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    Rudy Ayala (2nd L) Law Enforcement Professional embeded with the Marine corps questions opium poppy farmers at Maranjan village in Helmand province on April 25, 2011 as US Marines from Border Adviser Team (BAT) and Explosive Ordance Disposal 1st and 2nd Marine Division (Forward) and Afghanistan National Police take patrol in the area

    Poppy Fields Forever: Will Daesh Hijack Opium Business in Afghanistan?

    © AFP 2019 / Bay ISMOYO
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    Russia's military operation in Syria has dealt a heavy blow to Daesh's (ISIS/ISIL) funding sources by bombing an oil truck fleet which transported stolen oil from Daesh-controlled areas to Turkey; Martin Berger wonders whether Daesh would try to replenish its funds by hijacking the drug trade in Afghanistan.

    For a few years Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) was selling stolen crude to Turkey and, purportedly other NATO members, in order to finance its criminal activity; unfortunately for Daesh (and Turkey), their smuggling business has been brought to an end.

    Remarkably, for about 14 months the US-led anti-Daesh coalition did virtually nothing to halt the illegal oil trade, allowing terrorists to pocket millions of dollars of profit, Czech-based freelance journalist and analyst Martin Berger notes.

    However, after the Russian Air Force launched an air campaign against the illicit oil smuggling, it "has put Washington in a peculiar position, forcing it to start destroying oil facilities and vehicles run by the Islamic State in Iraq in a desperate attempt to avoid the imminent PR disaster," the journalist notes in his recent article for New Eastern Outlook.

    Now Daesh has found itself in an awkward position and is forced to seek new sources of funds. That is why its leaders have begun the "active expansion" to Libya and Afghanistan.

    While Libya is famous for its rich hydrocarbon reserves, Afghanistan is well-known for its vast poppy fields.

    "As you must know, Afghanistan occupies the position of an international leader in the production and export of opiates in the world. Last year Afghanistan sold 85% of all opium and 77% of all heroin in the world. Cultivation of opium is one of the key areas of economic activity in Afghanistan," Berger emphasizes.

    The journalist points out that in 2014 opium harvests in Afghanistan reached new heights — almost 6.4 tons. The gross value of opium production amounts to 13 percent of the Afghani GDP. Citing local officials, Berger notes that the terrorist groups which run the drug business get an annual profit of 70 billion US dollars, while the Taliban receives only two billion US dollars per year.

    "Still, it keeps getting worse, the opium poppy has increased by an additional 7% this year, reaching 224 thousand hectares. The rate of opium production has also increased in just a year by 17%," Berger highlights.

    The situation is strikingly similar to that we have observed in Syria and Iraq until Russia's involvement. Just like the US-led coalition for a long time did not target Daesh oil smuggling in Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon has not disturbed opium manufacturers and smugglers in Afghanistan for more than a decade.

    Furthermore, "a massive leap in the production and smuggling of opiates was observed immediately after the US invasion of Afghanistan, which has already been noted in a number of countries around the globe," Berger emphasizes.

    Daesh regards the Afghani drug trade as a perfect means to replenish its funds. In this light it is predictable that the rivalry between Daesh and the Taliban would catch a second wind, the journalist remarks, adding that a group of Daesh militants has already taken control of the drug trade in the Afghan province of Badakhshan.

    "There is an urgent need for the establishment of an appropriate coordinated effort of the international community to prevent the Islamic State from obtaining new sources of income in Afghanistan," Berger stresses.

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    Tags:
    Oil, NATO, illegal oil trade, terrorists, occupation, funds, opium poppy, heroin, Islamic extremism, Jihadists, drug, production, Afghanistan War, The Syrian war, Daesh, Taliban, Afghanistan, Libya, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, United States, Russia
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