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Government of warlords or government of the poppy

Eqtedar-e Melli (in Dari) via Afghaiyat , via Paul Greening | 24.07.2004 14:08 | Analysis | Anti-militarism | Culture | Oxford

Kabul - Forces loyal to the commander of Army Corps No 7, Gen Atta Mohammad, attacked the police headquarters of the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif last week and took control of it.


This attack was launched after the police chief of Balkh Province, Gen Khakrezwal, accused Gen Atta Mohammad of involvement in the trafficking of illegal drugs. Gen Khakrezwal himself was accused of involvement in trafficking of illegal drugs by the head of the anti- narcotics department of Mazar-e Sharif, who is loyal to Gen Atta Mohammad.

Northern areas of the country have constantly been witnessing armed conflicts over the past three years between local commanders and commanders or officials stationed in those provinces by the central government in Kabul. Although the latest development is not very different in nature from the previous incidents, it is of importance from one aspect, that is, inimical sides openly accused each other of involvement in the trafficking of illegal drugs for the first time. Earlier, experts had said the main reason behind differences, rivalries and armed conflicts in the northern areas of the country were efforts by local commanders to take control of the economic resources of those areas, especially production and trafficking of illegal drugs. The reason for the armed conflicts in Fariab Province were also said to be over control of illegal drugs and allocation of the money made through this business.

In addition to the northern areas, rivalries over trafficking of illegal drugs have always existed between local commanders in the east and south of the country, which are the main places in the country where poppy is grown. Some have even said that the assassination of the former vice-president and minister of public works, Hajji Abdol Qadir, was motivated by a similar cause. According to the reports published in the media, commanders in most areas force farmers to pay them to grow poppy and buy all their plants and then sell the poppy harvest to international drug rings. Local commanders thus make the real money out of this business.

There is no doubt that poppy cultivation has increased many times over since the last year of the Taleban administration and, according to reports, Afghanistan alone produces 75 per cent of the world's opium.

At present, poppy cultivation, illegal drug production and drug trafficking constitute one of the main challenges our country faces, to the extent that it threatens our security. However, what raises further concern is the fact that a number of local warlords who evade the orders of the central government and the government opposition forces who work within the structures of the Taleban and Al-Qa'idah have resorted to poppy cultivation and drug production, a reality that gives new political, security and economic dimensions to the evil problem of illegal drugs. Many examples can be given to support this claim. Incidents in Fariab and Mazar-e Sharif, some bloody events in Daikondi and Urozgan and other incidents have all stemmed from this issue. In addition, some time ago a senior Taleban official said that his group would allocate millions of dollars to disrupt the security situation in the country. It can be said with confidence that the greatest chunk of this money will come from the bank balances of Saudi millionaire Usamah bin Ladin or possibly from the assistance of our southern neighbouring country through the business of illegal drugs.

The fact of the matter is that dominant groups in different parts of the country are continuously making efforts to expand their domains of influence. It is, therefore, evident that accomplishing such desires demands a heavy budget and economic support. On the other hand, by taking a look at the developments over the past recent years it can be inferred that the flow of money they have received from different countries in the past under different names and excuses, including the fight against terrorism and Al-Qa'idah, has now stopped completely or has been reduced greatly. Therefore, these groups are now trying to find new legitimate and illegitimate sources of income and evidently big! amounts of money made through the business of illegal drugs is not something that these persons would fail to see.

Therefore, we can observe that, after the fall of the Taleban regime, poppy cultivation has not decreased, contrary to slogans and efforts aimed at eliminating it, but has increased considerably. Some areas of the country such as Takhar, Badakhshan, Samangan, Jowzjan, Bamian, Daikondi and Urozgan where poppy could not be found before have become the main places where poppy is cultivated.

Reports and remarks by a number of relevant government leaders confirm the claim that most local commanders are involved in drug production and trafficking. The director of the anti-narcotics department, Mirwais Yasini, openly admitted in an interview with the BBC after the tripartite meeting of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran that a number of local commanders and government officials, including security personnel, are involved in drug trafficking. The interior minister, Ali Ahmad Jalali, confirmed this in his interview and expressed his concerns about it..

On the basis of these remarks and of reports published in the Western media, there is no room for doubt that dominant commanders in the north, east and south of the country are controlling the main illegal drug mafia networks. Their armed forces and control over different areas have made it possible for them to engage in the drug business and strengthen their forces by further mobilizing them, to strengthen their grip in their areas and challenge the central government. They can do all this boldly without being noticed by the central government.

Therefore, it can be concluded that there is a direct and bilateral relationship between increasing insecurity, violence and evasion of the central government and local armed conflicts on the one hand and drug production and trafficking on the other. The more drug production and trafficking increases, the more recalcitrant armed groups will become stronger and more influential. The result will then be an increase in insecurity and violence and a decrease in the authority and control of the central government over the rest of the country. It can, therefore, be said that warlords and gunmen rule because poppy rules, which serves as the main challenge to the government and prevents reform! s and reconstruction.

The recent incident in Mazar-e Sharif is not new. Such incidents have taken place many times in the country so far and this process will continue. However, this incident showed that the illegal drug problem has gone far beyond the level of a few poor farmers and that it has roots in local rebellions. This is an issue which will bring the government problems from two sides, that is, inability to expand the authority of the central government for one and the infamy of our country in the international community, with reduction in their assistance for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, for the other. Therefore, fighting warlords and poppy are two sides of the same coin and will be successful only when both sides are fought against. As long as warlords continue to have economic income sources and succeed in assembling a number of people around them and ruling other people by force, fighting against them will not produce the desired results. On the other hand, if these persons continue to prevail over different areas, the illegal drug issue will also continue to prevail over the lives and property of the people.

Eqtedar-e Melli (in Dari) via Afghaiyat , via Paul Greening


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  1. drug lords — cw