S on :

It seems clear to me that the proposed scheme would end up funding the Taliban either way. What is the Taliban do you suppose? Do people suppose that farmer Wahlid X identifies himself as such when selling his crop? Legalizing drugs have the same problem. I really don't see much difference between buying opium output legally or illegaly from this standpoint. Substitute crops could make a difference I suppose, but I haven't seen any substitute crops scheme really take off for damned good reason. You see the same problem in Kentucky and North Carolina with the perfectly legal but disapproved tobacco crop. There is a reason why farmers raise such crops - they are far more lucrative than anything else they can grow on their land. The idea of legally buying opium and using it for legitimate drugs is poetntially a good one but begs the question of where the legitimate manufacturers get their raw opium now? Would the current producers respond by selling into the black market themselves? And what about quality and potency? And - ahem, would Afghan producers merely expand production so as to satisvy both their markets? The legalisation argument stands on it's own apart from the crop argument. It might be a good thing - might not. I think it depends on the situation.

Anonymous on :

This just in: "Ahmadinejad Forgives Brits in 'Spirit of Easter'" Ok it's Scrappleface, but apparently Ahmadinejad did 'forgive' the Brits! London Times: "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the move was an Easter present to the British people." also "Iran's hardline President said Britain was not "brave enough" to apologise and that Iran had no regrets about detaining the sailors." No apology. If President Ahmadinejad weren't such a prepotent, domionant figure one might almost suspect him of backing down from an unsustainable position.... LOL!

Pat Patterson on :

I know its a typo but describing Pres. Ahmadinejad as "prepotent" raises all sorts of interesting Freudian questions.

David Harnasch on :

Some months ago I wrote this piece in favour of legalization for the exact same reasons in german langauge:

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