|Kabul: 2:25 AM      |
Welcome to Kabul:Reconstructions. You can follow the information below, which has been gathered from a
number of sources by a number of participants (click on the names at left for bios), to reconstruct your
own picture of events in Kabul since this site was launched on March 8th, 2003 and, in a sense, since the
reconstruction of Afghanistan began somewhere in the winter of 2001-02.
Some of this information has been provided in response to specific questions submitted by visitors like you. Please note that this section of the project is now maintained as an archive and has not been updated since 2005. Click here to ASK A QUESTION.
Arian Mouj Sharifi
Connections between poppy harvest and rise in violence? (AP, AFP)
The first article is a few months old, but it makes an interesting connection that I haven't seen elsewhere, while the second was recently forwarded to me but is from 2001 and details Northern Alliance links to the opium trade. Third gives an IMF perspective on the current business of the drug trade in Afghanistan.
Drug Trade Blamed for Afghan Violence Saturday, October 4th, 2003 By MARK FRITZ, Associated Press Writer DARA NOOR, Afghanistan - On a steep mountain road ahead of a blind curve, a Red Cross worker dies at the hands of an unknown attacker. Just around the bend lies the possible reason: an opium poppy field. Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s $1.2 billion drug trade is blooming, bringing violence that is driving away aid groups even as Islamic extremists and warlords allegedly profit. The agencies that monitor the pulse of conflict zones point to a rise in ambushes and execution-style slayings that coincide with the southeast's autumn harvest of the opium-producing flora, the source of heroin. "It's absolutely true that security is worse in places where people are growing poppies," said Diane Johnston, country director for Mercy Corps, which indefinitely suspended operations in the country last week. A member of the Omaha, Neb.-based group was killed Aug. 7. "Narcoterrorism" has become an increasingly entrenched factor in the violence that's meant to keep southern and eastern Afghanistan — the world's poppy belt — off-limits to outside assistance, said Paul Barker, country director for the charity CARE. "The revenue from the poppy trade in Afghanistan is more than all the humanitarian aid combined," he said. Nations have committed roughly $500 million to rebuild this central Asian nation of dusty, gasp-inducing deserts and monolithic mountains. Poppy revenues brought in $1.2 billion last year, according to the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan. About 90 international relief groups operate in Afghanistan, but most have curtailed or avoided drilling wells, vaccinating children and rebuilding school systems in the deadly southeast. The September edition of CARE's policy brief — which other relief groups follow closely — said armed attacks on aid workers has jumped from one a month to one every two days since September 2002. Half the country's 32 provinces — most in the south — are too risky to enter. "There are all sorts of movements to keep Afghanistan unstable," Barker said. Local authorities generally blame all violence on the extremist Taliban movement toppled from power by a U.S.-led force two years ago, but a confounding array of agendas are in play. "It's impossible to separate out what's factional fighting, what's Taliban activity and what's drug trafficking," said Johnston. "We haven't seen this type of targeting (of aid workers) in the 16 years we've been here." In March, at the height of the poppy season's spring harvest, gunmen attacked a three-vehicle convoy at a blind curve in a rocky mountain road near Dara Noor, a village 60 miles north of Kandahar and a prime poppy region. The attackers killed Ricardo Munguia, a 39-year-old water engineer from El Salvador (news - web sites) working for the Red Cross. He was the first foreign aid worker to die in Afghanistan since the Taliban's ouster. Around a bend is a large poppy field where men, women and children this week happily harvested the autumn crop of the opiate-soaked bulbs that emerge after the plants burst into a gorgeous array of flowers. They greeted two reporters as potential customers. Moments later, a taxi driver scolded the reporters for lingering in an area in which a Taliban convoy had passed in recent days. Last weekend, assailants ambushed a pickup truck in southern Afghanistan and shot to death seven bodyguards of the governor of Helmand province in the Mir Mundo area, 50 miles northwest of Kandahar. The violence has grown with the poppy production in Afghanistan, which produced 12 percent of the world's opium in 2001 and 76 percent last year. The fact that drug trafficking revenues have soared since the U.S. push into Afghanistan has put the Bush administration on the defensive. "You ask what we're going to do and the answer is, `I don't really know,'" Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said recently. A U.S.-led force toppled the Taliban for harboring the al-Qaida extremist group that engineered the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States. A NATO (news - web sites) force has focused on maintaining security in Kabul, the capital. Humanitarian agencies want to see the force spread into the violent south and east. A Moscow-backed government ruled Afghanistan for a decade before Soviet troops withdrew in 1989, leaving warlords to fight for power. The Taliban won control of most of the country to put an end to the factional bloodletting, but then imposed a harsh form of Islamic rule. The impact the extremist militia had on opium production is in dispute. Though the Taliban stopped many farmers from growing the crop — some of whom were later killed by their financiers — there were numerous reports that no action was taken against people who bought, sold or stockpiled opium, said Mohammed Amirkhizi, the Afghan representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. Some skeptics argue the Taliban cut production to drive up heroin prices worldwide. However, at the time the U.N. drug control office in neighboring Pakistan said there was no evidence of stockpiling by the Taliban movement, though some commanders might be doing it. Amirkhizi said the country's transitional government mounted what it said was a successful attempt to eradicate opium production last year, but there's been no independent confirmation of results. Afghan officials in general play down the role of opium production in the country. But the Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban was known to have financed its forces with drug money. Anti-Taliban warlords in the south, with the tacit approval of the U.S.-backed central government, last weekend sent a 220-man special operations force on an open-ended mission to go after Taliban command posts in Afghanistan. The fact that such militias frequently travel in civilian vehicles and wear robes over their camouflage fatigues has made the situation more dangerous for civilians working for humanitarian development agencies, CARE's Barker said. Since the war, the protective Western military presence in Kabul has doubled the population of the city to 3 million, said Maki Shinohara of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. And thousands have begun returning to homes in the relatively secure north. But few will venture to the south or east. "There is just no law and order," she said. "It's the rule of the gun."
Northern Alliance Afghanistan's main opium producer: UN Oct 05 2001 23:04 IST Agence France Presse VIENNA, Oct 5 (AFP) - The opposition Northern Alliance has become Afghanistan's major opium producer after a Taliban clampdown on poppy-growing slashed world production by around 60 percent, a UN official told AFP Friday. The Alliance, which has won American support in its battle against the Taliban, produced 150 metric tonnes of opium this year, according to Mohammad Amirkhizi, senior policy adviser at the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. "They always produce between 120 and 150 tonnes," he explained. "But in previous years that production was insignificant because production was so high in Taliban areas. "This year, because the Taliban has implemented the ban and no drugs, or almost none, were produced in the Taliban area, although they produced the same amount it is now significant." The Northern Alliance is the main opposition force to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which the United States has accused of harbouring Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US. Afghanistan produced 75 percent of opium worldwide in 1999 and 70 percent in 2000. This year the country only produced 10 percent of the world's opium, slashing global production by around 60 percent, Amirkhizi added. UN surveyors in Afghanistan measured poppy fields in farms throughout the country to gain the figures. In 1999 Afghanistan produced a record level of 4,600 metric tonnes of opium. Only four percent of that was produced in the Northern Alliance section. In 2000 Northern Alliance territory produced just four percent of Afghanistan's 3,300-metric-tonne opium harvest. "In July 2000 the Taliban informed us that they are going to issue a ban and they told us that they are going to enforce it effectively, and we can only say that now the results are clear, the ban was implemented by them very effectively," said Amirkhizi. "We welcome that very much, and we have been in contact with the Northern Alliance territory and asking them to also take measures to ban the production, and the response that we have received from them has been very positive." US government intelligence released data Wednesday that suggested Taliban rulers were directly profiting from the opium trade in spite of their public denunciations of drug trafficking.
IMF Official Sees Afghan Improvements
2003-09-23 11:46:35 GMT
By DIRK BEVERIDGE AP Business Writer
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - Afghanistan's shattered economy is clawing
its way back but its leaders must fix security problems and find ways to wean
farmers off growing opium, an IMF official said.
The non-opium economy rose by 30 percent in the fiscal year that ended March 31
- albeit from a very low level - and it looks set for 20 percent growth this
year, Adam Bennett, the International Monetary Fund mission chief for
Afghanistan, said on Monday.
The Afghan central government is making important strides in collecting revenues
from the provinces and has achieved reforms such as a new currency and better
banking rules, but much hard work remains to lift the nation out of poverty
after 20 years of war and isolation, Bennett told a news conference.
"One dark cloud over this scenario is the production of opium," Bennett said,
adding that if the drug-growing was included in the economic statistics it would
represent 40 percent to 50 percent of the economy.
Opium farmers use some of Afghanistan's most fertile land in the south, where
the security problems are worst, creating a "vicious cycle" that won't be easy
to stop, Bennett said, discussing an IMF assessment of the Aghan economy ahead
of the IMF and World Bank annual meetings that open here Tuesday.
"Eradication, which is clearly needed, must go hand in hand with developing
alternative livelihoods for the farmers, and there needs to be an improvement of
the security situation," Bennett said.
The IMF is providing advice but not loans to Afghanistan as it attempts to
rebuild after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the ruling Taliban in response to
the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York and Washington.
Bennett said opium farmers should get the chance to make their livings growing
traditional crops, including wheat.
Bennett said citizens are embracing market economic ideas in areas of
Afghanistan he has visited, including the capital Kabul.
"In areas that are secure and where normalcy is being restored, the Afghans are
responding very enthusiastically to markets are prospering from it," Bennett
Kabul: Partial Reconstructions is an installation
and public dialogue project that explores the multiple meanings and resonances of
the idea of reconstruction -- as both process and metaphor -- in the context of present-day Kabul.
www.kabul-reconstructions.net is an online discussion forum, information resource, and medium for the communication of questions and answers about the reconstruction between people inside and outside the city of Kabul itself.