"Second, an opium culture existed historically in Badakhshan Province (extreme NE Afghanistan), but not in south. Now, 70% of Afghan opium comes from Helmand Province, where there was no history of it before 2002. US has been in Helmand, both militarily and supplying rural-rehab aid, since 2002. Weird coincidence, if that is all that it is. Note that opium grown in the southern provinces seems to be trafficked out by Baluchi truckers who cross south into Pakistan, west into Iran, then through northern Iraq (Mosul) into Turkey, then to the EU. So, also weird that they can travel through US-occupied Iraq without trouble; but probably because traffickers are the least of American concerns in Iraq."
"What would it take to meet these two targets? A lot of close involvement, yes; and it can be done in myriad ways, including many that are culturally sensitive! But rather than proximal goals (we built 250 schools! Only 100 have been blown up by insurgents!), it would mean actual change: prevalence of literacy. Instead of how many needles or pills or whatever the short-term metric of health aid might be, we should look at long-term, actual outcomes: Can Afghans expect to live longer? Longevity is influenced by many things, from de-mining to better nutrition to lower levels of domestic violence to healthcare. Tackling some or all of these in a culturally-respectful way is do-able."
Here comes the next chapter in my source's "Afghanistan for Dummies". It's long and I don't quite understand it all myself but here it is. "I have described this operation as a development 'campaign' because we are used to military campaigns, no matter how complex, expensive, and long-term they may be. Yes, a development campaign might cost several billion dollars a year in one small country. That seems expensive until it is compared to military campaigns."
I can see what he means. According to Robert Parry, "As security worsens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is clear that al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies outwitted President [sic] George W. Bush and his neoconservative advisers by tying down U.S. forces in Iraq for five years while the Islamic militants rebuilt their forces for the war on their 'central front'.” And what is Al Qaeda's 'central front'? America, of course. So it could be very beneficial to our own security if we upped our "development campaign" in Afghanistan.
As for my own self, I am torn between the realization that America CANNOT afford to stay in Afghanistan -- because the money we are spending there is coming directly our of our budget for decent schools for our children. However. I sort of do want our troops to stay there because I have a dear friend in Kabul who somehow survived the Russian invasion, who somehow surrived Charlie Wilson's War and who somehow survived Taliban rule -- and I would hate to have anything violent and nasty happen to him now. And if it costs American taxpayers 100 billion dollars every few months just to keep my friend in Kabul safe, that's fine with me!