Is Afghanistan's Future To Be One Where The Drug Mafias Rule?

Afghan farmers work on a poppy field in the Grishk District of Helmand Province. (File photo)

The Taliban's Life Of Luxury -- Ron Moreau, The Daily Beast

Is Afghanistan destined to be run by a drug mafia?

Pashtunabad—a poor, wind- and flyblown suburb of Quetta—is the type of Pakistani town where commanders in the Afghan Taliban generally lived after being kicked out of their home country in 2001. Modest cement-block and mud-brick, one- and two-story homes sit cheek by jowl along the narrow, largely unpaved streets and open sewers. Graffiti such as “Long Live Mullah Omar” and “Long Live the Jihad” are scrawled on walls; the black-and-white flag of a pro-Taliban political party flies over many homes.

Living in a town like Pashtunabad carried advantages for the Afghan Taliban’s leadership: it allowed them to fly under the radar and cultivate an image as average Joes, even as they were directing an insurgency against U.S. troops across the border. But in recent years, some Taliban commanders have begun moving out of places like Pashtunabad—and into new neighborhoods that could not be more different. They have transformed rural districts of mud-brick homes in places like Kuchlak—a stretch of poor and arid land populated largely by fruit and vegetable farmers, located on the road from Quetta to the Afghan border—into little boomtowns. Farther to the south, they have abandoned Karachi’s poor Sohrab Goth neighborhood for wealthier developments like Clifton, where they live in the vicinity of the Pakistani elite, including businessmen, entertainers, artists, and politicians. (The Bhutto family has a sprawling compound in the area, and Benazir Bhutto’s widower, Pakistani President Ali Asif Zardari, often stays there.) Many Clifton residents live in such a heavy security bubble, they probably don’t even know the Taliban are in town.

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My Comment: The opium/heroin trade is obviously profitable .... producing money that these Taliban drug lords (and their Afghan allies) have become dependent on. Will they be willing to give up on this cash cow .... I doubt it. Will they be a thorn in Afghanistan's (and Pakistan's) future .... probably. But will they be able to accumulate enough wealth and power to run Afghanistan .... I am not sure. For the moment .... they are influencing Afghan politics, but running the country is an entirely different thing, and I doubt that Afghanistan's neighboring states will tolerate such a situation for any period of time.

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