The Golden Triangle was recently replaced as the world’s dominant opium producer by a new regional power known as the Golden Crescent,

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Asia’s opium hubs

The opiates that addicts swallow, snort and inject often begin their journey to India from the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent. The former is Southeast Asia’s primary hub for opium cultivation. Located along the Mekong river, where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand converge, the illicit trade thrives — exceeding $16.3 billion per year, according to a 2014 UN report. Though eradication efforts in the late ’90s and early 2000s caused the area’s opium cultivation to decline, it began surging again in 2006, partly because improvements in transportation made it easier to move the drug from place to place.

The Golden Triangle is currently the world’s second-largest opium producer. A 2014 report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimated the region’s opiate poppy cultivation rose to 63,800 hectares last year, compared with 61,200 hectares in 2013, nearly triple the amount harvested in 2006. Myanmar is the region’s leading opium cultivator.

Poverty and a lack of economic opportunity fuel illicit opium farming throughout the Golden Triangle, say researchers. In one survey in Burma, village farmers said they cultivated opium poppy just to provide for basic essentials such as food, education and housing. Researchers say economic development in these areas may be the best way to prevent opium growing.

The Golden Triangle was recently replaced as the world’s dominant opium producer by a new regional power known as the Golden Crescent, an area comprising Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan is the world’s largest opium producer and Pakistan primarily serves as an illicit drug trafficking route.

A 2014 World Drug Report said war-torn Afghanistan accounted for 90 per cent of global opium production. In 2013, the country cultivated an estimated 5,500 tons of oven-dried opium, which translates into roughly four per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Further, the already substantial opium cultivation area is growing. According to the report, the farming area increased by 36 per cent from 154,000 hectares in 2012 to 209,000 hectares in 2013. This uptick in Afghanistan’s opium cultivation continues despite the fact that the USA has invested more than seven billion dollars to combat the issue. A 2014 report from the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction described how the country’s opium cultivation was at an all-time high, despite more than a decade of US-led counter-narcotics efforts.

Afghanistan’s illicit opium production and trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry where the Taliban-funded terrorist organisations reap the most profit. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that in 2009 the Afghan Taliban earned around $155 million from the illicit opium trade, while Afghan drug traffickers acquired $2.2 billion — a grim reminder of how drugs fuel crime and terrorism as well as addiction.

Read more at http://www.thestatesman.com/news/supplements/asia-s-opium-hubs/67888.html#vzM0UJoVOcxbDmA7.99

POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl US Army Captured Afghanistan 6/30/2009

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Diane Gibbons Malanga

    For those who do not know this following information
    POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
    On July 18, 2009, the Taliban released a video showing they had captured Bergdahl. In the video, Bergdahl appeared downcast and frightened. A Department of Defense statement issued on July 19 confirmed that Bergdahl was declared "missing/whereabouts unknown" on July 1, and his status was changed to "missing/captured" on July 3. In the 28-minute video his captors hold up his dog tags to establish the captured man is Bergdahl. Bergdahl gives the date as July 14 and mentions an attack which occurred that day. Accounts of his capture differ. The version offered by Bergdahl, in the video, is that he was captured when he fell behind on a patrol. CNN, in its report, cites both Taliban and U.S. military sources, the former alleging he was ambushed after becoming drunk off base, and the latter denying that claim stating: "The Taliban are known for lying and what they are claiming (is) not true." A Department of Defense spokesperson, Lieutenant Commander Christine Sidenstricker, said, "I’m glad to see he appears unharmed, but again, this is a Taliban propaganda video. They are exploiting the soldier in violation of international law."] According to the Associated Press, General Nabi Mullakheil of the Afghan National Police said the capture occurred in Paktika Province. Their other sources inform them that he was captured by a Taliban group led by Maulvi Sangin, who has moved him to Ghazni Province. The Guardian quoted sources who speculated about the increased difficulty of a rescue mission if Bergdahl had been smuggled across the nearby border into Pakistan. CNN described two Pashto-language leaflets the U.S. military was distributing in seeking Bergdahl. One showed a smiling GI shaking hands with Afghan children, with a caption that called him a guest in Afghanistan. The other showed a door being broken down, and threatened that those holding Bergdahl would be hunted down. In December 2009, five months after Bergdahl’s disappearance, the media arm of the Afghan Taliban announced the release of a new video of "a U.S. soldier captured in Afghanistan," titled "One of Their People Testified." In the announcement the Taliban did not name the American, but the only U.S. soldier known to be in captivity is Bergdahl. U.S. military officials have been searching for Bergdahl, but it is not publicly known whether he is even being held in Afghanistan or in neighboring Pakistan, an area off-limits to U.S. forces based in Afghanistan. On December 25, another video was released that features Bergdahl in a combat uniform and helmet. He describes his place of birth, deployment to Afghanistan and subsequent capture. He then makes several statements regarding his humane treatment by his captors, contrasting this to the abuses suffered by insurgents in prisons. He finishes by saying that America should not be in Afghanistan and that it is just another Vietnam. On April 7, 2010, the Taliban released a third video of Bergdahl, now with a full head of hair and a beard, pleading for the release of Afghan prisoners held at Guantanamo and Bagram. In November 2010, Bergdahl appeared briefly in a fourth video In May 2011, Bergdahl appeared briefly in a fifth video. In December 2011, it was reported that Bergdahl tried to escape three months earlier but was recaptured after three days.