Two years after the U.S. dropped its first bombs over Afghanistan in President Bush’s global war against terrorism, the Taliban are reportedly regrouping in the lawless tribal region straddling the Afghan-Pakistan border...
In addition to the resurgence of the Taliban, Afghanistan has resumed harvesting massive amounts of opium and now accounts for 77 percent of global opium production according to the latest annual report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Twenty-eight out of 32 provinces in Afghanistan now produce the drug crop, up from 18 provinces in 1999. Cultivation has spread outside the traditional eastern and southern producing areas. The 3,600 tons of opium produced in Afghanistan last year was processed into 360 tons of heroin. The total revenues of poppy farmers and traffickers amounted to more than half of Afghanistan's gross domestic product of $4.4 billion. Drug money now finances local warlords and terrorists, possibly including the resurgent Taliban.
In military terms, the Taliban pose no significant threat to the 10,000 American troops based in and around Kabul. Their guerilla attacks have served only to scare away civilian aid workers and to limit foreigners to the environs of Kabul and other large cities. There is no chance that the Taliban will re-establish themselves as the rulers of any significant part of Afghanistan any time soon. But the absence of effective government and the persistence of security problems mean that an Islamist underground in Afghanistan will not be easily eliminated. The Taliban could continue to make Afghanistan ungovernable and could be serious wreckers of the planned process to build an Afghan democracy when elections are held as scheduled in 2004. Drug money would be another destabilizing factor in those elections. Afghanistan may never have been a candidate to become a new Vietnam, but it is clearly on its way to becoming a central Asian Colombia.
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A non-violent, counter-dominant, left-liberal, possibly charismatic, quasi anarcho-libertarian Quaker's take on politics, volleyball, and other esoterica.
Lo alecha ha-m'lacha ligmor, v'lo atah ben chorin l'hibateyl mimenah.