Afghanistan: Democracy with the flavor of narcotics

Posted on May 26, 2015

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Submitted by TwoCircles.net on 24 May 2015 – 9:32pm

By Dr Mohammad Nazrul Bari and Milad Alimoradian,

Afghanistan has been the core of exhaustive research and analysis. This great landlocked country with an excellent ancient history has seen lots of difficult and different situations, especially in the last century; it suffered massively from several external and internal issues such as political, sociological, religious, etc. However, by looking at the internal issues we see that it’s linked to external interventions, which are not proliferating and productive for the country. This simply means that the external elements created the major devastating issues in the country: exploitation in all various forms can be seen as one of the main issues.

Due to the unique tangible and intangible sources of Afghanistan, the political merchants always had their eyes on this land and tried their best to exploit its society by all means. However, one of the greatest essential elements that has been missed in the political system and culture of this country is democracy.

There is no doubt that democracy is an essential element for the present society and contemporary world-order. Without democracy the system will lead to a closed dark era in which a number of civil rights will be sacrificed by the ruling power, and the social and public welfares will be replaced by personal agendas and motives. However, the question is how should democracy be implemented in a political system that was far away from it? How should it adjust with traditions, customs and norms of the society? Does the use of force make it a liberal country without giving birth to any other internal issue? Or should it be achieved, step by step, through a social process? An analysis of all these concerns needs more space and research. Considering its limitations, this article focuses on the trade of narcotics in the hurdles in the way of democracy in Afghanistan before and after the invasion by the US forces.

Resilient Afghans come out in large number despite Taliban threats

A man being frisked by security force outside a polling booth in Kabul on April 5, 2014 Presidential Election. Courtesy: Aaquib Khan

The 9/11 was a land mark in the history of the United States of America. In fact, it initiated a new era in the world history. Since that time the doctrine of Bush (former US President) became the agenda of foreign policy of USA all over the world. According to this policy, the United State has a right to defend itself against countries that harbour or give aid to the terrorist groups.

The first target of the US became Afghanistan because it was under Taliban rule and, more significantly, al-Qaida had sufficient backup from them. Statistically, at the time of attack, the al-Qaida had only 200 active and trained jihadists. Thanks to CIA, now most of the Islamic terrorists groups are named al-Qaida or associated to al-Qaida. This scenario has three reasons: first, the one way journalism policy of the west in which the news corporation follows only one dimensional lead; second, the socio-cultural thinking of western individuals; and the last, the framing and marketing of foreign policy of western politics that became a strategy in the political structure of policy making of the West.

For example, what the world faced during the Cold War before 1991 is a structure of ideologies and world-views of the Communists threatening the West. As a result, it became the main enemy of the West, but, later on, it was replaced by the menace of Islamic fundamentalism.

However, when the Taliban gets defeated within few days, the call for democracy becomes the agenda for development of Afghanistan as US did in the past and doing it in the West Asia. After the elapse of 14 years, still the concept of democracy is grappling with complex and inhumane issues for the civil-rights of the citizens of the country.

The recent Presidential election in Afghanistan took too much time, and in second ballot, Abdullah didn’t accept the result of election and declared the election a coup. Finally, both opponents came together for a resolution that resulted as a new form of practical bureaucratic system in which Abdullah will act as a semi kind of Prime Minister known as Chief Executive Officer. From another point-of-view, it took a long time for the president,Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai to introduce his cabinet to the Parliament. All these facts show the internal difficulties for the new government in the way of democracy.

Narcotics are one of the beneficial businesses all over the world. Opium as the mother of drugs and ancient types of narcotics has been introduced by the invasion of Alexander to minor Asia. For the first time, it was cultivated in Mesopotamia and later on brought to Egypt and from Egypt to Cyprus and from there came to Asia Minor by Alexander. Now in present day, Afghanistan is the major producer of opium not only in minor Asia but all over the world.

Taliban banned the cultivation of opium but the post-Taliban era gave a new opportunity to the people of this region to cultivate injurious drugs. Fortunately or unfortunately, under the internal chaos of the country, they would be able to produce more and more. One of the reasons for cultivation of opium is that it doesn’t need much water or care. It’s easy to cultivate and always has good market. According to the UN report of 2012, Afghanistan, the biggest producer, produced 74% of the total opium of the world. According to Din Mohammad Mobarez Rashidi, Minister of Counter Narcotics, drug mafia’s benefit is USD 80 billion each year, of which only USD 1 billion goes to the farmers. The so called Prophet of democracy, the United States spends USD 7.5 billion against narcotics in Afghanistan.

According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), cultivated fields of Opium poppy (Papaver Somniferum) cultivation takes up 2,09,000 hectares (516,230 acres) of land in Afghanistan, a 36% increase since 2012. About 1.3 million Afghan adults were regular drug users in 2012, which is 1 million additional to the data of 2009; the regular opium users grew to 2,30,000 in 2009 from the 1,30,000 in 2005. Another fact is the population of Afghanistan is just under 32 million. Helmand and Kandahar provinces are major producers of opium in Afghanistan. In other words, Afghanistan produces 75% of the world’s opium. According to the inspector, the reason of this massive growth in production is due to the withdrawal plan of American forces from the region. In consequence, the drug lords have safe and secure lands for their business.

However, it has another face, and the statement of the inspector has been criticized by others.

According to Le Monde magazine, there is indirect cooperation between the American forces and these drug mafias in recent years. Further Le Monde writes that drug mafia and US army are using the Taliban forces for the protection of their business lines.

The majority of American forces have left the country by the end of 2014, and this act shows the reluctant motivation of Americans in countering narcotics way. The continuous growth of narcotics shows that the Americans are not able to control these phenomena despite expending billions of dollars. Drug mafia produced 5,500 tons opium in 2013 but only 41,000 of this scale has been captured by the anti-narcotics forces.

The prevailing corruptions and loss of the sensibility of righteousness at the high level have brought down the country into a deep-state. The National Officials have closed their eyes on the activity of drug lords by receiving bribes from them. They don’t share their intelligence with counter narcotics forces and therefore it slows the process. On the other hand, there are reluctant feelings between Americans and local forces for collaboration in this regards. The scenario gets worse when most of the drug mafias are officials in the government of Afghanistan. Therefore, even Americans turn away, because first of all they supported Hamid Karzai government and now the present one. Moreover, it’s not directly related to anti-terrorism agenda. According to Thomas Schweich, the Ex U S State Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, almost all political parties’ hands are dirty in this trade. The benefit of this trade created a situation in which both the government and the Taliban are involved, and reluctance of the government in counter narcotics actions is a proof for this involvement.

For example, on October 28, 2010 agents of Russia’s Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics joined Afghans and Americans anti-drug forces in an operation to destroy a major drug production site near Jalalabad. In the operation 932 kilograms of high quality heroin and 156 kilograms of opium, with a street value of US$ 250 million, and a large amount of technical equipment were seized. This was the first anti-drug operation to include Russian agents. According to Viktor Ivanov, Director of Russia’s Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics, this marks an advance in relations between Moscow and Washington. Conversely, the statement of Afghan President Hamid Karzai shows another tendency. He called the operation a violation of Afghan sovereignty and international law.

The West and its allies should be more honest in their efforts to make Afghanistan as war free zone in south Asia without getting involved in the profit of opium trade. True democracy can only be established when the people of Afghanistan start thinking above the selfish and self-centric approach.

Dr Mohammad Nazrul Bari is associated with Department of History, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Central University of Karnataka, Kalaburagi, India (He can be reached at: albari31@rediffmail.com)

Milad Alimoradian is an expert in international relation and national security, Iran (He can be reached at: milad.alimoradian@gmail.com)

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