From holy war to opium war? A case study of the opium economy in North Eastern Afghanistan

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From holy war to opium war? A case study of the opium economy in North Eastern Afghanistan
  See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: From Holy War to Opium War? A Case Study of the Opium Economy in North-easternAfghanistan  Article   in  Central Asian Survey · February 2000 DOI: 10.1080/02634930050079354 · Source: PubMed CITATIONS 42 READS 206 1 author:Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects: Borderlands, brokers and peacebuilding in Nepal and Sri Lanka: War to peace transitions viewed fromthe margins   View projectLiving on the Margins: Using literary comics to understand the role of borderland brokers in post-wartransitions   View projectJonathan GoodhandSOAS, University of London 57   PUBLICATIONS   938   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE All content following this page was uploaded by Jonathan Goodhand on 12 September 2014. The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.  PEACE BUILDING AND COMPLEX POLITICAL EMERGENCIES WORKING PAPER SERIES PAPER No 5 From Holy War to Opium War?: a Case Study of the Opium Economy in North Eastern Afghanistan Jonathan Goodhand IDPM, University of Manchester 1999    FROM HOLY WAR TO OPIUM WAR?; A CASE STUDY OF THE OPIUM ECONOMY IN NORTH EASTERN AFGHANISTAN Jonathan Goodhand Abstract This paper examines the recent growth of the opium economy in North Eastern Afghanistan. A detailed analysis of one village in Badakshan Province reveals  profound changes in the local economy and social institutions. The paper describes two major shifts in the local economy (1) the switch from wheat to poppy cultivation (2) the shift from the livestock trade to the opium trade. It then examines the underlying causes and impacts of the opium economy on social relations in the village. Although a case study of a community living on the margins of the global economy, it is argued that these changes have important implications for international policy makers. The emergence of the opium economy in North Eastern Afghanistan is symptomatic of new and expanding forms of transborder trade, associated with the restructuring of the global political economy. i[1]   1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 Globalisation and conflict Traditional neoclassical analysis of conflicts viewed them as irrational. Since aggregate consumption and production declines, comparative advantages are lost and capital destroyed, why do people behave so inexplicably? ii[2]  However recent writings on conflict have developed new insights through the analysis of global  processes that contribute to systemic conflict. Duffield argues that protracted conflict is symptomatic of new and expanding forms of political economy iii[3] . Today’s conflicts are characterised by long-term innovative adaptations to globalisation, linked to expanding networks of parrallel (illegal) and grey (semi-legal) economic activity. As Keen notes, conflict is not the irrational breaking down of societies and economies: rather “it is the re-ordering of society in particular ways. In wars we see the creation of a new type of political economy, not simply a destruction of the old one.” iv[4]  Elite strategies in war economies may for example involve the control and export of high value commodities such as narcotics and precious stones v[5] ; the opium and lapis lazuli economy in Northern Afghanistan are just two examples. Afghanistan may be on the periphery of the global economy, however elites within the country profit from state break-down and the de-regulated environment at a local and global level. It has created the space and linkages for local assets like opium and lapis to be realised on  global markets. Clauswitz characterised traditional nation-state based war as the continuation of  politics by other means. However in many conflicts today it may not be so much about winning the war as maintaining one’s sphere of influence. As Keen concludes, internal forms of war may now be better understood as the continuation of economics  by other means vi[6] . This analysis has important implications in terms of our understanding of contemporary conflicts and policy aimed at preventing or resolving endemic insecurity. “ conflicts where violence is decentralised and economically motivated, war cannot simply be “declared” or “declared over”. A lasting end to violence is likely to depend on meeting many of the needs of those carrying out acts of violence as well as the needs and interests of some of the more highly developed actors, orchestrating and  perhaps funding violence.” vii[7]  We will return to the policy implications of this analysis at the end of the paper. However the next section examines a case study of the opium economy in North Eastern Afghanistan. It is an attempt to present the “view from the village” in terms of changes brought about by the opium economy and its impact on social relations within the village. An analysis of these changes then follows, in the light of the recent writing and analysis on complex political emergencies (CPEs) as outlined above. Although there is an emerging body of writing on conflict and insecurity, which helps map out the broad terrain of the new world disorder, there is a lack of fine-grained viii[8]  case studies which examine how global processes impact on local actors and communities. A key conclusion of our work in North Eastern Afghanistan is that action has got ahead of understanding and more detailed contextual analysis is important for both improved understanding and policy. Before, looking at the case of Afghanistan it is important to highlight the methodological challenge of conducting research on war economies. One of the reasons why local perspectives are often missing from current analyses of CPEs may  be because research in ‘live’ war zones is so sensitive and dangerous; both for the researchers and the communities themselves. It is beyond the scope of this article to examine in detail the methodological and ethical dilemmas associated with research in war zones, but one should recognise the real constraints that prevent local voices from  being heard. We cannot point to any methodological ‘magic bullets’ based on our experience in Afghanistan. However, three points are worth emphasising. First, safety for communities and researchers was always the primary consideration. Second, we found that in many instances neither traditional survey techniques nor participatory group based activities were appropriate, because they attracted too much attention and often suspicion. For the most part, the research team adopted a low profile, interviewing a range of individuals within a community (including women, children, farmers, shopkeepers and opium traders) and through their oral histories,  incrementally and indirectly building up a picture of the war economy. Third, our entry point was not the opium economy, but an analysis of people’s coping strategies and the impact of war on social institutions. There are weaknesses in this methodology. It only represents a snap shot of one part of the opium economy at one point in time. Our analysis would be strengthened for instance by interviews with Afghan commanders and other links in the drugs chain, like the Central Asia mafia. It would also be useful to track changes in the village over time to corroborate and verify our evidence. However, the key point is that in spite of the difficulties and constraints, it is possible to ‘capture’ local voices, leading to more informed analysis and policy formulation. 2. BACKGROUND 2.1 The Afghan conflict The Afghan conflict is a potent example of contemporary conflict resulting from a complex mix of factors, caused by years of bad development, Cold War politics, militarisation, and tribal and ethnic schisms. The conflict has been going on for twenty years. In the 1980s one third of the population were displaced and rural subsistence economies were deliberately destroyed. The withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1988 did not signal the end of the conflict. A process of “Lebonisation” ix[9] followed in which the contradictions within the resistance movement surfaced. The conflict thus mutated from a counter-insurgency war with an ostensibly ideological basis into one characterised by war-lordism and banditary. Since 1995 the war entered a new phase with the emergence of the Taliban who now control around 80% of the Afghanistan, with the remaining area controlled by an alliance of opposition leaders from the previous government. It is beyond the scope of the paper to examine in detail the history and dynamics of the Afghan conflict. However the following points are relevant to our analysis later:   Conflict as process   Conflict is a social process in which the srcinal structural tensions are themselves  profoundly reshaped by the massive disruptions of CPEs. As Tilly argues, “war is a form of contention which creates new forms of contention” x[10] . The Afghan conflict needs to be seen as less the outcome of a predictable pattern of causes and effects and more as a result of combinations of contingent factors. During the course of the conflict there have been periods and regions of stability mixed with instability, and the  boundaries of the conflict are constantly changing.  Systemic nature of the conflict   Received wisdom has it that Afghanistan has moved from a holy war into a civil war.
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