Spoils of Afghanistan War: Opium and Lithium

The Afghanistan War, the Opioid epidemic and the Tech Boom.

Here’s something for you to consider, when reflecting on the Afghan War. In the early ’00s, the Taliban had all but entirely eradicated the opium trade, eradicating about 90% of the world’s supply. NY Times

They did it because drug use is Haram (a sin), in their view.

Grown from poppies, Opium, of course, is the active ingredient in street drugs like heroin and pharmaceuticals like oxycontin. 

Once in Afghanistan, troops began immediately guarding the poppy fields and the Opium trade went back into full swing. Politifact / Brookings / Unicef / CBS

Since the war, we now have the opioid crisis and the heroin epidemic, in case you haven’t heard. Canada

And now, China has developed a genetically modified poppy seed, and production has soared 43% from 2015 to 2017. Forbes / CBS / CNBC

To me, this begs the question “Did we go into Afghanistan strictly for the spoils”? And since the pharmaceutical companies directly benefit, were corporate heads somehow involved? A lot of profit has been made since this epidemic first began.

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Speaking of profits, there is another issue; lithium. Yes, the kind used in all of our cell phones and other electronics. HowStuffWorks

In 2010, a vein of lithium was announced to have been discovered, estimated at $1tn. NYTimes

In 2017, the Afghan Government tried to lure the Trump administration with the prospect of that $1tn. VOANews

And the strategy worked. Independent

It is now valued at $3tn. CNBC

Of course, I don’t believe the vein was discovered in 2010, and my suspicion is supported by the fact that tech companies have been absolutely thriving since the new millennium.

Here in Canada, the average person owns three mobile devices, each requiring a lithium-ion battery. It should not surprise you to learn that our global leaders are each vying to stake their claim in what is now being dubbed “The White Gold Rush”. Economist

So, what are we left to think about the Afghan war? I’ll leave that question to you.