Afghanistan

Taliban versus ISIS in Afghan opium wars

Posted on November 2nd, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

AfghanistanIn a "worrying reversal" for global anti-drug efforts, the latest annual report from the United Nations Office for Drug and Crime (UNODC) finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 43% over the past year—with a total estimated yeild of 4,800 tons compared to 3,300 tons in 2015, The area under poppy cultivation increased 10% according to the report—clocking in at 201,000 hectares (496,681 acres), up from 183,000 hectares (452,200 acres). Simultaneously, there was a 91% decrease in eradication across the country—with no eradication reported at all in the top producing provinces. "It is very disturbing to see a considerable increase in poppy cultivation in the north which may be linked with a deteriorating security situation in the region," said Andrey Avetisyan, UNODC's chief in Afghanistan, at an Oct. 23 Kabul press conference.

Scorpion-smoking: latest Pakistani craze

Posted on April 18th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , .

PakistanDon't try this one at home. A grimly fascinating report in Pakistan's Dawn newspaper April 15 features an interview with an aging scorpion-venom addict in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, near the border with Afghanistan. Sohbat Khan, 74, says he has been smoking scorpions to get high off the venom since the '60s, and only recently managed to kick the habit—by switching to opium. "Drugs are beaten by other drugs," he sadly told a reporter, speaking in his native Pashto. The stuff sppears be highly addictive, and when Khan could not find scorpions in his village, he would travel to Peshawar, the regional capital, to buy them in the market. The piece does not make clear if the scorpion trade is officially tolerated by authorities.

US anti-opium effort in Afghanistan: total failure

Posted on April 11th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Afghanistan John F. Sopko, the Pentagon's Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, gave a sobering assessment last week of the situation in the country 15 years after the fall of the Taliban. Corruption is endemic and security practically non-existent. More than 700 schools have been closed in recent months due to the ongoing insurgency. And despite at least $7 billion in counter-narcotics spending, opium production hit 3,300 tons in 2015—exactly the same level it was in 2001 when the US invaded.

Afghanistan: Taliban drive to re-take opium heartland

Posted on January 2nd, 2016 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

opiatesAs the new year opened, the Taliban pushed deeper the Sangin district of Afghanistan's Helmand province, with the Afghan army struggling to retake territory newly won by the insurgents. Kabul has sent reinforcements, but as AP reported Dec. 29, police are refusing to return to the streets even of those areas the army has supposedly secured. According to Karim Atal, director of the Helmand provincial council, security forces are for now staying inside their base in Sangin district. And this isn't just another district in Afghanistan's rugged hinterlands. Sangin is a key opium-producing district in Helmand—itself both the heartland of the Taliban insurgency and Afghan poppy cultivation. It is also straegically localted on a corridor connecting Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, to the province's northern districts. So, as the BBC News states: "Regaining full control of Sangin would increase the Taliban's mobility in the north of the province and cut a key supply line for Afghan forces with Lashkar Gah. Sangin is also a rich opium production centre—meaning potential tax revenue for the Taliban from the drugs trade."

UN sees decline in Afghan opium: Pyrrhic victory?

Posted on October 23rd, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , .

opiatesOpium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan decreased 19% in 2015, compared to the previous year, according to the latest Afghanistan Opium Survey figures released Oct. 14 by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The area under poppy cultivation in 2015 is estimated to be 183,000 hectares, compared with 224,000 in 2014. This marks the first time the area under cultivation has decreased since 2009. Indeed, in 2014 and 2013, record-breaking highs in opium production were reported. "I hope the survey will serve to inform policies and efforts to build on these hard-won achievements," said UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov. He added that sustaining progress "depends on the resolve of the Afghan Government, and on the international community, which must devote the needed resources and make a long-term commitment to addressing a threat that imperils all our societies."

ISIS exploits opium backlash to gain Afghan foothold

Posted on June 30th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

AfghanistanFighters loyal to ISIS have seized substantial territory in Afghanistan, according to an ominous Reuters report June 29. Witnesses who fled fighting in Nangarhar province told reporters that hundreds of ISIS fighters in convoys of pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns seized several villages—and put local opium fields to the torch. "They burned poppy fields in Shadal village and banned shops from selling cigarettes," said tribal elder Malek Jan. Taxing opium production is a key source of Taliban revenue, but Reuters reports that ISIS loyalists in Nangarhar appeared to have other sources of money. Witnesses said they had plenty of cash. It is unclear where the money is coming from, but it frees ISIS to stigmatize the Taliban as soft on drugs.

Cannabis stigma used against ex-POW

Posted on June 22nd, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Bowe BergdahlFew people have had a more precipitous fall from glory to villainy than Bowe Bergdahl, the US solider held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan from June 2009 until he was released in exchange for five Guantánamo detainees in a deal brokered by President Obama in May 2014. He received a hero's welcome back in hometown Hailey, Idaho, which was festooned with yellow ribbons. Then the Republicans got their marching orders: the deal was to be portrayed as an Obama capitulation to the Taliban—and suddenly the former patriotic hero became a hot potato. In no time, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly was charging that "he may have even collaborated with the enemy." The New York Times in an editorial last year, "The Rush to Demonize Sgt. Bergdahl," noted that Republican lawmakers went so far as to delete tweets and website statements welcoming him home after the Bergdahl-bashing party line congealed. By March of this year, when the Army actually brought charges against him, right-wing NewsMax was taunting that Bergdahl is a "traitor" and "deserter" who deserves "death."

Pakistan Coast Guard scores record-breaking hash haul

Posted on May 15th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

PakistanPakistan's Coast Guard on May 5 announced the seizure of more than three tons of hashish in a raid of an oil tanker bound for the Middle East, news agencies AFP and Reuters reported. The tanker was intercepted on a tip after it set sail from Pakistan's port of Karachi. Three crew members who hailed from the southwestern province of Baluchistan were arrested. Guardsmen used power-tools to pry open a secret chamber where the stash was hidden. Major Zafar Ahmed said the haul was the biggest ever scored in the history of the Coast Guard. He said the stash would have been worth some $50 million in the Middle Eastern countries where it was bound.

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