Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium and its offshoot heroin. Gregor Salmon thought it would be a good idea to visit the war-torn country to find out why this has occurred. He'd never been to Afghanistan. He knew no more than one person there. And what he did know made him nervous. He entered the country as the Taliban launched their 2007 spring offensive and left as the following winter approached. Over the intervening eight months he travelled around Afghanistan attempting to follow the narcotics trail from farm to borderline. Along the way he encountered a string of Afghans whose lives were tied the trade in one way or another: farmers, harvesters, eradicators, smugglers, police, soldiers, doctors, addicts, war lords, gun-runners, governors, politicians, commanders and Taliban. He based himself in Kabul, moving in with a houseload of expats who liked to party. He fell into the Kabul social scene where tree-huggers, security guards, embassy staffers and contract workers all got together, drank and let their hair down. But moments of revelry and abandon were brief because life in Afghanistan was seeped in fear. With one hostage crisis following another and suicide attacks hitting Kabul on a weekly basis, everyone was a target and a victim of terror. Salmon travelled south to the highly insecure provinces of Helmand, the engine room of the country's opium, and Kandahar. He felt only marginally safer exploring the northern smuggling routes of Badakhshan. He trekked deep into the Wakhan Corridor to visit the Kyrgyz, a remote tribe chronically addicted to opium. He went on a road trip with a pop-song loving Taliban commander to meet his gun dealer. And he spoke with politicians about opium's cancerous effect on Afghanistan's fledgling democracy. It all made for a tense, humorous, fascinating and enlightening journey. And at times it is deeply moving. Afghanistan has become a near narco-state and has done so under the noses of Western civil and military stakeholders. The 'good war' being fought there is at serious risk of being ultimately lost, much to the betterment of drug mafias, warlords, terrorists, Taliban and corrupt politicians. And the West's ability, even desire, to help reverse this trend is restrained. So long as the 'War on Terror' remains the priority, opium and its criminal benefactors will continue to thrive in a slowly expanding mire of chaos.
Number Of Pages: 464
Published: July 2009
Publisher: Random House Australia
Dimensions (cm): 23.3 x 15.4 x 3.6
Weight (kg): 0.63