Stopping Opium Production Can Stop War In Afghanistan Politics
When we look at the situation in Afghanistan it's hard not to wonder how USA and its allies still can't win after nine years of war. On the one side we have USA and NATO countries with powerful economies and great military capabilities. On the other side are Talibans in devastated Afghanistan with weak, almost non-existing, economy. In this situation it would be logical to expect quick victory of USA. However, if we look closer we can see that Talibans have capabilities to stay in the game and resist western powers. The money for supporting Talibans mainly comes from opium production and drug trade. So if USA and its allies succeed to stop the opium production and drug trade it would mean that Talibans don't have capabilities for fighting the war anymore. The main idea is to eradicate opium production and in that weaken Talibans and force them to cease the fire.
Current Afghan government already understood the importance of the eradication of opium production so they created the National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS). The key goal of this strategy is "to secure a sustainable decrease in cultivation, production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs with a view to complete and sustainable elimination. In working towards this, the Government will focus its efforts on four national priorities in order to make the most sustainable impact on the trade in the near term." (NDCS, January 2006). Their focus is on the following actions:
- Disrupting the drugs trade by targeting traffickers and their backers;
- Strengthening and diversifying legal rural livelihoods;
- Reducing the demand for illicit drugs and treatment of problem drug users; and
- Developing state institutions at the central and provincial level vital to the delivery of our CN strategy.
This is good for the beginning of the war on the opium production and drug trade. However, the whole idea is just part of broader concept of eight pillars of drug policy. Those pillars/ objectives are:
1. Public Awareness 5. Institution-building
2. Demand Reduction 6. Alternative Livelihoods
3. Law Enforcement 7. Eradication
4. Criminal Justice 8. International & Regional Cooperation
United States and international community in general should strongly and without any reserve support efforts of the Afghan government to accomplish these objectives because they are the roots of elimination of drug production and trade and Taliban funding respectively. Not only that these steps will reduce or even eradicate drug production but they will also help establishing some institutions and a "healthy society" which is valuable for lawless bleeding Afghanistan. We have to understand that these eight steps are the beginning of strongest strike against Talibans and foundations of future better Afghanistan.
President Obama announced gradual withdrawal in the summer of 2011. Yet he sent additional troops to Afghanistan. This is not contradicting at all but rather logical and smart move. At this point all allies should put additional effort for the last strike and gradual building of Afghan institutions which will set the basis for the long term stability and prosperity. Withdrawal of the troops doesn't necessarily has to start in 2011, but at that time strong evidences of implementation of the above stated eight steps and the results of those have to be seen. USA has to support Afghan government and to help them gain the trust of citizens and achieve satisfying results in drug control. It is a duty of Afghanis and their government to create a better and safer society. If international community does that instead of them, peace and prosperity will not reach long term. International presence in Afghanistan cannot be eternal thus foreigners shouldn't let the foundation of peace be built on them but on Afghani. Allies just have to support and train Afghani for making the last strike and starting a new peace.
In order to better understand proposed eight counter drug steps we have first to see the history of illicit drug production and trade in Afghanistan. Opium has been cultivated in Afghanistan for centuries but it was not until the 'Saur Revolution', the ensuing Soviet invasion and the emergence of the anti-Soviet resistance, the Mujahedeen, that opium cultivation increased dramatically. For most of the 1980s, the Mujahedeen groups fought an effective war against Soviet forces. Much of the countryside became a battle zone. The fighting destroyed the irrigation systems, mined the pastures, leveled the cities, cratered the roads, blasted the schools, while the various factions arrested, tortured, killed, and expelled the skilled and educated people. Half of all farms were abandoned, and there was a 70% decline in livestock. Cereal production per capita fell 45 % from 1978 to 2000.  In total, one-fifth of the population was forced to flee abroad. The war also led to a complete collapse of state institutions, particularly in the countryside.
Throughout the Soviet occupation, farmers began relying on opium cultivation - especially in remote and mountainous regions - as part of their subsistence strategies. Opium poppy provided farmers a relatively secure and substantial cash income. Opium generally offers higher returns than any other crop. The poppy is also relatively weather resistant. Whereas legitimate crops cannot be sustained without storage, marketing and transportation facilities, opium can be stored with minimal risk of perishing, is easy to transport, and can be traded throughout the year, making it an ideal saving deposit for farmers. There is a relatively short time of six months between planting and harvesting, which means that farmers can plant a second crop in the same season. Lastly, opium serves as a source of credit where a formal financial system does not exist. As the Soviet withdrawal did not lead to a lasting peace - or a re-establishment of state authority and economic normalization - farmers continued the practice of cultivating opium to survive. War-induced suffering and dramatization of the population, the break-down of social and cultural values, the vulnerability of people in refugee camps, and the easy availability of illicit drugs led to an increase in consumption of drugs like opium and heroin.
The dynamic, which led farmers to cultivate opium throughout the Soviet occupation, remained the same under the Taliban. Between 1992 and 1995 Afghanistan produced 2200-2400 metric tons every year. The drug money paid for arms, ammunition, soldiers' salaries, fuel, food etc.  In 2001, the Taliban officially declared opium cultivation illegal. But while cultivation was banned, the regime did not attempt to ban the processing or trafficking of existing stocks, taxation of which was a more important source of revenue for the regime and the traders who supported them. The defeat of the Taliban, and the beginning of Afghanistan's transition saw a considerable rise in opium cultivation. This was caused by a number of factors. First, opium cultivation was, at this stage, entrenched in the livelihood strategies of farmers, communities and itinerant laborers. Second, the ban on cultivation devastated the livelihoods of many farmers and laborers, and thus increased pressure to cultivate again, including in order to repay opium-related debt. In addition, the ban had raised opium prices and thus encouraged further cultivation. Third, increased availability of wheat and the subsequent reductions in wheat prices meant that opium cultivation was even more lucrative than usual. Finally, cultivation was expedited because the fall of the Taliban regime coincided with the planting season. In the absence of any Government authority from October 2001 until the establishment of the Transitional Authority in 2002, farmers could plant their fields freely and traffickers could ply their trade openly. Following the loss of government and institutional authority opium production increased in Helmand, Nangarhar and Badakhshan. On the other side since three years ago, when law enforcement and security have been gradually improved, in North-eastern provinces production of opium fell drastically.  This implies that implementation of eight-step plan gives results and should be continued.
Public awareness is the first step that has to be taken in the fight against the opium production and trade. Campaigns have to be organized in order to inform and educate various segments of the society, from farmers to public officials. The purpose is to educate, deter and dissuade the population from involvement in illicit cultivation of opium and drug trade.  The government has to increase its capacities to conduct awareness-raising campaigns all around the country. In this aspect USA and allies can help a lot financially and logistically. Campaign has to be intensive especially before and during the poppy planting time so it could maximize its effect by preventing cultivation of opium. Special attention has to be given to farmers and young people. Farmers are those who grow poppy today but young people are those who we should educate not to grow it in the future. Here, media has a great role. All, Afghan and international media have to put joint effort and to spread the information about the consequences of illicit drug production and trade. According to the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics 35 million dollars had been spent on public awareness campaigns so far. Financing these campaigns should be continued because they are starting point for drug-free Afghanistan which again leads to the end our primary concern- financing Talibans.
Increased public awareness leads to the next step- demand reduction. It comes more as a consequence of the previous step but certainly specific attention and additional effort have to be invested here in order to get desired results. First, domestic demand has to be reduced. That can be achieved with increased propaganda against the drug use. Adaptations for this issue have to be made in education so the anti-drug campaign is present in different spheres of life. Also, existing facilities for treatment of drug-addicts have to be improved and new ones built. In this way domestic demand could be somewhat reduced, but the full effect of reduced demand will be seen after implementing some of other steps as well.
Not only domestic, but also international demand is high for drugs from Afghanistan. It even represents higher problem than domestic one itself. However, improved law enforcement should reduce cross-border drug trade. It's projected by Ministry of Counter-Narcotics that for improvement in this area will be spent $624.59 million. If all that money would be used wisely border police, customs policy and the Ministry of Interior in general would have far greater capabilities to prevent export of drugs. This will potentially discourage the drug trafficking and reduce profit which Talibans use to finance the war.
Law enforcement cannot be efficient and serve its purpose without good criminal justice. The objective is to establish efficient and independent criminal justice institutions which will support law enforcement. There is a strong need for this in order to prosecute, convict and imprison offenders. At first international community should build up these institutions and control them along with Afghans. At the same time Afghans should be trained and educated how to use judicial system effectively in fight against drug trade, corruption, violating human right and other offences. This step is crucial for other ones to be successful and it deserves special attention from the international community for longer period of time.
If judicial system functions efficiently the ground is ready for establishing strong governmental institutions which will guarantee implementation of CN  policy nationwide. We are talking here about local, provincial and central level of institutionalism. These institutions are mainly necessary for Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Counter Drugs because these two are the axis of the fight against illicit drug production and trafficking. Strong institutionalism will help Afghanistan to enforce law, governmental policies and coordinate work of different ministries in order to get the best results and set the base for stable and functional Afghan state which could function in future without the help of international community.
It's hard to eradicate all poppy production because approximately 52% of Afghanistan's GDP is from illicit drug production and trafficking.  It would be hard strike for finances not only of Talibans but civilians, too. So USA and its allies have to strengthen and diversify 'alternative livelihoods' that free farmers and other rural workers from dependence on opium cultivation and encourages growth of the licit economy. Agriculture and small businesses have to be fostered on the first place. A lot of farmers wouldn't switch from the poppy to wheat or fruit production. However, by the time many farmers realized that licit economy is healthier and better on the long term. Condition for this is stability and security. In the Northern provinces where peace is reached poppy production is low and in some places almost eradicated. At this point development bank has a great role with micro loans especially for agriculture and the livestock. In this way economy will gradually move to licit which means more taxes paid and stronger institutions. However, there will be farmers who will refuse to stop poppy production. This is the main concern in the Southern provinces where Talibans have the strongest support. Here steps have to be necessarily switched in order and some of them to be implemented simultaneously. Because of refusal to stop production of poppy, eradication will take place immediately with strong law enforcement and offer for switching to licit economy subsidized from international community. Few years ago, when the price of wheat was low, a lot of farmers switched to poppy production. Today, the price of wheat is 50% higher than in previous period which gives hope that with micro loans agriculture in Afghanistan could be revived. It would be good if Western countries (at least for some period of time) would buy wheat from Afghanistan and in that way increase demand and strengthen Afghan agriculture and economy. In this way more farmers would be encouraged to do grow wheat of fruits instead of poppy. As a result we would have legal economy with taxes collected by government where wouldn't be much space for production and trade of drugs and financing Talibans.
After the previous six steps were taken the time had come for final battle on opium production-Eradication. This means that Afghani and international forces should put joint effort to target and eradicate opium production and in that way destroy the main source of Taliban funding. At this moment USA and allies could and should send additional forces for the final battle with weaken Talibans. If all steps are taken correctly those troops wouldn't have to stay in Afghanistan more than three months for the final battle. Then, depending on the strength of Afghanistan's institutions, international forces could start to gradually withdraw.
The last but not the least important step is international and regional cooperation. Afghanistan has to improve cross-border cooperation with neighboring countries and work more on suppression of illicit drug trade. This is the final step which has to be long lasting in order to support work accomplished by previous ones.
The war in Afghanistan has to be approached differently than it is now. Its important to see the roots and to eradicate them. Only fighting Talibans is not sustainable solution which will give promising results. Although USA and allies advanced in the war, Talibans are still strong thanks to the illicit drug production and trade. International community has to take eight steps proposed by Afghanistan government and to support them strongly in implementation of those. Only in that way Talibans' capability for staying in the war could be destroyed and USA and allies would have a lot easier job to finish fighting weak Talibans in couple of months. Not only that this eight pillar plan would lead to destruction of Taliban capabilities, but to creating a foundation for stable Afghanistan in the future.
Article name: Stopping Opium Production Can Stop War In Afghanistan Politics essay, research paper, dissertation