Showing posts with label drugs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drugs. Show all posts

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Hitting the Drug Labs in Helmand

The Afghan security forces launched a major offensive against drug traffickers and their opium refining laboratories this past week. The large-scale operation appears to have started on Monday, November 20th. It involved the U.S. as well - especially in the form of air strikes. The reasoning behind hitting the drug labs was to target the revenue streams of insurgents.

Airstrikes. In a press conference held on Tuesday by General Nicholson it was revealed that various types of aircraft were used to include B-52 bombers and F-22 Raptors. In addition, the Afghan Air Force (AAF) participated with air strikes utilizing their A-29 Super Tucanos. The airstrikes targeted production facilities rather than poppy farmers. Three of the strikes were in Kajaki district, four in Musa Qalah district, and one in Sangin district. The new U.S. authorities in Afghanistan provided by the Trump administration has allowed the U.S. to increase the number of airstrikes as well as widen the situations in which airstrikes can be employed. The B-52s and F-22s likely flew from air bases in the Middle East (UAE?).

ISR Assets. Nicholson also reported that a large number of ISR assets (drones) were used to develop targeting data. Some of the airstrikes were weeks in the planning phase.

Opium Production is Up. The production of opium has increased in Afghanistan by 87%. This figure is being reported by the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the latest Afghanistan Opium Survey.

Read more in "U.S., Afghan Forces Target Taliban Drug Labs, Hit 'Where it Hurts'", DoD Media Activity, November 20, 2017.

See also "Afghanistan's opium production is through the roof - why Washington shouldn't overreact", by Vanda-Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institute, November 21, 2017.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

UN Report on Drug Cultivation in Afghanistan

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has issued a new report about drugs in Afghanistan dated October 2016. Contributors to the report include Afghan organizations to include the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics, UNODC (Kabul), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The news is far from good. Most of the drug activities in Helmand province is controlled by the Taliban; but government officials are also implicated. You can read the 12-page executive summary (bulk of report due out in November 2016) in "Afghanistan: Opium Survey 2016: Cultivation and Production".

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Opium . . . and Agriculture

Opium Makes a Comeback. 2015 say a 19 percent decrease in opium production in Afghanistan due (not to government eradication efforts) fungus and weevils. However, 2016 is projected to be a more successful year for the poppy growers. Read more in "Opium bounces back, enriching Taliban and Afghan officials"IRIN, March 4, 2016.

Poppy Production Examined. Catherine Putz dissects poppy growth in Afghanistan in "Is Poppy Production Really Down in Afghanistan?"The Diplomat, March 4, 2016.

Bamyan Agricultural Area Struggles. Making a living in Afghanistan in agriculture is problematic. The security issues, varying climate, and harsh sparse growing areas all contribute to 'hit or miss' seasons with growing crops. Learn how one valley in Bamyan province is coping with the assistance of the Conservation Organization for Afghanistan Mountains (COAM) in "Preserving a Pristine Landscape in Bamyan"United Nations Development Programme, August 2015.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Drug Trafficking in Afghanistan

Opium, Corruption, and Govt: A Smoothly Run Machine. Most government functions in Afghanistan simply do not work well. Whether it is the military, health services, police, education, or any other aspect of Afghan government at the national, provincial, and district level - there are problems with corruption, ineptness, and more. However, there is one aspect of Afghan society that seems to work well - that is the joining of government officials, drug traffickers, and others in ensuring that the opium gets to market - providing income and profits to many. Read more in "Tasked With Combating Opium, Afghan Officials Profit From It"The New York Times, February 15, 2016.

Taliban as a Drug Cartel. Recently the Taliban 'shadow governor' of Nimruz province (adjacent to the troubled Helmand province) was captured by Afghan special police (444) transporting nearly a metric ton of opium across the southwestern Afghan desert. The event highlights how much the Taliban and drug trade are intertwined in southwest Afghanistan. Read more in a news report by Azam Ahmed entitled "Penetrating Every Stage of Afghan Opium Chain, Taliban Become a Cartel", The New York Times, February 16, 2016.

Legalize Opium? One writer, Jeffrey Miron, shares his thoughts on the opium trade in "Opium Prohibition in Afghanistan", CATO Institute, February 16, 2016.

Drugs in Nangarhar. This province has historically been one of the more important ones - with a road that travels from Pakistan to Kabul (east-west). However, it has lots of problems with security. The Taliban are present as well as the newly-established Islamic State. And, of course, there is the drug problem. Read The Devil is in the Details: Nangarhar's continued decline into insurgency, violence and widespread drug production, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), February 2016.

Islamic Terrorism & Drug Money. The Taliban is not the only organization using drug money to finance operations. The Islamic State or ISIS depends heavily on drug money to fund its operations as well. Read more in "There's a little-known connection between Islamic terrorism and drug money", Business Insider, February 17, 2016.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Opium & Drug Addiction in Afghanistan

Camp Phoenix - Now Drug Rehab Center. Afghanistan has a serious drug addiction problem. Many of its addicts go to Kabul to seek cheap drugs and employment. They often find themselves living under the city's bridges over the Kabul River. In an effort to held drug addicts (and also to remove the public eyesore of addicts along the river bank) the Afghans have converted Camp Phoenix (located on the outskirts of Kabul on the Jalalabad Road) to a drug rehabilitation center where addicts receive medical assistance, meals, and a bed to sleep in. Read more in "From Under Kabul's Briges, Addicts Get Help at Old U.S. Base"The New York Times, January 10, 2016.

Cultural History of Opium. Over the last few decades Afghanistan has become the largest opium producer in the world. However, its early beginnings are found to be from outside Afghanistan. Read more in "On the Cultural History of Opium - and how poppy came to Afghanistan"Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), January 11, 2016.

Afghan War News Snippets

Flying the Flag. Troops overseas are counseled about flying the U.S. flag in combat zones. Typically, the directives state that the flag should only be flown alongside partner nations (Iraq, Afghanistan, NATO countries, etc.). However, sometimes units operating at small fire bases or on patrols have trouble containing their patriotism. During a recent battle in Helmand province a Special Forces detachment took time out to briefly fly the American flag on top of a building. The SF team had suffered one death and two wounded during an intense firefight engagement with the Taliban. Read more on this topic in "This patriotic photo of Green Berets in Afghanistan is circulating after this week's deadly attack", by Dan Lamothe, The Washington Post, January 8, 2016.

Canadian Hostage Released by Taliban? A Canadian has been freed from captivity in Afghanistan after being taken hostage by the Taliban five years ago. Read more in "Canadian freed five years after Taliban kidnapping", Yahoo! News, January 11, 2016.

SACEUR Visit to Kabul. The Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) recently visited Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul and met with senior RS officers. See "SACEUR visits HQ RS", January 11, 2016.

Russia and TAPI. The gas pipeline that will (hopefully) run from Turkmenistan to India (crossing Afghanistan) is proceeding in its construction. The completion of TAPI is certainly not in Russia's interests and it is proposing several alternatives. Read "Russia and the TAPI Pipeline", The Jamestown Foundation, December 18, 2015.

Russia Supplying Wpns to Afg? More and more news reports say that Russia will possibly start providing weapons to Afghanistan. Russia is concerned about the increasing instability of Afghanistan and the possibility that jihadist groups will turn their eyes northward from Afghanistan towards the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Read more in "Russia to Supply Small Arms to Afghanistan", Associated Press, January 13, 2016.

MoH Recipient Interview. Captain (Ret) Flo Groberg received the Medal of Honor for his actions in saving fellow servicemen during an attack in February 2012. Read an interview by Mike Kelvington posted on The Havoc Journal, January 15, 2016.

Doctors Absent from Rural Areas. Medical centres tend to be concentrated in urban areas, leaving villagers little access to care. Read more in "More Doctors Needed in Afghan Districts", Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR), January 2016.

New Book - "The Lovers". Rod Nordland, an author and correspondent for The New York Times, has wrote a book about a young Afghan couple who risked everything for love. Read more about the book at Harper Collins Publishers.

RS HQs Video. This 1-minute long video posted by Resolute Support HQs provides a brief explanation of the "Train, Advise, and Assist" mission of NATO in Afghanistan.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Afghan War News Snippets

$43 Million Gas Station Built by DoD in Afghanistan. The Task Force for Stability and Business Operations (TFBSO) built a compressed natural gas (CNG) automobile filling station in Sheberghan, Afghanistan (capital city of Jowzjan province). A similar CNG station in Pakistan costs about $500 thousand. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) wants the DoD to explain the price differential - but DoD says they don't have an explanation. Hmmmm. Read the SIGAR report at the following link.

6 Costly Failures. Joe Perticone tells us about six very expensive projects that didn't quite work out in our efforts to rebuild Afghanistan. (Independent Journal, Nov 4, 2015).

Earthquake Update. Afghanistan was recently hit by a major earthquake - affecting Badakhshan, Nangarhar, Baghlan, and Kunar provinces. Read an update on the Afghanistan earthquake by Humanitarian Response on November 3, 2015. See report by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - "Concern mounts as winter sets in across quake-affected regions".

Louie Palu's Kandahar Journals. Photojournalist Louie Palu spent five years covering the war in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010. A new documentary film entitled Kandahar Journals will premier in November 2015. Photos from the film are available for viewing here. (The Atlantic, Nov 3, 2015).

Tevor Coult's First into Sangin. A book detailing the story of a forgotten platoon and band of men who were the first British Soldiers to occupy 'the House' in Sangin District at the start of the Herrick Campaign. Read a PR release on the book here.

A "Fobbit" Writes about Life on a FOB. Some Soldiers experienced combat on a daily basis in Afghansitan; some 'not so much'. Read "How Forward Operating Bases Created the Illusion of War in Iraq and Afghanistan", The Angry Staff Officer, November 3, 2015.

Solar Power & Afghan Electricity Crisis. Some folks are saying that solar power in Afghanistan can help rescue the economic crisis and electric power shortage. Read more in "Can Solar Power Make Light Work of Afghanistan's Electricity Crisis?", Equal Times, November 5, 2015.

Cdr at Kerala Massacre Arrested. Dutch authorities have arrested the commander of an elite government (444) Army unit of the Afghan communist regime that committed a horrendous massacre of Afghan civilians in Kunar province in April 1979 (over 36 years ago). Read more in a report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN).

Iran, Afghan Refugees, and Syria. Iran, with the aim of helping its ally - the Syrian regime - is sending Afghan refugees to fight in the conflict. Read more in "Afghan refugees in Iran being sent to fight and die for Assad in Syria", The Guardian, November 5, 2015.

Finland Reviews Afghan Asylum Claims. Finland has announced that it has suspended its decision-making process for Afghan Asylum claims due to an ongoing assessment of the security situation in the country. (Reuters, Nov 4, 2015).

German Interpreter Tells his Story. An interpreter worked for the German military in Afghanistan until the Taliban threatened his life. He managed to leave for Germany but his family had to stay behind. Read "Afghan interpreter torn between worlds", Deutsche Welle, November 5, 2015.

Deployed Troops and Beer Drinking. Times have changed and so has the Army. Women in combat units, gays allowed to serve openly, and . . . sadly . . . long tours in a combat zone with no beer. It wasn't always that way and some of the older contractors serving on bases like Bagram probably remember finer days when "Soldiers Worked Hard and Played Hard". I, for one, am disappointed in the senior leadership of today's Army in regards to the non-drinking policy. I am not the only one - Jim Webb, Vietnam Vet and one-time candidate for President, has chided the U.S. military on its non-drinking policy. Read more about the good old days in "Flat Tops: Canned Beer and Vietnam", War on the Rocks, October 30, 2015.

MREs to Get Better? The Meal Ready to Eat or MRE (sometimes called Meals Rarely Edible) has been around for over 35 years. The next generation of meals is being developed at the Natick Research Center outside of Boston, Massachusetts (presumably there are smart people in the Boston area who have superior culinary abilities). Pizza is on the way! (10 News Tampa Bay, Nov 2, 2015).

Buying More Counterfire Radars. The Army is buying more AN/TPQ-53 counterfire target acquisition radars from Lockheed Martin. (C4ISR & Networks, Oct 26, 2015).

Contractor Firms Benefit from Decision to Stay. President Obama's recent decision to keep the level of troops constant for the new year or two will certainly benefit contracting firms. (AllGov, Nov 2, 2015).

Canadian Defence Minister Afghan Vet. The new Defence Minister has Afghan war time experience and brings a cultural twist to the position. Read "New Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan proved mettle in Afghanistan", The Globe and Mail, November 5, 2015.

Family Planning. Clerics face death threats for promoting family planning in a country where one in 50 women dies of causes related to pregnancy. Read more "Condoms and conflict: imams defy Taliban to spread contraception", The Guardian, November 4, 2015.

"Cabal of Corruption at Bagram Air Base". A story of drugs, prostitutes, and illegal activities provides a side of Bagram that many never see. Learn more about the underground life at BAF. (Courthouse News Service, 3 Nov 2015).

"Black Widows" Arrive at Bagram. Airmen of the 421st Fighter Squadron (F-16s) have arrived at Bagram Airfield to support Operation Freedom's Sentinel and NATO's Resolute Support mission. Upon completion of this deployment the squadron will shift to the new J-35 jet aircraft. Ouch! (U.S. Air Force, Nov 2, 2015).

Advising - It's a Cultural Thing. A senior intelligence officer and air intelligence advisor for the 438th Expeditionary Advisory Group relates his experiences to us during his time from October 2013 to December 2014 working as a air advisor to the Afghan Air Force (AAF). Read (and listen) to Lt. Col. James Fielder in "Cultural Gaps Cause Problems in U.S.-Afghan Military Ops", Iowa Public Radio, November 3, 2015.

AAF Lacking C-130 Flight Engineers. It takes more than 18 months to train up a C-130 flight engineer. Currently the AAF has four C-130s but only one flight engineer. Looks like we put the cart (airplanes) before the horse (personnel). Read more in "Lack of trained staff means long hours for Afghan air force engineer", Reuters, November 4, 2015.

Drug War in Afghanistan. The State Department is still without a new plan to fight drug trafficking in Afghanistan. Although successfully combating opium could be a key to victory in Afghanistan the U.S. is still without a strategy.(U.S. News & World Report, Oct 27, 2015).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Afghan Drug War

A recent news report says that attempts to eradicate opium in Afghanistan merely helped the Taliban. The article contends that more than $12 billion was spent on the anti-drug effort and that the anti-drug program attained counterproductive results. Read more in Abigail Hall's article entitled "The Drug War Failed in Afghanistan Too", U.S. New & World Report, July 20, 2015.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Springtime in a "Failed State"

It is springtime in Afghanistan - which means a lot of things - but to the U.S. military stationed in that country it means the start of another fighting season. This fighting season will be a big test for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as there is a reduced number of Coalition troops in country (12,000?) and many of those are "train and advise" troops, staff, or support - not combat units. In addition, the Coalition airpower in country is a lot less than previous years. To many Afghans springtime is also the start of another 'poppy season'. This, of course, is a constant reminder of the U.S. inability to stem the growth of opium and transit of the drug to the Russian, European, and Middle East markets. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has recently published a series of reports on the efforts in Afghanistan and the contents are rather troubling. Gary Owen provides us a glimpse of the reports in "Phantom Troops, Taliban Fighting, and Wasted Money - It's Springtime in Afghanistan", Vice News, April 29, 2015.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Stop Illicit Drugs - Follow the Money

Despite the investment of over $8 billion by the United States to try and combat the drug trade in Afghanistan - drug trafficking is at an all-time high. Afghan farmers are producing more opium than ever before. The sale of the drugs produces money that must be laundered so it can appear legitimate. Read about anti-laundering efforts and recommendations on how to improve those efforts in "To Stem the Flow of Illicit Drugs from Afghanistan, Follow the Money"American Progress, March 17, 2015.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

UN Report - Taliban and Drugs

A recent report for the United Nations Security Council states that the Taliban are now engaging more and more in drug trafficking and criminal activities. According to the report there is a new "scale and depth" to the Taliban's integration with criminal networks. Read more in "Afghan Taliban now smuggle drugs and gems like mafia: U.N. report", Reuters, February 11, 2015.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Article - "The Narco-State of Afghanistan"

Najibullah Gulabzoi writes about the nexus between drug trafficking in Afghanistan and the country's national security in "The Narco-State of Afghanistan", The Diplomat, February 12, 2015.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Drug Abuse in Afghanistan

A news article provides background information on the huge drug addiction problem in Afghanistan. High unemployment, drugs that are easily available, and other factors contribute to the high rate of addiction. Read more in "Drug abuse proliferates, ravages Afghanistan", Trib Live, January 10, 2015.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Corruption - Drug Kingpin Goes Free

Afghanistan's judicial system is a farce. We are once again confronted with another example of how corrupt the Afghan police and judicial system is with the news that a leading opium trafficker has been released from prison. Haji Lal Jan Ishaqzai has been on the U.S. kingpin list but is now free - having been released. He has fled to Pakistan. His high-profile prosecution by Afghan authorities had been trumpeted by ISAF as proof that the Afghan judicial system was working. Not so much. Mr. Ishaqzai bribed his way out of prison - paying off a cross-section of people in the criminal justice system with millions of dollars. Read more in "Bribery Frees a Drug Kingpin in Afghanistan, Where Cash Often Overrules Justice", The New York Times, December 31, 2014.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Afghanistan's Neighbors Worried about Drugs

Most experts would agree on the statement that the Western war on drugs in Afghanistan has been a failure. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) in 2014 Afghanistan had the largest opium harvest in history. Afghanistan's regional neighbors and countries beyond are clearly worried. Read more in "Afghanistan's Thriving Drug Trade Worries Neighbours"Silk Road Reporters, December 15, 2014.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Making of a Narco State

In 2014 Afghanistan produced 90% of the world's supply of opium. The drug trade is an integral part of Afghanistan's economy and the corruption goes up to the highest of levels within the police, military, and government. Read more in "Afghanistan: The Making of a Narco State", Rolling Stone, by Matthieu Aikins, December 4, 2014.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Opium - A Binding Aspect of Afghanistan

The fight against the drug trade in Afghanistan, although expensive, has been futile. The opium economy undercuts progress in security, rule of law, and the economy. 90 % of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan. More than a million Afghans are drug dependent. Almost all aspects of Afghan society is complicit in the drug trade to include government, police, and the army. Read more in "Opium: Tragic tie that binds Afghanistan's government, Taliban, warlords and people", World Tribune,  November 30, 2014.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pomegranates Not Poppies

An entrepreneur from the United Kingdom is on a mission to replace poppy cultivation with pomegranates. It appears that his program is having some success in Kandahar and has attracted the backing of some influential personalities. He has set up a charity called Plant for Peace. Read more in a news report (November 29, 2014) in Scotland Now.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Video - "Redeeming Afghan Addicts"

A short (5 mins) video about the drug addicts in Afghanistan entitled "Redeeming Afghan addicts", posted by NATO Channel on YouTube, November 19, 2014. Reported by Jeff Holden and Samim Zalmi from Kabul.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Afghan Drug War Futile

A columnist examines the history of the drug war in Afghanistan and concludes that billions of dollars were spent with no progress in combating the drug trade. He suggests that the U.S. stop wasting money in a futile effort and concentrate on vital U.S. national interests instead; at the same time developing more effective anti-drug policies. Read more in "End the International Drug War to Control the Afghan Narco-State", The Huffington Post, November 15, 2014.