Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From Drug War To Real War

Yes. The War On Drugs has turned into a shooting war. In fact it has been a shooting war for quite some time in Afghanistan. So how is that working out? Not well. Here is a bit from 2007 explaining what the DEA is doing in Afghanistan.

Working first with the D.E.A. and then with the State Department, Wankel helped create the Afghan Eradication Force, with troops of the Afghan National Police drawn from the Ministry of the Interior. Last year, an estimated four hundred thousand acres of opium poppies were planted in Afghanistan, a fifty-nine-per-cent increase over the previous year. Afghanistan now supplies more than ninety-two per cent of the world’s opium, the raw ingredient of heroin. More than half the country’s annual G.D.P., some $3.1 billion, is believed to come from the drug trade, and narcotics officials believe that part of the money is funding the Taliban insurgency.

Wankel was in Uruzgan to oversee a poppy-eradication campaign—the first major effort to disrupt the harvest in the province. He had brought with him a two-hundred-and-fifty-man A.E.F. contingent, including forty-odd contractors supplied by DynCorp, a Virginia-based private military company, which has a number of large U.S. government contracts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world. In Colombia, DynCorp helps implement the multibillion-dollar Plan Colombia, to eradicate coca. The A.E.F.’s armed convoy had taken three days to drive from Kabul, and had set up a base on a plateau above a deep wadi. With open land all around, it was a good spot to ward off attacks.

Much of Uruzgan is classified by the United Nations as “Extreme Risk / Hostile Environment.” The Taliban effectively controls four-fifths of the province, which, like the movement, is primarily Pashtun. Mullah Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader, was born and raised here, as were three other founders of the movement. The Taliban’s seizure of Tirin Kot, in the mid-nineties, was a key stepping stone in their march to Kabul, and their loss of the town in 2001 was a decisive moment in their fall. The Taliban have made a concerted comeback in the past two years; they are the de-facto authority in much of the Pashtun south and east, and have recently spread their violence to parts of the north as well. The debilitating and corrupting effects of the opium trade on the government of President Hamid Karzai is a significant factor in the Taliban’s revival.
A fifty nine per cent increase? I'd say the drug warriors were making their usual progress. Backwards. The more they fight the stronger their enemies become. Say, haven't I heard something like that before? I'm sure I have.

Let us get a slightly less pro DEA look at what is going on. Here is something from The Guardian in 2001. It is the story of a smuggler.
"The cars come back and forth. I just take it to Mazar and sell it on to the guys who come in cars from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. I do it twice a month," Zafir explains.

From there the contraband wends its way up into the Urals in Russia, takes a left turn, heads for Moscow and St Petersburg before being smuggled onward to western Europe - 90% of the heroin injected in Frankfurt, Barcelona or Edinburgh originates in Taliban Afghanistan.

"Our dear friends, the Taliban commanders, they take the stuff from Kandahar and Jalalabad to Kabul," says Zafir, an alias agreed to protect his identity. "We take it on to Mazar and to Kunduz."

For the past five years Zafir has been a bit-player in the lucrative rackets that make millionaires of Afghan warlords and keep the Taliban fighters in guns, food, and fuel. "I've been working in the heroin business since the Taliban seized Kabul [in 1996]."

Brown-haired, blue-eyed in a turban, pale pink tunic, and black trainers, Zafir sweats anxiously as he discloses the details of the Taliban's heroin trafficking after agreeing to meet at a quiet spot in the mountains north-west of Kabul.
So there it is. Opium growing and heroin smuggling are financing the Taliban. So what makes a pile of vegetables worth its weight in gold? Prohibition. Those DEA guys are economic and military geniuses. Did I mention that they managed to increase the area of poppy growth in Afghanistan by 59%? Yes I did.

OK it is not just America and the DEA. NATO is in on the act.
NATO is fighting a war to eradicate opium from Afghanistan. Allegedly, the goals this time around are different. According to the British government, Afghanistan's illicit drug trade poses the "gravest threat to the long term security, development, and effective governance of Afghanistan," particularly since the Taliban is believed to be the biggest beneficiary of drug sales. Convinced that this time they are doing the morally right thing, Western governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars bulldozing poppy fields, building up counternarcotics squads and financing alternative crops in Afghanistan. Chemical spraying may begin as early as this spring. But in retrospect, might history not judge this war to be every bit as destructive and wasteful as the original Opium Wars?

Of course it isn't fashionable right now to argue for any legal form of opiate cultivation. But look at the evidence. At the moment, Afghanistan's opium exports account for somewhere between one-third and two-thirds of the country's gross domestic product, depending on whose statistics you believe. The biggest producers are in the southern provinces where the Taliban is at its strongest, and no wonder: Every time a poppy field is destroyed, a poor person becomes poorer -- and more likely to support the Taliban against the Western forces who wrecked his crops. Yet little changes: The amount of land dedicated to poppy production grew last year by more than 60 percent, as The Post reported last month.
So by being a direct instrument of the destruction of people's livelihoods we are making enemies? Who would have guessed that? Why it goes completely counter to DEA logic. Keeping people from feeding their families is supposed to make friends. And they should be eternally grateful. What is wrong with those people? Don't they know Americans and Europeans are their friends? The ingrates.

It seems as if all this effort to recruit people for the Taliban has put the war in Afghanistan in dire straights. (cue up Money For Nothing)
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- A classified United States' review of its Afghanistan policies is likely to conclude the violence-torn country is in a dire situation, sources say.

With violence up 543 percent, opium poppy cultivation soaring and public support for U.S. intervention dwindling, unnamed sources told CNN Saturday the report's assessment of Afghanistan's future prospects will be grim.

The report, led by Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute of the U.S. National Security Council and including input from 24 government agencies, is expected conclude that even if U.S. President-elect Barack Obama follows through immediately on his campaign pledge to beef up American forces in Afghanistan, the moves will likely come too late to fight an expected spring offensive by Taliban insurgents, CNN said.
Well that is optimistic.

So does any one have any idea about what to do? Yes. Soldiers. British soldiers.
British military commanders in Afghanistan have privately condemned plans to use Helmand as the launch pad for Nato's controversial new anti-narcotics policy, The Independent has been told.

British forces have avoided getting involved in anti-drugs operations until now. They fear the new operation will create another tier of enemies, alongside the Taliban, among traffickers and poppy farmers. However, the recent Nato summit in Budapest agreed, on US insistence, to extend the Afghan mission to include attacking the narcotics trade.
Them Americans are brilliant. I'll bet they get their advice from the DEA. Did I mention that DEA efforts increased the acreage devoted to poppies by 59%?

So how about some more details about how things are going in Afghanistan.
The US and NATO military commanders who till recent were riding on a high horse have suddenly become pessimistic and some have given demoralising statements. It seems that they have begun to see the obtaining ground realities more objectively and have realised that victory through use of force is not possible. They have appreciated that the Afghan Taliban have become too formidable a force and cannot be defeated militarily.
And the spring offensive will start up soon after Obama takes office. And what was the one war Obama promised to win? Afghanistan. Heh. Heh. Heh. He picked the wrong war.

And what is one of the key elements in the failure? I'm sure you have heard this before. But just for the sake of repetition here goes.
Afghanistan has turned into a narcotics state, which is now producing about 90% of the world opium; besides others the Taliban are making good use of opium money to fund their insurgency.
How unexpected.

That is Afghanistan. How about a little closer to home? Mexico. It seems that Mexico is having a few drug problems too.
Mexico in some ways is the most worrying place in the Western hemisphere. A low-level civil war between the drug cartels and the federal government has been fought over the past two years, and the cartels are winning. Senior Mexican officials charged with suppression of the cartels have been moving their families quietly out of the country.
Wow. A narco state on our very own border. I wonder how the DEA never anticipated that. No doubt a failure of intelligence. Of the brains kind.

So what is the internal state of Mexico? It looks like there will soon be a civil war too keep the Mexicans occupied. That should be some fun.
More than 1,100 people have been slaughtered in a blood bath of drug-related violence in one city just south of the U.S.-Mexico border this year – that's nearly four victims each day – and some say it is just part of a large crisis that is will soon spill over the border.

"The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory for Americans who visit Mexico, citing Ciudad Juarez as a hotbed of criminal activity. A large Mexican metropolis in Chihuahua State bordering Texas, Juarez is Mexico's deadliest narcotics-war zone with two criminal gangs fighting for power – over city streets and drug-smuggling routes into the United States.

"The State Department is warning U.S. citizens of escalating crime along the border, stating that 1,600 cars were stolen in Juarez in July alone. Public shootouts, muggings, murders and bank robberies are rampant, and Mexican criminals harass U.S. travelers along border regions."

Cold blooded murder, public shoot outs, bank robberies, muggings, drug trafficking, and car thefts are common place in this cesspool.
Cue up Bob Dylan.

So how about a look at some of the recent violence? It is not pretty.
MEXICO CITY (AFP) — Twenty three died in attacks in northern Mexico in the past two days, officials said, as the United States warned its citizens to increase vigilance when traveling south of the border.

Twelve died in northwestern Baja California State, mostly in the volatile border city of Tijuana, and 11 were killed in Chihuahua, further east.

Border areas where rival drug cartels are battling over key routes into the United States are among the worst hit in escalating violence across Mexico this year in which almost 3,500 have died, including civilians.
And it only gets uglier.
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — A beheaded man was hung from an overpass Thursday, a gruesome display even for this northern border city long used to drug-related violence.

Shortly after the grisly sighting about 5 a.m., police found the victim's head in a black bag in a nearby plaza, said state police spokesman Alejandro Pariente.

Pariente said the body was wearing black jeans, a red T-shirt and white sneakers, and was handcuffed. A banner apparently directed at rival drug-gang members was hung next to the corpse.

The victim's father identified the 23-year-old man.

Elsewhere, masked men gunned down two police officers in a convenience store in Chihuahua City, the capital of Chihuahua state, where Juarez is located, said Eduardo Esparza, spokesman for the state attorney general's office. After the killing Wednesday evening, assailants left a toy pig next to the bodies. Two shoppers also were wounded.

On Tuesday, a man wearing a pig mask was found hung in a residence in Ciudad Juarez. Near the body was a message threatening to do the same to others. Police believe the message was from drug gangs.
Swell. Just swell.

There is only one way to win this. Surrender you fools. The Drug War is going to destroy America if you don't. End Drug Prohibition Now. Any chance of that? No. Obama used cocaine and pot as a youth. Who would listen to an ex-druggie? The only way he could do anything is if the call to end it was bipartisan. I rate the odds of that as slim and none. Or maybe slimmer than none. We love our prohibitions in America. Besides don't criminals deserve to earn a living too? According to current policy: Yes They Do.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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