Westerners Actions Similar to Those of Modern Drug Cartels Response

Westerners Actions Similar to Those of Modern Drug Cartels ResponseJournal Journal of Agrarian of Agrarian Change, Change, Vol. Vol. 4 No. 5and No. 1 and 2, April 2, January 2005,Opium and pp. April 191–216. 2004, pp. 00–00. Frontiers Wars: the Economy in Afghanistan 191 Frontiers and Wars: the Opium Economy in Afghanistan JONATHAN GOODHAND This paper describes the evolution of the opium economy in Afghanistan and examines the factors behind its resurgence since the fall of the Taliban regime. The historical roots of poppy cultivation are analysed with particular reference to the role of borderlands and processes of state formation and collapse. This is followed by an examination of the contemporary dynamics of the opium economy. It is argued that micro-level opium production lies at the intersection of three economies of production, namely the ‘combat’, ‘shadow’ and ‘coping’ economies. Keywords: opium, violent conflict, borderlands, combat, shadow and coping economies INTRODUCTION They (Frontier Wars) are the surf which marks the edge and the advance of the war of civilization. (Lord Salisbury, in a speech to the Guildhall, 1892, cited in Churchill 1972, 13) In 1999 Afghanistan was the source of 75 per cent of global illicit opium production. Much to the surprise of international observers, following a Taliban edict in 2000 banning poppy growing, production fell from the 1999 level of 4700 metric tons (MT) to 74 MT for the following growing season. In November 2001 the Taliban regime collapsed as a result of US-led military intervention and a Western-supported Afghan interim administration was established in Kabul. There was initial optimism, following pledges of international assistance by Western governments and statements from Afghan leaders promising a ‘war Jonathan Goodhand, Department of Development Studies, SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG. e-mail: jg27@soas.ac.uk This paper is based upon three pieces of research. The first between 1997 and 1999, funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) on NGOs and complex political emergencies; the second in 2001, for the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on the Afghan war economy; the third in 2003 on regional war economies, conducted for International Peace Academy in collaboration with Michael Pugh and Neil Cooper of the University of Plymouth, UK. It draws heavily on three other publications from this research: Goodhand (2000), Bhatia and Goodhand et al. (2003) and Goodhand (2004). I would like to thank David Mansfield, Jawed Ludin and participants at the ‘Beyond Borders’ workshop in Vancouver, August 2002 for their comments on an earlier version of this paper, and Henry Bernstein for advice in preparing this version for publication in the Journal of Agrarian Change. © Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Henry Bernstein and Terence J. Byres 2005. JOAC5_2C99 191 24/2/05, 12:28 pm 192 Jonathan Goodhand on drugs’, that the underlying dynamics of the opium economy could finally be addressed.1 However, that year Afghan farmers once more planted poppy in their fields. Between 2002 and 2004, opium production in Afghanistan rose from 3400 MT to 4200 MT. In 2004 opium cultivation increased by two-thirds, reaching an unprecedented 131,000 hectares. According to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the opium economy is now equivalent to about 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s 2003 GDP (UNODC 2004). With strong international demand and limited political, legal or social impediments, the structural conditions that support the opium economy have been largely unaffected by the new regime in Kabul.2 Taking a historical and political economy perspective, this paper examines the factors that have contributed to the development of the opium economy. Its focus is primarily on the dynamics of this economy within Afghanistan. Although global supply and demand factors have been extremely important, they have already been relatively well-covered in the literature on illicit drugs. Much less has been written about the local dynamics of the opium economy in ‘borderland’ areas. Such ‘fine-grained’ analysis points to the complexity of the production of illicit goods and moves us well beyond the simplistic ‘warlords and greedy profiteers’ type of discourse that often seems to drive thinking and policy on this issue. Micro-level (farm) opium production lies at the intersection of three economies of production: what this paper characterizes as the ‘combat’ economy, the ‘shadow’ economy and the ‘coping’ economy, each with their own dynamic and patterns of change. It is argued that current attempts to transform the ‘war economy’ to a ‘peace economy’ must be based upon an appreciation of the role that opium (and other conflict goods) have played in the political economy of the Afghan conflict. BORDERLANDS, BANDITS AND THE AFGHAN STATE Afghanistan is a land-locked country, sharing common borders with six different states.3 Throughout Afghan history ‘frontiers and wars’ have figured prominently. Afghanistan’s present borders were defined by imperial powers in the nineteenth century and successive Afghan rulers attempted to defend, strengthen or redefine these borders in response to external aggression or internal pressures. Borders are ‘political membranes’ and markers of the success of the state-building enterprise. Territorial sovereignty was an ideal to which Afghan rulers aspired but rarely 1 One of the first acts of the new Afghan Interim Administration (AIA) was to issue on 17 January 2002, a decree forbidding all poppy cultivation and trading, although this was too late to prevent the sowing of poppies which had already taken place. 2 Global turnover for trafficking in opiates originating from Afghanistan amounts to US$25 billion. Western Europe annually consumes between 80 and 120 tons of heroine and two decades of expanding Afghan production have contributed to the dramatic decline in the street price of heroin (in real terms) in Western Europe, which fell from the equivalent of about US$300 per gram in 1987 to US$70 per gram in 2000 (IMF 2003). 3 Afghanistan’s borders and their respective lengths are: Pakistan, 2450 km; Tajikistan, 1206 km; Iran, 936 km; Turkmenistan, 744 km; Uzbekistan, 137 km; China, 76 km. JOAC5_2C99 192 24/2/05, 12:28 pm Frontiers and Wars: the Opium Economy in Afghanistan 193 if ever achieved in practice. In fact for most of Afghan history there was no state in any robust sense of the term – there were instead multiple sovereigns including small-scale local chiefs, tribal confederations, bandits or warlords. It has been a history of ‘roving bandits’, with faltering and sometimes brutal attempts by ‘stationary bandits’ (Olson 2000) – from Abdur Rahman Khan in the nineteenth century to the Taliban in the twentieth – to concentrate the means of violence and unify the country. The state-building enterprise as discussed below has not followed a linear, evolutionary path. It is has occurred in fits and spurts, following a trajectory that might best be described as one of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ (Cramer and Goodhand 2002). Attempts by the state to make society more ‘legible’ have been violently resisted by border communities. As Scott (1976) argues, borderlands are shadow societies, beyond the reach of the state, often with an ‘insurrectionary tradition’. In this ongoing ‘conversation’ between state and borderlands, violent conflicts have been defining moments of change, shifting the balance of power back and forth between core and periphery.4 In this paper it is argued that borderlands played a central role in the story of state-building (and collapse), war-making and the opium economy. However, the perspectives and practices of borderland societies are usually missing from this story. This is unsurprising, since we know much more about how states deal with borderlands than how borderlands deal with states (van Schendel 2002). To start from the borderland perspective involves ‘reading against the grain’ – it is, as Scott (2000, 6) nicely puts it, an excursion into the history of the state’s ‘blank pages’. The term borderland is employed here as a short-hand for ‘non-state’ spaces. In the context of Afghanistan, it may be useful to distinguish between three distinct but inter-related types of borderland. First there is the conventional definition of a borderland as a zone or region within which lies an international border, and a borderland society is a social and cultural system straddling that border. I will pay particular attention in this paper to the Afghan–Pakistan and Afghan–Tajik borderlands since both, by virtue of their borderland status, are key areas in the production and trafficking of opium. Second, there are ‘borderlands’ within as well as on the margins of the state. As James Scott (2000) notes, these are often situated in geographically or ecologically marginal areas such as mountains,5 marshes, deserts and forests6 and are inhabited by those who have resisted the modernizing state’s attempts to concentrate and fix populations in 4 Just as the European experience of state building and border creation has been bound up with violent conflict. World War One, for example, was the first great marker of border change in the twentieth century (Anderson and O’Dowd 1999, 600). 5 Interestingly Fearon and Latin (2003, 85) in a multi-country econometric study found that mountainous terrain is significantly related to higher rates of civil war. 6 See Richards’ (1996) analysis of how the rain forests became a base area for rebellion in the Sierra Leone conflict. See also Le Billon (2001) for an examination of how the geographical positioning of natural resources influences the causes and dynamics of violent conflict. JOAC5_2C99 193 24/2/05, 12:28 pm 194 Jonathan Goodhand space. These might be characterized as those non-state spaces where ‘stationary bandit’ meets ‘social bandit’. Afghan history is replete with examples of borderlanders – either on the margins of or deep within Afghanistan’s territory7 – resisting the encroaching power of outside authority and capital. This resistance has tended to be socially conservative – it has been about the defence or restoration of the traditional order of things. But borderlanders as well as being resisters of state power have been its agents. For instance, in times of crisis they have been defenders of the state by resisting the incursions of foreign powers. The relationship between core and periphery, state and bandit, has always been ambiguous and changing – historically bandits have helped make states and states make bandits. In law an outlaw status is determined by the nature of the relationship of a group to the state at any specific point in time (van Schendel 2002). Thirdly, one can conceptualize the whole of Afghanistan itself as a regional borderland – acting as a geographical buffer that marked the edges of imperial control in the nineteenth century and the limits of liberal power at the beginning of the twenty-first. As Moroya notes such ‘frontier states’ are a ‘geopolitical area at the edge of politically and militarily controlled imperial space: a zone of transition of low administrative intensity outside the centres of empire’ (Moraya 2003, 271). For much of the 1990s Afghanistan became a ‘non-state space’ reverting, as will be argued later, to its pre-state origins as a marketing and trading corridor with open borders. Whilst each category of borderland has its own unique features and dynamics, all three are essentially zones of transition between different societies and centres of power. Furthermore, these frontiers are mapped onto and interact with other complex and changing social boundaries (Anderson and O’Dowd 1999). This paper explores how violent conflict and the war economy (of which opium is a central part) have re-ordered and re-shaped the political ecology of borderlands. As people, ideas and commodities cross borders they encounter differing institutional arrangements and regulatory regimes. These are constantly changing. For instance, the ‘new frontiers’ emerging in post Taliban Afghanistan have been internal ones, as warlords compete with one another and the embryonic central authority to establish their own regional ‘mini-states’. For those involved in the opium economy, different regulatory regimes are associated with different risks and opportunities. The tightening of one border leads to a search for alternative trafficking routes. Eradication efforts in one region lead to increased cultivation in another. Borderlanders rely upon and exploit the differences in regulatory regimes – on one hand they toe the border, on the other they transgress it, continually exploring and challenging the territorial pretensions of neighbouring states (van Schendel 2002) – or, in the case of Afghanistan, of neighbouring warlords. 7 For example, the central highlands of Hazarajat and the eastern mountains of Kafiristan (now called Nurristan) were autonomous borderlands until the end of the nineteenth century. Both were areas of refuge for religious heterodoxy. JOAC5_2C99 194 24/2/05, 12:28 pm Frontiers and Wars: the Opium Economy in Afghanistan 195 In the following section I chart the evolution of the opium economy in relation to processes of war-making, state-building and state collapse.8 The opium economy is partly an outcome and partly a cause of these processes: war created the conditions in which opium production could thrive, but opium has also helped create a self-sustaining war economy in which there may be limited incentives for putting the state back together. EVOLUTION OF THE AFGHAN OPIUM ECONOMY Pre-war Afghanistan Afghanistan emerged as a tribal confederacy in the second half of the eighteenth century, located in the interstices of the powerful empires of Iran, the Indian sub-continent and Central Asia. By the middle of the eighteenth century, with British imperial control in India and an expanding Tsarist Empire to the north, the imperial powers together demarcated the territory of Afghanistan in order to make it an effective buffer state. The British believed that tribal feuding amongst the Pashtun peoples along India’s North West Frontier was likely to invite Russian influence (Cullather 2002, 515). Their strategy to pacify the Pashtuns was to split the Pashtun belt in two to create a 1200 mile boundary following mountain ranges and high points that could be held by blocking key mountain passes.9 The drawing of the Durrand Line in 1893, the border between British India and Afghanistan, was to become an ongoing point of contention and conflict, as it divided the Pashtuns who straddled the border. Rather than marking a spatial limit to British sovereignty, the Durrand line marked a division between two types of imperial control (Cullather 2002, 517) – the ‘Forward Policy’, as it was called, introduced new forms of indirect influence over the peoples of Afghanistan. Amir Abdur Rahman, Afghanistan’s ruler between 1880 and 1901, was the ‘stationary bandit’ par excellence. By pursuing a brutal policy of internal imperialism 8 An important limitation which affects all researchers working on Afghanistan is the lack of reliable data. Even before the war, Louis Dupree (1980) wrote that statistics on Afghanistan were ‘wild guesses based on inadequate data’. The rural economy remained statistically unknown (Pain and Goodhand 2002, 2). This reflected the centralized but weak nature of the Afghan state. Mapping and census making, the state’s technologies of control which make society more legible and therefore more governable (Scott 1998) were weakly developed. The problem of statistics was accentuated by what Dupree (1980) terms the ‘mud curtain’ erected by villagers to keep an interfering state at bay – state officials visiting the countryside were met with evasion on questions related to land (because of taxation) and family members (because of conscription). Over two decades of recent conflict has compounded this problem and there has been virtually no long-term anthropological research inside Afghanistan during the war years. To an extent knowledge is stuck at pre-war levels. Finally there are inherent problems in researching the opium economy because of its illicit nature. The invisible and extremely sensitive nature of the opium economy means it is very difficult to get any kind of meaningful data. Where this paper draws upon secondary data sources the figures should be treated as illustrative rather than authoritative. 9 Like many places on fringes of empire, the ‘north-west frontier’ exercised an important hold on the imperial imagination. A mythology was created of a rugged, untamed land and the Pastuns as a martial race (Cullather 2002; Moraya 2003). JOAC5_2C99 195 24/2/05, 12:28 pm 196 Jonathan Goodhand he extended his authority into hitherto independent borderlands.10 Through a combination of internal conquest and forced population transfers, he was able to break the power of the tribes and centralize the Afghan state.11 Abdur Rahman left behind a unified, but terrorized state (Rubin 1996), but one that remained dependent for its support and legitimacy on external largesse – first receiving subsidies from the British and subsequently from the Russians. Rentier incomes from foreign aid in the twentieth century were used to develop the means of coercion and social control, allowing the domestic elite to rule without being domestically accountable. Regime survival became more important than nation building. In the 1960s Afghanistan depended for nearly half of its budget on foreign aid, primarily from the Soviet Union.12 There was limited interaction between the state apparatus and the mass of citizens and the administration was too weak to alter the traditional pattern of political authority in rural areas. In parts of the east for example, taxation and conscription were resisted – the price for tribal support in the civil war of 1929 had been the favourable treatment of landed interests by the state.13 There is a Pashtun proverb: ‘Honour (nang) ate up the mountains; taxes (qalang) ate up the plains’ (cited in Rubin 1996, 28). The qalang Pashtun are subjects or rulers of states – they pay or collect land rent and taxes. The nang Pahstun, however, are free of domination by others. Most acts of anti-state violence originated from the nang Pashtun tribal belt, for instance between 1930 and 1960 there were eight Pashtun revolts. Development projects such as the Helmand Valley Authority (HVA), a dambuilding/irrigation project funded by the United States from the 1950s, were one means by which the state sought to legitimize dominance over unruly groups. To American and royal government officials, the project was a means of dealing with a floating population of Pashtun nomads whose disregard for laws, taxes and borders symbolized the country’s backwardness (Cullather 2002, 529). It was also part of the US strategy of creating a strategic buffer to the Soviet Union. By the 1950s and 1960s the HVA consumed one fifth of government expenditure. The HVA was a classic state-led response to the problem of borderlands – although it aimed to create a secure political base, bring populations within reach of modernization and reduce transborder flows, it proved difficult to entice Ghilzai Pashtun to become ordinary farmers (Cullather 2002, 529). By 10 These included his campaigns in Hazarajat and Kafiristan in which he mobilized support around a discourse of internal jihad to subjugate unruly tribes and in the case of the Kafirs, to forcibly convert them. 11 During his reign the ‘Iron Amir’ put down a total of forty internal distu …