26 April 2012

Opium and the Soviet-Afghan War: 1979-1989

Seeds of Terror by Gretchen Peters, 2009, Excerpts

For nine years Muslim guerrillas, secretly funded by the CIA, had waged jihad against their Soviet invaders. The conflict had united thousands of Islamic radicals [among them a young Osama bin Laden] who flocked to Afghanistan from around the globe to join what they considered a holy cause. Poppy fields and heroin labs had sprung up across the territory controlled by the rebels, who were known as mujahideen, Arabic for “smugglers.” A system developed where farmers would hire rebel soldiers to protect their drug shipments, and the guerrillas would use the money to support the resistance. When the Afghan resistance began, Pashtun tribes in Pakistan’s tribal areas grew more poppy than all of Afghanistan put together.

Inside Afghanistan, the heroin explosion was taking its toll on the Russian troops. There was a staggering low level of morale among the occupying force and used drugs on a fairly regular basis. Soldiers freely admitted having used narcotics – mainly hashish – saying getting high helped them escape the horrifying drudgery of their existence on the Afghan front. Soldiers described going into battle while stoned, trying to maneuver military convoys down Afghanistan’s treacherous highways under the influence, and looting Soviet military stores to trade weapons for heroin.

For God, Country, and Coca-Cola by Mark Pendergrast, 1999, Excerpts
The importation of opium to the U.S. increased dramatically, from almost 146,000 pounds in 1867 to over 500,000 pounds in 1880. Addiction was so common among veterans of the Civil War that it was called the “Army disease.” 

Army probes drug use by soldiers in Afghanistan
21 Apr 2012
The Army has investigated 56 soldiers in Afghanistan on suspicion of using or distributing heroin, morphine or other opiates during 2010 and 2011, newly obtained data shows. Eight soldiers died of drug overdoses during that time. While the cases represent just a slice of possible drug use by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, they provide a somber snapshot of the illicit trade in the war zone, including young Afghans peddling heroin, soldiers dying after mixing cocktails of opiates, troops stealing from medical bags and Afghan soldiers and police dealing drugs to their U.S. comrades. In a country awash with poppy fields that provide up to 90 percent of the world’s opium, the U.S. military struggles to keep an eye on its far-flung troops and monitor for substance abuse.

Soviet-Afghan War Memorial

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