By resolution 42/112 of 7 December 1987, the UN General Assembly decided to observe 26 June as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as an expression of its determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse. The UN General Assembly is committed to developing awareness regarding the Illicit trafficking of narcotics.
Excerpted from Cruel Harvest: US Intervention in the Afghan Drug Trade (Pluto Press, 2013), by Julien Mercille.
As Obama proclaims that the US adventure in Afghanistan will draw to a close over the next couple years, we may look at the balance sheet with respect to one of the occupation’s alleged justifications: the fight against Afghan heroin. The outcome has been a total failure. In fact, whereas Afghanistan is sometimes referred to as the “graveyard of empires” because throughout history, big powers have attempted, unsuccessfully, to invade and control it, the country can already be labeled as the “garden of empire” because the US/NATO occupation has resulted in a drastic increase in drug production.
Opium production in Afghanistan skyrocketed from 185 tons to 8,200 tons between 2001 and 2007 (today it is down to 3,700 tons). Most commentary glosses over Washington’s large share of responsibility for this dramatic expansion while magnifying the Taliban’s role, which available data indicates is relatively minor. Also, identifying drugs as a main cause behind the growth of the insurgency absolves the United States and NATO of their own role in fomenting it: the very presence of foreign troops in the country as well as their destructive attacks on civilians are significant factors behind increases in popular support for, or tolerance of, the Taliban. In fact, as a recent UNODC report notes, reducing drug production would have only a “minimal impact on the insurgency’s strategic threat,” because the Taliban receive “significant funding from private donors all over the world,” a contribution that “dwarfs” drug money.
A UNODC report entitled Addiction, Crime and Insurgency: The Transnational Threat of Afghan Opium provides a good example of the conventional view of the Taliban’s role in drug trafficking.