above, for articles in
Who benefits from the Afghan Opium
United Nations has announced that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has
soared and is expected to increase by 59% in 2006. The production of opium is
estimated to have increased by 49% in relation to
Western media in chorus blame the Taliban and the warlords. The Bush
administration is said to be committed to curbing the Afghan drug trade: "The US
is the main backer of a huge drive to rid Afghanistan of opium...
a bitter irony, US military presence has served to restore rather than eradicate
the drug trade.
the reports fail to acknowledge is that the Taliban government was instrumental
in implementing a successful drug eradication program, with the support and
collaboration of the UN.
in 2000-2001, the Taliban's drug eradication program led to a 94 percent decline
in opium cultivation. In 2001, according to UN figures, opium production had
fallen to 185 tons. Immediately following the October 2001 US led invasion,
production increased dramatically, regaining its historical
Vienna based UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that the 2006 harvest will
be of the order of 6,100 tonnes, 33 times its production levels in 2001 under
the Taliban government (3200 % increase in 5
in 2006 reached a record 165,000 hectares compared with 104,000 in 2005 and
7,606 in 2001 under the Taliban (See table below).
to the UN, Afghanistan supplies in 2006 some 92 percent of the world's supply of
opium, which is used to make heroin.
estimates that for 2006, the contribution of the drug trade to the Afghan
economy is of the order of 2.7 billion. What it fails to mention is the fact
that more than 95 percent of the revenues generated by this lucrative contraband
accrues to business syndicates, organized crime and banking and financial
institutions. A very small percentage accrues to farmers and traders in the
also UNODC, The Opium Economy in Afghanistan,
, Vienna, 2003, p. 7-8)
heroin sells on the international narcotics market for 100 times the price
farmers get for their opium right out of the field".(US State Department quoted
by the Voice of America (VOA), 27 February 2004).
on wholesale and retail prices in Western markets, the earnings generated by the
Afghan drug trade are colossal. In July 2006, street prices in Britain for
heroin were of the order of Pound Sterling 54, or $102 a gram.
On the Streets of Western Europe
kilo of opium produces approximately 100 grams of (pure) heroin. 6100 tons of
opium allows the production of 1220 tons of heroin with a 50 percent purity
average purity of retailed heroin can vary. It is on average 36%. In Britain,
the purity is rarely in excess of 50 percent, while in the US it can be of the
order of 50-60 percent.
on the structure of British retail prices for heroin, the total proceeds of the
Afghan heroin trade would be of the order of 124.4 billion dollars, assuming a
50 percent purity ratio. Assuming an average purity ratio of 36 percent and the
average British price, the cash value of Afghan heroin sales would be of the
order of 194.4 billion dollars.
these figures do not constitute precise estimates, they nonetheless convey
the sheer magnitude of this multibillion dollar narcotics trade out of
Afghanistan. Based on the first figure which provides a conservative estimate,
the cash value of these sales, once they reach Western retail markets are in
excess of 120 billion dollars a year.(See
also our detailed estimates for 2003 in The
Spoils of War: Afghanistan's Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade, by Michel
Chossudovsky, The UNODC estimates the average retail price of heroin for
2004 to be of the order of $157 per gram, based on the average purity
Second to Oil and the Arms Trade
foregoing estimates are consistent with the UN's assessment concerning the size
and magnitude of the global drug trade.
Afghan trade in opiates (92 percent of total World production of opiates)
constitutes a large share of the worldwide annual turnover of narcotics, which
was estimated by the United Nations to be of the order of $400-500
Keh, Drug Money in a Changing World, Technical document No. 4, 1998, Vienna
UNDCP, p. 4. See also United Nations Drug Control Program, Report of the
International Narcotics Control Board for 1999, E/INCB/1999/1 United Nations,
Vienna 1999, p. 49-51, and Richard Lapper, UN Fears Growth of Heroin Trade,
Financial Times, 24 February 2000).
on 2003 figures, drug trafficking constitutes "the third biggest global
commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade." (The Independent, 29
and Colombia are the largest drug producing economies in the world, which feed a
flourishing criminal economy. These countries are heavily militarized. The drug
trade is protected. Amply documented the CIA has played a central role in the
development of both the Latin American and Asian drug
IMF estimated global money laundering to be between 590 billion and 1.5 trillion
dollars a year, representing 2-5 percent of global GDP. (Asian Banker, 15 August
2003). A large share of global money laundering as estimated by the IMF is
linked to the trade in narcotics.
Business and Illicit Trade are Intertwined
are powerful business and financial interests behind narcotics. From this
standpoint, geopolitical and military control over the drug routes is as
strategic as oil and oil pipelines.
the above figures including those on money laundering, confirm that the bulk of
the revenues associated with the global trade in narcotics are not
appropriated by terrorist groups and warlords, as suggested by the UNODC report.
In the case of Afghanistan, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates
that a mere 2.7 billion accrues as revenue within Afghanistan. According
to the US State department "Afghanistan drug profits support the Taliban and
their terrorism efforts against the United States, its allies and the Afghan
government." (statement, the House Appropriations foreign operations, export
financing and related programs subcommittee. September 12,
what distinguishes narcotics from legal commodity trade is that narcotics
constitutes a major source of wealth formation not only for organized crime but
also for the US intelligence apparatus, which increasingly constitutes a
powerful actor in the spheres of finance and banking. This relationship has been
documented by several studies including the writings of Alfred McCoy. (Drug
Fallout: the CIA's Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The
Progressive, 1 August 1997).
other words, intelligence agencies, powerful business, drug traders and
organized crime are competing for the strategic control over the heroin routes.
A large share of this multi-billion dollar revenues of narcotics are deposited
in the Western banking system. Most of the large international banks together
with their affiliates in the offshore banking havens launder large amounts of
trade can only prosper if the main actors involved in narcotics have "political
friends in high places." Legal and illegal undertakings are increasingly
intertwined, the dividing line between "businesspeople" and criminals is
blurred. In turn, the relationship among criminals, politicians and members of
the intelligence establishment has tainted the structures of the state and the
role of its institutions including the Military.
Spoils of War: Afghanistan's Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade, by Michel
Chossudovsky, July 2005
Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan
Michel Chossudovsky is the
author of the international best seller America’s "War on Terrorism" Global Research,
2005. He is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of
the Center for Research on Globalization.
order Chossudovsky's book America's "War
on Terrorism", click here
article was originally published at www.globalresearch.ca It
is herein reprinted with the author's permission.
Copyright Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2007
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