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Commentary by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein
| Friday, Jul 12, 2013
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

As the United States prepares to wind down military operations in Afghanistan, we must not withdraw support for one of the most critical efforts to ensure security and stability in the region: the decade-long effort to curtail the Afghan drug trade.

Very little product from the Afghan drug trade, namely heroin, is actually consumed in the United States. The majority of heroin consumed here originates in Mexico and Colombia.

So why does the cultivation of poppy – the plant used to produce heroin – in a faraway land matter? Simply put, the illicit drug trade in Afghanistan finances terrorist activities of the Taliban.

The Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, of which I am chairman, released a report in July 2010 on Afghanistan arguing the Taliban’s financial involvement in the drug trade poses a threat to our national security.

Sadly, the drug trade makes up a significant portion of the Afghan economy, and much of that money trickles down to the Taliban. The United Nations estimated the Taliban earned approximately $100 million from the drug trade in 2011 alone.

The Taliban collects this money by taxing farmers, bazaar shopkeepers and drug traffickers transporting heroin out of Afghanistan, in turn providing protection to these traffickers.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, drugs and bribery are estimated to be the largest income generators in the country, accounting for $2.8 billion and $3.9 billion a year, respectively. That’s approximately one-fifth of the nation’s GDP.

U.S. government data show a 57 percent increase in Afghan poppy cultivated for heroin–from 115,000 hectares in 2011 to 180,000 hectares in 2012. The labor-intensive process of harvesting poppy employs approximately 1.8 million Afghans per year.

The United States and our allies have had some success in curbing drug trafficking in Afghanistan.

With the support of the United States and international donors, the Afghan government implemented the successful Helmand Food Zone program. This program has helped reduce poppy cultivation in that province by eradicating poppy crops, providing alternative crops to farmers, supporting local drug demand reduction efforts and carrying out a robust public information campaign.

Since the program’s inception in 2008, poppy cultivation in the Helmand Food Zone area has been reduced by 66 percent.

Replication of the Helmand Food Zone program in other high poppy cultivation provinces must continue in order to strengthen Afghanistan’s economy and weaken the Taliban. But to succeed, these efforts require sustained international support to help Afghans secure domestic and international markets for alternative crops.

The United States must also continue to target, investigate and convict Afghan drug kingpins who finance terrorism.

A minimal U.S. military footprint will be essential to airlift highly vetted Afghan units to pursue these traffickers. These vetted units receive training and support from Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

Last year, following a DEA investigation, Afghan heroin kingpin Haji Bagcho was sentenced to life in prison in the United States on drug trafficking and narco-terrorism charges. In 2006 alone, Bagcho conducted heroin transactions worth more than $250 million and used a portion of his profits to provide cash and weapons to the Taliban.

As the Obama administration plans its military presence in the country, counternarcotics must not be relegated to the back burner.

The war against the Taliban is far from over, and a positive outcome for our 12-year investment in blood and treasure will increasingly depend on these critical counternarcotics efforts.

 

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s commentary originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

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5 Comments

  1. carey_chastain@msn.com says:

    Just destroy the crops period. Take away the afgan enconomy and let the place inplode. Get all US troops out of this god forsaken place and let the corupt afgan government die with the country.

    • malcolmkyle says:

      “In brief, Prohibition has not only failed to work the benefits that its proponents promised in 1917; it has brought in so many new evils that even the mob has turned against it. But do the Prohibitionists admit the fact frankly, and repudiate their original nonsense? They do not. On the contrary, they keep on demanding more and worse enforcement statutes — that is to say, more and worse devices for harassing and persecuting their opponents.

      The more obvious the failure becomes, the more shamelessly they exhibit their genuine motives. In plain words, what moves them is the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate, which is to say: upon everyone who is free from their barbarous theological superstitions, and is having a better time in the world than they are.

      They cannot stop the use of alcohol, nor even appreciably diminish it, but they can badger and annoy everyone who seeks to use it decently, and they can fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences, and they can get satisfaction thereby for the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy. And all this they can do with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.”

      —an extract from “Notes on Democracy” by Henry Louis Mencken, written in 1926, during alcohol prohibition, 1919-1933

  2. malcolmkyle says:

    Prohibitionism is intensely, rabidly, frantically, frenetically, hysterically anti-truth, anti-freedom, anti-public-health, anti-public-safety and anti-economy.

    An important feature of prohibitionism—which it closely shares with fascism—is totalitarianism. That means a police-state apparatus—widespread surveillance, arbitrary imprisonment or even murder of political opponents, mass-incarceration, torture, etc.

    Like despicable, playground bullies, prohibitionists are vicious one moment, then full of self-pity the next. They whine and whinge like lying, spoiled brats, claiming they just want to “save the little children,” but the moment they feel it safe to do so, they use brute force and savage brutality against those they claim to be defending.

    Prohibitionists actually believe they can transcend human nature and produce a better world. They allow only one doctrine, an impossible-to-obtain drug-free world. All forms of dissent, be they common-sense, scientific, constitutional or democratic, are simply ignored, and their proponents vehemently persecuted.

    During alcohol prohibition, from 1919 to 1933, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. While battling over turf, young men died on inner-city streets. Corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary went clean off the scale. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have been far more wisely allocated. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally, in 1929, the economy collapsed.

    Does that sound familiar?

  3. rscott says:

    Before we consider continuing support for our failed, yes failed, counternarcotics programs in places like Helmand province that produces some 30-40% of the world’s opium, yes this one province, we should put together an effective integrated counternarcotics program, something we have not had for the past 12 years. Opium poppy cultivation has increased for the past 3 years while , thanks to plant disease not our programs, opium production has decreased. While production has decreased in the “food zone” project region, cultivation has greatly expanded into previously desert areas of Helmand, thanks to deep well irrigation. And we have done virtually nothing to support the markets for some of the traditional cash crops in Helmand like cotton which was the second largest cash crop in the 1970s. The Brits built the first cotton gin in Lashkar Gah, still functioning, in 1965 and completed a second gin in Girishk in 1979, which we have since bombed, to try to keep up with the rapidly expanding cotton cultivation, which is still a major crop with several small privately owned gins as well as the initial one. There is a market for cotton and international prices have hit all time highs over the past 3-4 years…but we have done nothing to support the small but important (important for the farmers) cotton market in Helmand to at least attempt to compete with opium. The farmers prefer cotton to opium which they consider an evil crop but with a reliable and good market and an informal credit system all of which we have not competed. More details see my website: http://www.scottshelmandvalleyarchives.org.

  4. Matthew Cunningham says:

    Lady you are on the wrong side of History and it will not look kindly on the Morality police and the Prohibition Industry.

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