07 May 2009

Next Article and Greetings

It's been brought to my attention that I now have a new audience: Welcome to the employees of the Swiss pharmaceutical company, Vifor Pharma. Of all the ways to waste time at work, I'm honored you picked this site. Usually, people pick Facebook or something. Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and please don't judge all Americans by The Star Wars Kid.

Having said that, I realize that I haven't posted an article for Small Wars Journal in a while. I think I'd like to do something on counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan, while studying counter-narco operations in the past (Colombia, etc).

If the reports are true, NATO might actually have a good counter-narcotics mission going in Afghanistan. Counter-narcotics operations are important, as opium serves as the primary source of income for the Taliban. Eradication efforts--basically burning opium fields--are counter-productive. While they may cut down on the Taliban's cash flow, they can actually make the security situation that much worse. Burning down a farmer's opium field--his only source of livelihood for that year--will, in many cases turn that farmer into an insurgent. After all, there aren't a whole lot of legitimate ways to make money in Afghanistan's rural areas. It also creates a situation where opium farmers will rely on the Taliban for protection of their opium crops. Recent excursions into the opium fields by NATO troops have encountered vicious Taliban backlash.

NATO has proposed the solution of creating a farm subsidizing program--paying farmers to grow something other than opium. This is a good start, but some observers have noted that many farmers grow opium because it grows very well in that region, and is easy to harvest. Others have proposed (including me) turning the opium crop legitimate (I hear Turkey and India have similar programs), by allowing pharmaceutical companies to buy opium from Afghanistan for production into morphine and codeine.

Focus: Any good sources for information on counter-narcotics programs throughout history? Colombia, Central America, British Opium Wars? Any of my new fans from the pharmaceutical companies care to weigh in on the issue? How will purchasing Afghan opium affect the market?


SJ said...

I think the only problem with setting up a legitimate opium crop program is that the current legal global demand for opium wouldn't be able to absorb much more of the crop without depressing the market price and scuttling all the existing programs out there. I believe the industrialized world has absorbed about all that it could while developing nations lack the health care infrastructure to take in more opiates.

We could buy the crop and burn it, but that doesn't create a long term, viable solution for the problem. Or, if some members of the industrialized world are willing to legalize the drug for recreational use, we could just dump it on them.

Starbuck said...

Hey, I remember you mentioning this a while back. Is there a good source for this? I am trying to write something for Small Wars Journal in the near future regarding counter-narcotics in Afghanistan, and I am looking for articles which talk about the effect on the opium market.