Summary of How the heroin trade explains the US-UK failure in Afghanistan

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How the heroin trade explains the US-UK failure in Afghanistan summary

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In a recent speech, US President Donald Trump vowed to bring the long war in Afghanistan to an end. But as historian Alfred W. McCoy explains, American military might can do little to address what's really fueling Afghanistan’s recurring cycles of insurgency and civil war. In a fascinating account tracing the history of Afghan conflicts, from the 1979 Soviet invasion to the present, McCoy illustrates how the rise and fall of Afghanistan's warring factions is inextricably linked to their ability to promote and control the opium trade. 

In this summary, you will learn

  • What role opium has played in decades of Afghan conflict and
  • Why military force will likely not end the Taliban’s insurgency.
 

About the Author

Alfred W. McCoy is Harrington professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

Summary

After more than a decade of conflict, $1 trillion spent on military operations and $100 billion invested in nation building, the United States military stands on the verge of defeat in Afghanistan. The reason? A flourishing opium market. Throughout decades of conflict, whoever controlled the production and trade of Afghanistan’s opium has usually maintained the upper hand. A lucrative, easy-to-grow crop that requires little capital investment, opium provides both employment to impoverished Afghan farmers and income for insurgents. During Soviet occupation in the 1980s, CIA-backed guerillas stood their ground by cultivating opium in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s fertile borderlands.

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