Narco-States: The Colombianization of Afghanistan
An interview with Dr. Zaher Wahab
By Andrew Stelzer
Narco News Authentic Journalism Scholar
August 5, 2003
Dr. Zaher Wahab was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. He has spent the last 30 years as a professor at Lewis & Clark University in Portland,
Oregon, USA. He is a three-time Fulbright scholar, and recently spent almost a year in Afghanistan advising the minister of education, as the Afghan people attempt to rebuild their country in the wake of the United States’ invasion.
I spoke to Wahab about many things, but for a few minutes, we touched on a topic close to the hearts of Narco News readers – the U.S. role in drug trafficking. Latin America may not have a monopoly on narco-states for long…
Andrew Stelzer: What role has the poppy played in the last couple of years in Afghanistan?
Zaher Wahab: In the last year of the Taliban, they had actually eliminated drug cultivation almost to zero, but right now, the country is back as the number one producer of heroin in the world, and its all over, especially in the Southeast part of the country. So there are a couple of drug related issues, one is, and this is the minister of finance speaking in a conference in Brussels, saying unless something is done very quickly and effectively, Afghanistan could become a narco state, something like Columbia. So that’s one issue, that potentially it could destabilize the country. I heard rumors actually, that planes were landing and taking off in the middle of the night, carrying drugs. For example, they go north to Russia, and then Europe, and then to all parts of the world. So potentially its a very destabilizing development, and two, there’s a rapid increase in drug addiction in Afghanistan, including amongst women and children. You know, women give their children drugs so that they can go to sleep because they are hungry and sick. And the third problem is that if this becomes a drug producing economy, this distorts the whole national economy. And yet, we know, in fact I am just reading an article from the New York Times, at least the Pentagon knows full well about drug production; the poppies and drug production but they’re not doing anything because the Pentagon has another objective. The objective is to hunt, capture, kill, and dislodge the Quaida, Taliban, or other opposition forces. For the Pentagon and the coalition to do that, they need the help of the warlords, and many of these local warlords and commanders and militias and gangsters are involved in the production and export of drugs, so that’s where things are.
AS: And not only that but the United States doesn’t really discourage drug production anywhere, they just try to get their hands in the pot…
ZW: Well, some people even say that this is a very costly venture, it costs about 1.9 billion dollars, the Afghanistan operation, and some people will say that Washington might actually be involved in the drug production and sales in order to fund its operations in Afghanistan. They would remind people of what was happening in Central America, but also in the Golden triangle, in Laos and Cambodia. So I would not be surprised. This is becoming a very serious problem.
AS: It’s ironic that you mentioned Afghanistan becoming a narco-state like Colombia, because I believe last year, somewhere along the mention of Iran, Syria, North korea, Colombia was thrown in there at a certain point as a place where the United States might start claiming that there are terrorists, and reinforce their already amazingly strong number of people there.
ZW: Well, as you know, we have a major operation in Colombia, and in fact, Geraldo, I was just watching television, he was reporting from Colombia, as you know, the US is now giving Columbia a billion dollars a year, and there are hundreds of US, both marine and civilians operating this. It’s very clear that Afghanistan, as I said, is now the number one heroin producer. The UN and everybody would testify to that. Nearly 4,500 tons of heroin have been produced in a given year – this was last year. And there is suspicion that the government of the United States might be part of that.
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