Poppies! Poppies! Poppies!
Over at Salon, Alfred McCoy gets to the heart of Afghanistan’s success:
To understand the Afghan War, one basic point must be grasped: In poor nations with weak state services, agriculture is the foundation for all politics, binding villagers to the government or warlords or rebels. The ultimate aim of counterinsurgency strategy is always to establish the state’s authority. When the economy is illicit and by definition beyond government control, this task becomes monumental. If the insurgents capture that illicit economy, as the Taliban have done, then the task becomes little short of insurmountable.
Opium is an illegal drug, but Afghanistan’s poppy crop is still grounded in networks of social trust that tie people together at each step in the chain of production. Crop loans are necessary for planting, labor exchange for harvesting, stability for marketing, and security for shipment. So dominant and problematic is the opium economy in Afghanistan today that a question Washington has avoided for the past nine years must be asked: Can anyone pacify a full-blown narco-state?
The answer to this critical question lies in the history of the three Afghan wars in which Washington has been involved over the past 30 years — the CIA covert warfare of the 1980s, the civil war of the 1990s (fueled at its start by $900 million in CIA funding), and since 2001, the U.S. invasion, occupation and counterinsurgency campaigns. In each of these conflicts, Washington has tolerated drug trafficking by its Afghan allies as the price of military success — a policy of benign neglect that has helped make Afghanistan today the world’s No. 1 narco-state.
But do we Americans get a thank you? Nooooooo.
Speaking of Afghanistan, Ted Rall wants to go back there and risk his neck in the service of truth, justice and contrarianism. You can help him at Kickstarter. He’s pretty close to his fundraising goal, but every little bit helps in assuring that he can get there — and come back.