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Mr. President, why not buy out Afghanistan instead of invading?

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My first reaction to the speech at West Point was this. But I can't give in to despair, so here is an alternative.

If you want to choke off the terrorist elements operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, you have to treat them like any piratical scourge. You have to disrupt their operations, deny them safe haven, and destroy their supply lines. We know where the money is coming from. It comes from the opium trade. That supports the corrupt government that provides safe haven. It is also a major source of revenue for supplies.

For about $6 billion USD we could buy the entire wholesale value of the opium crop for the next 10 years. That is about what we'll spend in 2 months covering the cost of deploying 30,000 combat troops.

The good news here:

1) it costs less

2) we don't spend the money nearly as fast,

3) a lot of the money is actually spent on stuff like crop seed, livestock, equipment, infrastructure, and training,

4) a lot of that money creates JOBS in the US to support it.

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On top of all that, when we were done, the average Afghan farmer would have a higher standard of living through sustainable farming. Check out the numbers and tell me why killing two birds with one stone is a bad idea.

Controlling drugs in Afghanistan will not solve all of the country's problems, but the country's problems cannot be solved without controlling drugs. [1]

-- Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Reuters recently digested information collected by the UN [2] and found the following:

  1. The total wholesale value of this year's opium production in Afghanistan is estimated to be about $438 million USD.
  1. That is lower than the value of last year's crop, which was about $730 million USD.

The drop is not due to lower production rates. There is a global glut of heroin and this has contributed to lower prices worldwide. Heroin in the US traditionally came from Asia, but recent competition from Colombian and Mexican heroin have driven these prices down. [3] The vast majority of Afghanistan's heroin winds up in Europe. But even there, heroin is getting cheaper. In fact, production is so far ahead of world consumption right now that heroin is being warehoused.

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It is estimated that two years worth of global consumption is currently being warehoused to artificially maintain the current price levels. That is an intelligence problem, not a military problem. No one outside of the traffickers knows who is hoarding it or where they are storing the estimated 10,000 tons of produce. [4]

In recent years heroin production has decreased, but only by a few percent. This is more than offset by increased efficiency of opium production in Afghanistan. Today, they can get about five times more opium out of their poppies than Asian growers do.

Assuming the warehoused supplies are beyond the reach of the Afghani and Pakistani governments, it would cost about $500 to $600 million USD per year to buy the entire Afghan crop.

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For starters, I am not the Henry Porter who writes for the Observer in Britain. I'm a native New Yorker living in Maryland. I used to believe knowledge was power. Now I know knowledge translated into action is power.

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