Monday, August 27, 2007

Microsoft is to the OS Market, as Afghanistan...

is to the Opium Market.

"We're going to show Mullah Gates a thing or two about market domination."

- Haji Bashir Noorzai, Afghan Drug Lord

According to the NY Times, Afghanistan increased its share of the opium market from 92% in 2006 to a current 93% so far in 2007.

"With increased bribery, slave labor and old fashioned intimidation tactics, we can get that number up to 95% by the end of 2008," boasted heroin kingpin Haji Baz Mohammed, "and up to 105% by 2011." When told that it was impossible to have more than 100% of any market share, Mohammed responded, "with the grace of Allah, anything is possible." Allah could not be reached for comment.

For years, Afghanistan has produced more opium than all other nations combined, so the 93% market share is actually not much more than their share in the mid 90's (when they had 80-85% share). But to put their production in perspective, Afghanistan produced 4,600 tons of opium in 1998 compared with the estimated 9,000 tons in 2007 (according to the NYT article linked above).

More highlights from the NYT article:
  • "The report is likely to spark renewed debate over an American-backed proposal for the aerial spraying of opium crops with herbicide. Afghan and British officials have opposed aerial spraying, saying it would increase support for the Taliban among farmers who fear the herbicide would poison them and their families."
  • "The report notes that no large increase in world demand for opium has occurred in recent years and that supply from Afghanistan “exceeds global demand by an enormous margin.” It said up to 3,300 tons of opium was being stockpiled in Afghanistan.

    Terrorist groups could be stockpiling the drug, the report warned. “Opium stockpiles, a notorious store of value, could once again be used to fund international terrorism,” it said."

Regarding the first point, I don't see why increasing support for the Taliban amongst farmers is an issue here. Farmers don't support the Taliban because they have a new national health plan and want to reduce government spending. They support the Taliban because AK-47's pointed at their families are pretty persuasive.

"Farmer support of the Taliban" isn't a real issue; it is a symptom of a more obvious issue - the existence of the Taliban. As long as they have power, they will have the "support" of those they can intimidate. If the postulation about the "opium bank" is true... it looks like they'll be in business for a long time.


Ryan said...

Damn tootin, Rollo. When you running for president? Or vice president? Or at least secret guy we put in charge of getting rid of our enemies?

You sum up well the sort of over-reliance we have on brains and sensitivity in our intelligence "community."

It's obvious that if we destroy the ability of farmers to make opium by spraying, and possibly (I imagine) to grow anything at all after that, then they'll suppor the taliban more. But like you said, with what? Their shaking fists?

All wars are punitive at some level. You obviously don't want to over-react, all morality aside for now, just because it will turn people against you over time. But you don't want that fear limiting real moves to make against your true enemies.

We dropped two massive bombs on Japan and whether or not that was the right move to make, we ended that freaking war in a week.

Wars have justification in their beginnings and ends (by winning), but seem to lose them in their endurance.

P.S. If we could only convince them to smoke their own opium, this would be a much easier problem.

Ryan said...

P.S. Hey Tom, what's up?