Saturday, December 17, 2011

Time for the US to stop fighting Europe's and Asia's drug war

The time has come for an update to the controversial post on opium production in Afghanistan as it relates to coalition casualties.

As a baseline let's start with the following chart from the latest Associated Press database, showing US combat casualties by month for the entire Iraq war.  The chart is fairly evenly distributed except for April which saw high casualties from the battle of Fallujah and Najaf in April 2004.
The next chart shows the same statistics for the Afghan war since 2005 - the year when we saw first significant casualties in Afghanistan.  We clearly see a peak in the summer, particularly during August.

As one can see from the next chart, there is no one particular battle or encounter that can explain this spike. It is in fact a very "seasonal" effect which does NOT exist in the Iraq data.

Source: Wikipedia
So why the summer months? Does the Taliban really become more anti-Western during summer?  The answer has to do with opium production.  In the summer Taliban and other opportunists move in from Pakistan and even Iran to work with the local farmers planting opium poppy, and then harvesting and transporting raw opium.  That's when the violence begins.

The war in Afghanistan is not about Muslim extremists.  The Taliban is more concerned with power and revenue than killing Westerners.

DEA agents have been shipped to Afghanistan in droves since 2009 and recently a hearing was held in Congress about turning more power to the DEA after the troops start pulling out (whenever that happens).  The DEA in Afghanistan?

Here are some basic and extremely troubling facts:
Wikipedia: Based on UNODC data, there has been more opium poppy cultivation in each of the past four growing seasons (2004–2007) than in any one year during Taliban rule. Also, more land is now used for opium in Afghanistan than for coca cultivation in Latin America. In 2007, 92% of the non-pharmaceutical-grade opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan. This amounts to an export value of about $4 billion, with a quarter being earned by opium farmers and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords, drug traffickers. ... In addition to opiates, Afghanistan is also the largest producer of hashish in the world.
What's ironic is the bulk of opium/heroin produced in Afghanistan is headed for Europe and Asia, not the US.  Much of the US heroin actually comes from Mexico.  Perhaps it's time to stop having the US pay in lives and billions of dollars to fight a drug war on behalf of wealthy nations of Europe and Asia who (except for the UK and some Russians) have little or no military/drug enforcement presence in that troubled nation.
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