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The opium harvest, having multiplied twentyfold to 2, tons during the covert-war era of the s, would double during the civil war of the s. In addition, opium merchants alone were capable of accumulating capital rapidly enough to be able to provide much-needed cash advances to poor poppy farmers that equaled more than half their annual income. That credit would prove critical to the survival of many poor villagers.

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Determined to install its Pashtun allies in Kabul, the Afghan capital, Pakistan worked through the ISI to deliver arms and funds to its chief client Hekmatyar. When he nonetheless failed to take the capital, Pakistan threw its backing behind a newly arisen Pashtun force, the Taliban, a fundamentalist movement that had emerged from militant Islamic schools. After seizing Kabul in and taking control of much of the country, the Taliban regime encouraged local opium cultivation, offering government protection to the export trade and collecting much needed taxes on both the opium produced and the heroin manufactured from it.

A subsequent U. That body instead imposed new sanctions on the regime for protecting Osama bin Laden. The U. Only weeks later, in October , the U. In retrospect, it seems likely that the opium prohibition had economically eviscerated the Taliban, leaving its theocracy a hollow shell that shattered with the first American bombs.

To an extent not generally appreciated, for the previous two decades Afghanistan had devoted a growing share of its resources — capital, land, water, and labor — to the production of opium and heroin. By the time the Taliban outlawed cultivation, the country had become, agriculturally, little more than an opium monocrop. The drug trade accounted for most of its tax revenues, almost all its export income, and much of its employment.

In this context, opium eradication proved to be an act of economic suicide that brought an already weakened society to the brink of collapse. Indeed, a U.

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While the U. They, in turn, had long dominated the drug traffic in the area of northeastern Afghanistan they controlled in the Taliban years. As a result, when the Taliban went down, the groundwork had already been laid for the resumption of opium cultivation and the drug trade on a major scale. In the first year of U. For the first few years of the U.

Backed by President Bush, Secretary of State Powell then urged an aggressive counter-narcotics strategy, including a Vietnam-style aerial defoliation of parts of rural Afghanistan. But U. Embassy again pressed Kabul to accept the kind of aerial defoliation the U.

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President Hamid Karzai refused , leaving this critical problem unresolved. Significantly, the U. Recognizing the crucial role of opium revenues in Taliban recruitment practices, the U. A week later, U. Only it would never be so because the opium trade would spoil the party.

US Intervention in the Afghan Drug Trade

To put it simply, so simply that even Washington might understand, we can only pacify a narco-state when it is no longer a narco-state. At the time, John Sopko, the U. Production and cultivation are up, interdiction and eradication are down, financial support to the insurgency is up, and addiction and abuse are at unprecedented levels in Afghanistan.

As the opium crop was harvested, fresh U. In May , having watched this flood of drugs enter the global market as U.

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