Afghan drugs trade rises dramatically since overthrow of Taliban

The record level of opium cultivation creates multiple challenges for Afghanistan, according to the UN. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2018
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Afghan drugs trade rises dramatically since overthrow of Taliban

KABUL: By giving levy to the Taliban and bribing the very government forces tasked to destroy the bloom of his poppy fields, Sanaullah for years has been planting poppy, which is refined into opium and then into heroin.
He is one of the thousands of farmers who have turned to this industry, which has earned Afghanistan global notoriety, and which strangely has been on the rise since US-led troops overthrew the Taliban government despite the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars and a campaign of eradication.
“We are doing this because of extreme destitution. The Taliban come and take their share as tax and we also pay tip money to police and others in the government,” the farmer who operates in the southern region told Arab News.
“There is a big market for this in the region and the world, with local and foreign mafia making a big fortune out of this and even bankrolling the war here,” the 56-year-old said, requesting not to reveal the province where he lives for security reasons.
He has witnessed days in the initial years after the fall of the Taliban when foreign and government forces conducted raids to destroy poppy fields, even causing casualties on both sides. But farmers resumed cultivation.
Some commanders within the government and warlords have been profiting from the trade for years as well as the Taliban, according to locals.
There have been allegations among Afghans, even some government officials, that foreign troops are also involved in the trafficking, that how they are funding the war in Afghanistan and that demand is increasing in the international market.
In Kabul, an official who works at the special tribunal for sentencing drug dealers claimed that neither the government nor the foreign troops are “serious” at this stage about the annihilation of drugs or arresting key figures involved in the trafficking of narcotics.
“Hundreds of people have been arrested over the years on suspicion of drug-smuggling, but have you ever heard of or seen any major dealer being arrested?. They are only after small fish to show to the world that they are fighting the drugs menace,” he told Arab News.
Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst, told Arab News he has heard from farmers in the south that a new type of opium seed has come to Afghanistan that can produce multiple harvests in a year.
This week a survey for last year’s opium harvest of Afghanistan conducted by various Afghan institutions and UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) was released.
It showed an increase of 63 percent in 2017, to an estimated 328,000 hectares.
“The majority (60 percent) of opium poppy cultivation took place in the southern region of the country. The western region accounted for 17 percent of total cultivation; the northern for 13 percent and the eastern for 7 percent,” the survey said.
The remaining regions (northeastern and central) together accounted for 3 percent. The report also highlighted an increase of 87 percent in opium production, i.e. 9,000 tons from its 2016 level (4,800 tons).
Deputy Minister for Counter-Narcotics Jawed Qaem, described the illicit drugs trade as a devastating catastrophe for Afghanistan and the world, and closely interlinked with international terrorism.
He said: “Global demand for drugs is the core driver of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan; additional factors include the huge involvement of international precursor traffickers and their strong ties with the mafia in transporting the precursors into Afghanistan to convert opium to heroin.”
He added that the Taliban profited from the trade, and it was a major source for funding the insurgency.
The value of the trade of drugs has jumped to $6.6 billion last year compared to less than $3 billion in past years, he said.
Both the government and UNODC said they will keep on their campaign against drugs.


ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

Updated 21 November 2018
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ASEAN may be forced to choose between US, China: Cambodia PM’s son

  • Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia
  • The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia

BANGKOK: Southeast Asian nations may soon have to “choose sides” between the US and China in their ongoing trade war, the political heir to Cambodia’s strongman ruler Hun Sen warned Wednesday in rare public comments.
Impoverished Cambodia has become an unlikely staging ground for geopolitical influence in Asia.
In recent years it has turned into a key China ally, heading off criticism of the superpower over its claims to disputed seas in exchange for billions of dollars in investment and loans.
While China has cozied up to Cambodia, the United States and the European Union have admonished Hun Sen, the nation’s ruler for 33 years, for his increasingly authoritarian rule.
In a rare speech outside of his country, his son, Hun Many warned the US-China trade spat may create lasting divisions in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“Perhaps one day ASEAN would have to choose between US or China,” Hun Many said in Bangkok.
“How would we see the trade war spill or expanded in other areas? Surely it will pressure individual members of ASEAN or ASEAN as a whole to choose sides.”
The economic ripples of the trade spat between China and the US could destabilize global supply chain links in Southeast Asia, while a slump in Chinese spending would impact its trading partners.
Cambodia’s strongman Hun Sen has welcomed Chinese investment to pump-prime his country’s economy.
At the same time, he has accused the US of trying to foment revolution in Cambodia by supporting his critics.
Both the US and EU decried the July elections, which were held without a credible opposition and gave Hun Sen another term in power.
When asked which of the superpowers Cambodia would side with, the Australian-educated Hun Many demurred.
“At the end of the day, it depends on those who are involved to take a more responsible approach for their decisions that affects the entire world,” he said.
Earlier this week, Hun Sen swatted away concerns that Beijing will construct a naval base off the southwest coast of Cambodia, which would provide ready access to the disputed South China Sea.
Beijing claims most of the flashpoint area, infuriating the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan who all have competing claims to its islands and potentially resource-rich waters.
Hun Many, who described himself as a “proud son,” is widely believed to be in the running to one day replace his father.
His elder brother, Manit, is the head of a military intelligence unit while Manet, the oldest, was promoted in September to the chief of joint staff of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces as well as the commander of the infantry army headquarters.
But Many brushed aside the notion.
“It is way too soon to say that I am in the next generation of leaders,” he said.