Armchair Traveler: Why Did the U.S. Invade Afghanistan?

US Soldiers in Afghanistan

If you’re a reader of my Nepal series, you may remember The Drunk Welshman, back in Pokhara, telling me about his theory that the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in order to control the global heroin industry.

While it’s generally a good idea to take conspiracy theories with a grain of salt (especially those told to you by a drunkard in a foreign country), it’s also a good idea to not immediately discount them, just because they don’t square up with your own background knowledge. If traveling teaches us anything, it’s that ALL of us, no matter where we’re from, have woefully inadequate, incomplete, and utterly skewed educations. (See: Fake News in Former Yugoslavia)

Last weekend, I decided to investigate the Welshman’s claim. In doing so, I fell down a bit of a YouTube hole, and learned some really interesting things about modern Afghanistan. Below are three videos that shed some light on the situation in this country. Don’t take them as complete, unbiased texts, but maybe use them to think about your preconceptions about this country and the foreign involvement there. I found them fascinating. I hope you do too.

The Russian Occupation of Afghanistan

Yes, this is an RT piece, and therefore far from ideologically neutral (RT stands for Russia Today, and is sponsored by the Kremlin). But the situation it describes isn’t “fake news,” it’s well-documented history. A really good book on the subject is Ghost Wars: the Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. Basically, the U.S. armed the Taliban when Russia occupied Afghanistan. Didn’t reaaaaally think that one through. Every time I hear the phrase “moderate Syrian rebels,” I think of this.

Does Afghanistan Really Produce 90 Percent of the World’s Heroin?

Apparently yes! The Welshman was not wrong. Here’s a fascinating Al-Jazeera Doc on the subject. It does not make much mention of the US presence or involvement in the trade, but it’s a good starting point.

The Mineral Wealth of Afghanistan

Did you know Afghan emeralds are famous around the world? No? Nor did I. This is a fascinating doc about a Frenchman on a quest to make his fortune in the Afghani emerald mines. The doc is interesting, the conversation in the comments on YouTube, even more so. The country is rich in many, many more minerals than just emeralds. Wonder why foreign powers keep trying to occupy it?

4 thoughts on “Armchair Traveler: Why Did the U.S. Invade Afghanistan?

  1. Hi Daniel, thanks for stopping by my website. Hope you’re having fun in Nepal.

    RE: Afghanistan. As you know from my website I’ve been going there since 1972, buying gems, like lapis, tourmaline, emeralds, etc. As for the heroin epidemic, best read Dr. Alfred McCoy’s book: “The Politics of Heroin”. Steve Coll’s book was good, but he had to play nice with his CIA contacts, so he mentioned nothing about their involvement in the heroin trade. In the 1970s there was plenty of opium in Afghanistan, but NO heroin at all. During the war with Russia during the 1980s the CIA arrived, fresh from the Golden Triangle, and helped set up the processing labs in the Pakistani FATA tribal areas. They backed Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami, who were the biggest heroin smugglers of the Muj. The profit was probably used to finance off-the-books black ops.

    So the US already had a long history with heroin in Afghanistan, thus that wasn’t the reason for the post 9/11 invasion. For one of the reasons look into the history of the oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea down to Pakistan which has yet to be built.

    So it goes…

    Happy Trails,


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