According to the New York Times, the US is trying to turn Afghanistan into another Colombia – that is, convert a warlord based, heavily armed narco-insurgency into a warlord-based, heavily armed narco-democracy. They have even imported Colombian troops and advisers into Kabul to show them how it’s done. From the front page of the Times….
KABUL, Afghanistan — In a walled compound outside Kabul, two members of Colombia’s counternarcotics police force are trying to teach raw Afghan recruits how to wage close-quarters combat.
It is a measure of this country’s virulent opium trade, which has helped revive the Taliban while corroding the credibility of the Afghan government, that American officials hope that Afghanistan’s drug problem will someday be only as bad as that of Colombia.
While the Latin American nation remains the world’s cocaine capital and is still plagued by drug-related violence, American officials argue that decades of American counter-narcotics efforts there have at least helped stabilize the country.
“I wanted the Colombians to come here to give the Afghans something to aspire to,” Mr. Balbo said. “To instill the fact that they have been doing this for years, and it has worked.”
Apparently we want them to aspire to government-sanctioned and sometimes even organized terror, trafficking, subversion of democracy, gross violations of human rights, death squads and mass murder. From page six of the front section of the same paper, under the wonderfully alliterative headline “Death Squad Scandal Circles Closer to Colombian President“:
CALI, Colombia, May 15 — President Álvaro Uribe, the Bush administration’s closest ally in Latin America, faces an intensifying scandal after a jailed former commander of paramilitary death squads testified Tuesday that Mr. Uribe’s defense minister had tried to plot with the outlawed private militias to upset the rule of a former president.
Mr. Mancuso also said that Vice President Francisco Santos had met with paramilitary leaders in 1997 to discuss taking their operations to the capital, Bogotá.
The paramilitaries, which are largely demobilized but regrouping in some areas, committed some of the worst atrocities in a long internal war. Prosecutors ordered the arrest on Monday of five legislators for entering into a secret pact with the paramilitaries in 2001, bringing to 14 the total number of legislators implicated in such ties.
We guess the attitude of the US Government is that since we gotta get our drugs from somewhere, we might as well get them from a right-wing, death-squad democracy rather than from a left-wing death-squad insurgency. This fits neatly into the present US compulsion to support athoritarian, conservative, business-dominated regiemes and combat left-leaning, anti-government insurgencies, wherever they may be found.
It’s like a police informer who figures it’s OK to be an addict because he’s getting his drugs from the cops.
Paradoxically, both drug users and law and order fans across the country should be celebrating this initiative. If we can convert Afghanistan into a stable narco-Democracy, or rather crypto-Democracy, with some sort of passable pretense of free elections, the United States will be assured of a uninterrupted and reasonably priced supply of heroin and other opiates for decades to come. And a right-wing, military/paramilitary government in geographically crucial Afghanistan will insure us of a staunch ally in the war on terror and extremism.
Of course, the tourist industry tends to take a hit when hand grenades are more common than pineapples and carbines than canapes, but who wants to go to Afghanistan as a tourist anyway? (Actually, the Dowbrigade would love to visit if we could be assured that the danger level was no higher than that in, say, Washington, D.C…)
All kidding aside, the lesson of Colombia is that helping the government get a handle on drug trafficking hasn’t eliminated or even reduced the supply of coke on the streets of America, which according to reports is as robust and cheap as ever. It just puts the trade into the hands of the type of guys our guys consider to be more reliable in their dealings and more reasonable in their investment of the proceeds.