Heroin is "Good for Your
Occupation Forces Support Afghan Narcotics Trade
Multibillion dollar earnings for
organized crime and Western financial Institutions
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
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
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. ( which ultmately serves powerful
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,
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 opium.
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 India)
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
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
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
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.
"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 ratio.
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
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
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 triangle.
Michel Chossudovsky is a frequent contributor
to Global Research.