Exploring the Roots of Opium and Illicit Economy in Afghanistan

Exploring the Roots of Opium and Illicit Economy in Afghanistan

This paper reviews the context in which opium poppy and the illicit economy took root in Afghanistan from the early 1970s to 2005. The analysis builds on historical, political, military, social, and economic data and extensive field observations by the author since 1994. The findings contradict sensationalist anecdotes often heard on the drug industry in Afghanistan which tend to be repeated by actors involved in the fields of counter-narcotics and alternative livelihoods. In particular, simplifications of the opium poppy issues by considering poppy production being the result of either greed or poverty is challenged. The paper shows that the illicit economy continues to provide the mainstay of the Afghan economy and maintaining its production system is essential for a majority of Afghans. Further, it explores the social and economic roles of key actors in the illicit economy in perpetuating production systems, which continue to benefit a majority of Afghans. Finally, the paper highlights the potential risks of pushing too fast a strategy to rid Afghanistan of the poppy and illicit economy in a context where many Afghans still have a stake in it. Read the paper....

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