Opium bounces back, enriching Taliban and Afghan officials

Hajji Abdul Hakin stood beside a 20-kg pile of green beans – his entire harvest after authorities in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province convinced him to stop growing opium poppies last year.

“My whole life lies in ruins,” he said in an interview in Nad-e-Ali district last October. His field, one hectare, had been destroyed by disease and his meagre harvest wouldn’t be nearly enough to support his family of 16 people.

Last year, the average poppy farm in Helmand yielded 18 kg of opium per hectare, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. A kilo of opium fetched $200, while the same amount of green beans sold for only $1.

“Once the poppy season starts, I’ll grow poppies once again,” said Hakin.

Almost six months later, poppy season is in full swing in the western province of Helmand, which last year yielded almost half of Afghanistan’s entire opium harvest, according to UNODC. Afghanistan supplies the lion’s share of the world’s opium, most of which is refined into heroin in an illegal trade that enriches government officials, the Taliban and global drug dealing networks.

The Unites States invested $8.5 billion between 2002 and mid-2015 in programmes aimed at eradicating opium poppies and coaxing farmers into growing different crops, according to the US’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

By almost any measure, that investment has been an abject failure.

Poppy production grew steadily throughout the NATO mission, which began after the US helped topple the Taliban in 2001. The NATO mission ended in 2014, the year that the UN reported a record harvest in Afghanistan, which supplied 90 percent of the world’s “illicit opiates”. Opiates were Afghanistan’s biggest exports in 2014, with UNODC estimating the vaue at $2.8 billion, or 13 percent of the country’s GDP.

Opium production fell by 19 percent in Afghanistan last year, but that was not due to eradication efforts, which reduced poppy cultivation in the province by only two percent, according to the UN. Anti-poppy campaigners instead had fungus and weevils to thank for wiping out more poppies in Helmand than eradication programmes ever have.

Production is set to bounce back this year, however, as farmers like Hakin get ready to harvest next month. And there is little effort to stop them.

The Afghan and US governments have now mostly abandoned eradication and crop substitution in Helmand, where the Taliban has in recent months managed to wrest control of many areas away from the government. As the Taliban gains more ground, the insurgents also gain more access to profits from the opium trade.

“Today, a lot of farmers in Nad-e-Ali are growing poppies again, as well as in every other district in Helmand”, said Mahmood Noorzai, the Helmand police commander responsible for narcotics.

“There is no eradication going on,” he told IRIN this week on the phone from the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Opium takes a back seat to war

Afghanistan’s military has instead diverted resources towards fighting the Taliban in a war that only appears to be getting worse. The insurgent group has made steady gains throughout the country since the NATO mission ended in December 2014 and the US pulled most of its approximately 140,000 troops out of the country.

Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics police had to transfer their 32 helicopters to the military, said Baz Mohammad, the country’s deputy head of counter-narcotics, in an October interview. He added that the military had disbanded its battalion of 850 soldiers who had been assigned to poppy eradication after the US stopped funding it.

Afghan narcotics police destroy a poppy field in Helmand
Jim Huylebroek/IRIN
Afghan narcotics police destroy a poppy field in Helmand in April 2015

Even as eradication efforts falter, experts say the Taliban is relying increasingly on the opium trade to fund its insurgency. The Taliban now reap profits at every stage of the drug business, from cultivation through production and trafficking, according to a 2 February report to the UN Security Council.

Matin Khan, a tribal elder from Taliban-controlled Nawzad District, told IRIN last October how the Taliban benefited from opium.

“Taliban demand opium taxes from farmers, levy tolls at checkpoints where smugglers pass and then escort them for money through the lawless border region between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran,” he said in an interview in Lashkar Gah, where he had travelled to meet with elders from other districts to discuss security issues.

Addicted to drug money

It’s not only the Taliban who benefit from the opium trade. Officials at every level of government are reportedly involved.

“In the Helmand districts of Nad-e-Ali, Garmsir, and Marjah – which are controlled by the government – government officials demand farmers pay 5,000 Pakistani rupees, almost 50 dollars, per hectare of poppy field,” said Noorzai, the police commander.

A former head of drug police for Helmand, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told IRIN that his record of arresting 72 dealers and confiscating 28 tonnes of drugs in Helmand did not sit well with certain parliamentarians. They managed to have him transferred out of the position.

“As a police chief I was not afraid of the Taliban or drug dealers, but of the politicians who threatened me,” he told IRIN last October.

The officer is now in the central province of Wardak, while the drug-dealing MPs remain in Kabul.


Jew-Loving Gulf Monarchies Come Out of the Closet To Condemn Hezbollah


[“We, the Saudi family are cousins of the Jews.”]

Israelis Welcome GCC Statement on Hezbollah:

Reflects Rapprochement with Saudis


Local Editor
Zionist media

As soon as the Gulf Cooperation Council blacklisted the Lebanese party of Resistance – Hezbollah – on Wednesday, Zionist mass media welcomed the resolution, considering it “critical and serious,” reflecting a great relief among Israelis who have been seeking to fight Hezbollah from the Arab gate.

Former Zionist foreign minister Tzipi Livni hailed the GCC resolution as “an important step, while Zionist daily Maariv stated that “blacklisting Hezbollah is an achievement that serves Israel.”

Zionist presenter: Channel 1

Moreover, the entity’s mass media correlated the GCC resolution against Hezbollah with “the ongoing coordination between Saudi Arabia Israel,” which has recently emerged to public through exchanging visits between both parties.

“Arab world is approaching closer to Israel’s stances, which has been revealed through the Saudi delegations’ visit to Israel, as well as when Saudi Arabia decided to blacklist Hezbollah as a terrorist organization,” the presenter of Tonight at Six talk show for Zionist Channel 1 said.

“It is very important and dramatic development,” he added.

Zionist channel 1

For his part, Yoval King, an expert of Arab affairs, said that “it is an important resolution,” recalling that it is not the first time that Gulf states blacklist Hezbollah as a terrorist group.

“They had labeled him as ‘militia’, and announced that violence and provocations he is carrying out in Syria, Yemen and Iraq contradicts with the moral and humanitarian values,” King said.

The Saudi-Zionist coordination witnessed a major shift on the Syrian arena in the face of axis of Resistance, as Zionist sources revealed discussions took place between the armed groups operating in Syria on one hand, and Riyadh and Tel Aviv on the other, about the Syrian developments following the ongoing truce.

Zionist media

“Syrian opposition groups, funded by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel are meeting with their sponsors and discussing with them whether they can make gains in the meantime,” Shmerit Maeir, a Zionist analyst of Arab affairs, said during an interview on the Jewish Channel 2.

“Israel needs a key chair on this table whether through the American players or others, because the bases will now determine whether Hezbollah is allowed to do what the ISIL and Al-Nusra Front are banned from doing. If this really is to happen, we will be facing a major catastrophe,” Maeir stressed.

The Zionist position was symmetrical to the Saudi’s, as it doesn’t rule out the possibility of communicating with the armed groups, like Al-Nusra Front and ISIL in order to coordinate for later steps in Syria.

The GCC, which has been committing a genocide in Yemen since March 2015, held a meeting on Monday during which it blacklisted all Hezbollah affiliated institutions.

US Manufactures Excuse To Move Carrier Battle Group To S. China Sea

[Philippines scuttles and abandons shipwreck upon China’s Wufang Reef, setting trap for Chinese Navy.  After provocation begins, China tows shipwreck away, removes Navy.  After all of this, VOA “breaks the news” that “China Blocks South China Sea.”  After these preliminary elements have been laid-down by the Pentagon press, then US Navy Times announces movement of carrier group.  Adding further fluff to the deception, Pentagon then renews claims that India will be joining the American war provocations, even though India has already refused to play along, three weeks ago.

The US NAVY serves as the wrecking ball for the expanding American police state and fascist world order.  US military aggression is now a fact of life, threatened only by the level of US hypocrisy necessary to maintain the lie that our aggression is actually “humanitarianism.”]

Foreign boat cleared from Chinese reef

2 days ago


spratA formation of the Nanhai Fleet of China’s Navy finished a three-day patrol of the Nansha islands in the South China Sea. [Photo/Xinhua]

A formation of the Nanhai Fleet of China’s Navy finished a three-day patrol of the Nansha islands in the South China Sea. [Photo/Xinhua]

A foreign fishing boat stranded on a Chinese reef in the South China Sea for several months has been towed away, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The vessel ran aground near China’s Wufang Reef at the end of last year, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing.

“The owner of the boat failed to tow it away after several attempts and abandoned it, dismantling some major equipment on board.”

He said the boat had hampered navigation safety and the maritime environment, so the Ministry of Transport had cleared it from the reef and dealt with it “properly”.

“To guarantee the safety of navigation and working conditions, China urged fishing vessels near the site to leave,” Hong said, adding that Chinese ships had left the area after the foreign boat was removed.

Although the ministry did not specify the ship’s identity, international media said the vessel was from the Philippines.

Observers said Beijing had “foiled a trap” set by Manila to use stranded boats to infringe upon Chinese territory, a tactic that had been used on China’s Ren’ai Reef in the late 1990s.

“The Wufang Reef incident reminds me of the Ren’ai Reef case. They are almost the same,” said Chen Qinghong, a researcher of South China Sea issues at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

Beijing says Manila deliberately grounded a warship near China’s Ren’ai Reef in 1999. The Philippines refused to remove the vessel — despite repeated demands by China — and reinforced the rusting ship’s hull and deck. It also sent troops to guard the reef and to occupy it illegally.

“Such actions violated the spirit and provisions of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea by changing the status quo unilaterally,” Chen said, adding that the incidents also infringed upon China’s sovereignty.

Xu Liping, a senior research fellow of Southeast Asia studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that this time China had learned a lesson from the Ren’ai Reef incident.

It had handled the case in a rational and restrained manner, in line with international law, he said.

Wang Guoqing, spokesman for the annual session of China’s top political advisory body, said on Wednesday that the South China Sea should be “a sea of peace, stability and cooperation”.

“The South China Sea issue should not become an excuse and tool for certain countries to contain China’s development,” he told a news briefing.


Philippines: China Ships Spotted at Disputed Atoll Have Left–Military.com.  -19 hours ago‎

China Blocks South China Sea–Voice of America (blog) -‎12 hours ago‎

USS John C Stennis Battle Group USS John C Stennis Battle Group

The U.S. just sent a carrier strike group to confront China–NavyTimes.com‎ -4 hours ago

For Policing South China Sea, US Wants India As Buddy Cop–NDTV‎ – 20 hours ago

No Indo-US naval patrol in South China Sea, defence ministry says–3 weeks ago