The U.S. "War On Drugs" in Afghanistan
Reality or Pretext?
Author: Julien Mercille
Mainstream commentary suggests that the United States and NATO are conducting a war on drugs in Afghanistan in order to reduce drug consumption in the West and Afghanistan and weaken the Taliban. Interpreting U.S. foreign policy from a critical political economic perspective, this article presents an alternative analysis, arguing that Washington and NATO are not pursuing a real war on drugs in Afghanistan. This point is demonstrated by examining a number of aspects of the so-called war on drugs: the Taliban's relatively small role in drug trafficking; U.S./NATO support for proxy forces involved in the drug trade; the focus on poppy cultivation over drug money; the chemical precursor trade; money laundering; Western support for tobacco and alcohol industries; and the emphasis on overseas operations and enforcement and neglect of drug treatment and prevention. In each case, U.S./NATO policies directly support or tolerate the drug trade—the opposite of what a real war on drugs would entail. It is therefore suggested that the so-called war on drugs is better seen as a rhetorical device used by the U.S. to facilitate overseas military intervention and the fight against insurgents opposed to U.S. policies in Afghanistan.