Tag Archive | "Taliban"

Critical Analysis: Drug Trade in Afghanistan

A mortar attack Akcakale, Turkey, on the border with Syria, killed a woman, her three children and a relative. (NY Times)

There is a reason that poppies are the main cash crop of Afghanistan.  Money.  Money is a powerful motivator for struggling farmers in one of the poorest countries in the world. Farmers who are desperate for money to feed their families turn to poppy cultivation despite awareness of the risks associated. The people are poor and feel they have no choice when growing wheat pays $0.40/kilogram while the price of dried opium pays $254/kilogram, according to a 2012 Opium Risk Assessment Survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

During the 1990s, the world’s illicit opium production shifted from Southeast Asia to Afghanistan.  Today, Afghanistan is responsible for producing about 90 percent of the world’s supply of illicit opium.  Taliban insurgents annually receive about $125 million from the opium farmers and traders. When the government threatens crops, peasant farmers turn to the Taliban for protection and willingly pay “taxes” in order to safeguard their meager livelihoods. The Taliban takes this money to finance the insurgency.  The Taliban is not the only group that benefits; corrupt government officials at every level take advantage of the disorder and chaos via bribes and making deals for government protection.

American soldiers in Afghanistan ignore the vast fields of poppies in order to avoid pushing the farmers closer to the Taliban.  Instead, the American government pays the Afghan government $250 for every hectare that Afghan officials destroy.  Unfortunately, the Afghan government does not make equitable decisions about which fields are eradicated.  Allies are ignored while personal enemies and those that are not tied into the local power structure become the focus.  This leads to more drug production and stronger support for insurgents.

The State Department’s Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, William R. Brownfield, recently said during an interview, “… if you do not address the drug issue you will not succeed in the other security, stability, democracy, prosperity objectives you are aiming for.”  Policy makers in America believe that winning the war on opium is a precursor to winning the war against the Taliban.  It has been argued that it is time to turn this conventional wisdom upside down.  According to author Jonathan Marshall, “Fighting drugs is not a precondition for security.  On the contrary, security is a necessary condition for curbing drugs.”  Agronomists David Mansfield and Adam Pain have summarized years of local research and found that evidence supports the theory that the growth of the opium poppy economy is the effect, not the cause of state and development failure in Afghanistan.

The recent history lessons of Lebanon and Burma may have a few suggestions for Afghanistan’s current drug problem.  If the warring parties first reach a political agreement then the rebuilding of political institutions and domestic security can begin.  This will likely require power sharing with the Taliban rather than a total surrender by them and participation and support from regional powers such as Iran and Pakistan.  Solving the drug war will involve more inclusion, compromise, and coexistence than all the vested parties have previously demonstrated. The wide reaching effects of the drug trade in Afghanistan require a shared responsibility for solving the problem.

Sarah Emery is a 2L and the Business Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: NATO Drawdown is Eclipsed by Evolving Taliban Strategy


Afghan Border Police and U.S. Marines board a CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter near Combat Outpost Torbert.
(The Atlantic)

Two years ago the Taliban held large strips of Afghanistan predominately in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.  In response, NATO padded their forces with an additional 33,000 Marines and Army soldiers to combat the Taliban in these areas.  The last of these “surge” troops left Afghanistan September 21 after accomplishing their objective of reversing the Taliban momentum in the south and shrinking Taliban strongholds.  Now the question is what strategy NATO and the Afghan government will use to combat a more agile and clandestine Taliban.

The landscape left behind by the surge troops is best exemplified by the recent Taliban attack on Fort Bastion – the high profile airbase where the United Kingdom’s Prince Harry is stationed.  The attack was perpetrated by 19 Taliban soldiers dressed in U.S. Army uniforms.  Two U.S. Marines were killed and six U.S. Marine fighter jets were destroyed, rendering the squadron combat ineffective, a designation that particular squadron has not received since the Marine defense of Wake Island in 1941.

These types of “green on blue” attacks, in which Afghan soldiers work alone or in concert with the Taliban to attack NATO forces, are giving NATO officials pause following the drawdown of troops.  NATO had hoped that Afghan forces would be capable of standing in for surge troops by now.  Unfortunately, with green on blue attacks on the rise, NATO is instead creating distance between themselves and the Afghan forces.  On September 17th, U.S. Army Lieutenant General James Terry, the second highest ranking officer in Afghanistan, announced that NATO troops will no longer patrol alongside their Afghani counterparts as standard practice.   

Lieutenant General Terry also announced a new initiative in the way Afghan troops are vetted prior to enlistment as a way of combating these insider attacks.  However, this plan comes weeks after statements by Afghan officials regarding their lack of resources for screening new recruits.  These officials claim they lack basic items like computers for creating a database of new recruits.  This all adds up to a slowdown in training and deploying the troops meant to replace NATO surge forces.

At a time when NATO had been hoping to celebrate a milestone in the development of Afghani independence, they are instead scrambling to formulate strategy and policy.  Resources need to be allocated to military recruiters in order to weed out Taliban sympathizers.  The vetting process has to take place for all new recruits as well as the 350,000 soldiers already inducted in to the military.  Only then will Afghan soldiers be able to take their posts alongside coalition forces, replacing their surge predecessors.  And this all has to take place before the Taliban can regain their foothold, rendering the two-year surge useless.

Tom Dunlop is a 2L at Denver University Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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The Taliban

Kudos to Amnesty Int’l for Holding Non-State Actors to Task

The Taliban

The Taliban

I was pleased to see an article in which Amnesty International calls for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate crimes by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I have long felt that non-state actor groups that wage military style campaigns that intentionally target civilians get more lenient treatment in international criminal law circles.   For example, many international law commentators have called for an investigation into Israel’s three-week military campaign in Gaza Operation Cast Lead.  However, less frequently do have I seen the argument that Hamas should be investigated for the eight years preceding Cast Lead in which it fired thousands of missiles indiscriminately at Israel as a war crime or crime against humanity – except when added as a concession in an call to investigate Israel.

I find the similar is true with Sri Lanka, where there are calls for an investigation into Sri Lanka’s 2009 military campaign against the Tamil Tigers.  Prior to that campaign, I rarely saw arguments that  the Tamils should be investigated for their targeting of civilians, use of child soldiers, assassination of two world leaders, ethnic cleansing campaigns and abuse of prisoners of war in contravention of customary international law.

Should states be held to a higher standard than non-state actors?  Should a protracted terror campaign should be viewed less critically than a state military campaign?




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University of Denver Sturm College of Law

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