CNN: Special Investigations Unit – Narco State: The Poppy Jihad
Six years after the Sept. 11 attacks, CNN’s Anderson Cooper investigates the world’s largest producer of opium – Afghanistan. Despite the millions of American dollars spent on eradication, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan remains out of control with the heroin produced from the opium finding its way to the streets of America and Western Europe.
After a three-month investigation, CNN: Special Investigations Unit – Narco State: The Poppy Jihad uncovers how opium became 46 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product, and what the United States is doing to stop the drug trade and interrupt its links to organized terrorism. Narco State premieres on Saturday, Sept. 8, and Sunday, Sept. 9, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. All times Eastern.
The documentary reveals that Afghan farmers do not earn much for their crop, but it is more than they can earn growing anything else.
“They [poppies] bring eight times the price of wheat, even though the soaring rate of cultivation means that traffickers will pay less money for the crop this year than last,” Cooper says.
Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations on earth, providing almost no financial support for farmers. Hundreds of millions of dollars from the sale of opium help fund the Taliban and possibly al Qaeda. Afghan government and NATO forces have been reluctant to cultivate enemies among the farmers by interfering with poppy growing. As the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency destroys a poppy crop, a farmer protests: “You have destroyed my crops. I will have no harvest. How will I pay back my loan? What will I eat?”
Cooper points out how the loan likely came from drug lords who may demand one of his daughters for repayment.
International support for developing other institutions and loan programs for farmers has been nearly nonexistent despite the offer of some promises. A U.S. counter-narcotics expert confirms that farmers no longer trust the United States and other governments to help them convert to legitimate agriculture.
Narco State – The Poppy Jihad features interviews with CNN terrorism and Afghanistan expert Peter Bergen, British terrorism journalist Peter Jouvenal, U.S. and Afghan counter-narcotics agents, U.S. intelligence agency officials, and Afghan tribal leaders, drug mules and farmers. The program and Cooper traces the web of links between the drug trade and the resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
“Anyone who wants to remember 9/11 should be very concerned about what’s happening in Afghanistan right now,” says Norine MacDonald, a U.S. counter-narcotics expert.