Occupation forces in Afghanistan supporting drug trade


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Heroin is "Good for Your Health": Occupation Forces support Afghan Narcotics 

Multibillion dollar earnings for organized crime and Western financial 

By Prof. Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, April 29, 2007

The occupation forces in Afghanistan are supporting the drug trade, which brings
between 120 and 194 billion dollars of revenues to organized crime, intelligence
agencies and Western financial institutions.

The proceeds of this lucrative multibllion dollar contraband are deposited in 
Western banks. Almost the totality of revenues accrue to corporate interests and
criminal syndicates outside Afghanistan.

The Golden Crescent drug trade, launched by the CIA in the early 1980s, 
continues to be protected by US intelligence, in liason with NATO occupation 
forces and the British military. In recent developments, British occupation 
forces have promoted opium cultivation through paid radio advertisements.

"A radio message broadcast across the province assured local farmers that the 
Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would not interfere with
poppy fields currently being harvested.

"Respected people of Helmand. The soldiers of ISAF and ANA do not destroy poppy 
fields," it said. "They know that many people of Afghanistan have no choice but 
to grow poppy. ISAF and the ANA do not want to stop people from earning their 
livelihoods." ( Quoted in The Guardian, 27 April 2007)

While the controversial opium ads have been casually dismissed as an unfortunate
mistake, there are indications that the opium economy is being promoted at the 
political level (including the British government of Tony Blair).

The Senlis Council, an international think tank specialising in security and 
policy issues is proposing the development of licit opium exports in 
Afghanistan, with a view to promoting the production of pharmaceutical 
pain-killers, such as morphine and codeine. According to the Senlis Council,  
"the poppies are needed and, if properly regulated, could provide a legal source
of income to impoverished Afghan farmers while, at the same time, depriving the 
drug lords and the Taliban of much of their income." (John Polanyi, Globe and 
Mail, 23 September 2006)

The Senlis Council offers an alternative where "regulated poppy production in 
Afghanistan" could be developed to produce needed painkillers. The Senlis 
statement, however, fails to address the existing structure of licit opium 
exports, which is characterised by oversupply .

The Senlis' campaign is part of the propaganda campaign. It has contrbuted to 
providing a false legitimacy to Afghanistan's opium economy. (See details of 
Senlis Project), which ultmately serves powerful vested interests.

How much opium acreage is required to supply the pharmaceutical industry? 
According to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which has a 
mandate to exame issues pertaining to the supply of and demand for opiates used 
for medical purposes, "the supply of such opiates has for years been at levels 
well in excess of global demand".(Asian Times, February 2006)  The INCB has 
recommended reducing the production of opiates due to oversupply.

At present, India is the largest exporter of licit opium, supplying 
approximately 50 percent of licit sales to pharmaceutical companies involved in 
the production of pain-killing drugs. Turkey is also a major producer of licit 

India's opium latex "is sold to licensed pharmaceutical and/or chemical 
manufacturing firms such as Mallinckrodt and Johnson & Johnson, under rules 
established by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the International 
Narcotics Control Board, which require an extensive paper trail." (Opium in 

The area allocated to licit State controlled opium cultivation in India is of 
the order of a modest 11,000 hectares, suggesting that the entire demand of the 
global pharmaceutical industry requires approximately 22,000 hectares of land 
allocated to poppy production. Opium for pharmaceutical use is not in short 
supply. The demand of the pharmaceutical industry is already met.

Soaring Afghan Opium Production

The United Nations has announced that opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has
soared. There was a  59% increase in areas under opium cultivation in 2006. 
Production of opium is estimated to have increased by 49% in relation to 2005.

The Western media in chorus blame the Taliban and the warlords. Western 
officials are said to believe that "the trade is controlled by 25 smugglers 
including three government ministers." (Guardian, op. cit).

Yet in a bitter irony, US military presence has served to restore rather than 
eradicate the drug trade. Opium production has increased 33 fold from 185 tons 
in 2001 under the Taliban to 6100 tons in 2006. Cultivated areas have increased 
21 fold since the 2001 US-led invasion.

What the media reports fail to acknowledge is that the Taliban government was 
instrumental in 2000-2001 in implementing a successful drug eradication program,
with the support and collaboration of the UN.

Implemented 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 levels.

The 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 years).

Cultivation in 2006 reached a record 165,000 hectares compared with 104,000 in 
2005 and 7,606 in 2001 under the Taliban

Multibillion dollar trade

According to the UN, Afghanistan supplies in 2006 some 92 percent of the world's
supply of opium, which is used to make heroin.

The UN 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 
producing country.

(See also UNODC, The Opium Economy in Afghanistan,

http://www.unodc.org/pdf/publications/afg_opium_economy_www.pdf , Vienna, 2003, 
p. 7-8)


"Afghan 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).


Based 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.

Narcotics On the Streets of Western Europe

One 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 

The 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.

Based 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.

While 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 ratio).

Narcotics: Second to Oil and the Arms Trade

The foregoing estimates are consistent with the UN's assessment concerning the 
size and magnitude of the global drug trade.

The 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 billion.

(Douglas 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).

Based on 2003 figures, drug trafficking  constitutes "the third biggest global 
commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade." (The Independent, 29 
February 2004).

Afghanistan and Colombia (together with Bolivia and Peru) consitute 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 triangles.

The 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, one third of which is tied to the Golden Crescent opium 


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of 
the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on 

To become a Member of Global Research

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on 
community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The 
source and the author's copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global 
Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, 
contact: •••@••.•••

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not 
always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such 
material available to our readers under the provisions of "fair use" in an 
effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social 
issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who 
have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational 
purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than "fair 
use" you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: •••@••.•••

© Copyright Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2007

Posting archives: http://cyberjournal.org/show_archives/
Escaping the Matrix website: http://escapingthematrix.org/
cyberjournal website: http://cyberjournal.org

Community Democracy Framework: 

Subscribe cyberjournal list: •••@••.•••  (send blank message)

cyberjournal blog (join in): http://cyberjournal-rkm.blogspot.com/

Moderator: •••@••.•••  (comments welcome)