"Intellectual dishonesty and a refusal to look honestly at cause and effect prevented good analysis of the problems in Afghanistan--and resulted in soldiers and Marines dying in a fight that was unwinnable."
Inge Fryklund was a Chicago prosecutor, where she served as Supervisor of the Criminal Appeals Division in the Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney and was responsible for all criminal appeals out of that county. More recently, between 2004 and 2012, she spent almost five years in Afghanistan, working with the legal system and advising national, provincial, and municipal governments. Throughout her time in Afghanistan, she has observed the detrimental effects of U.S. drug policy on individual Afghans, on Afghan legal and governance institutions, and on the effectiveness of American attempts to counter terrorism.
She initially observed the futility and injustice of the war on drugs as a Cook County prosecutor. “During my work in the bond courts in Chicago,” she says, “I saw a steady parade of defendants arrested for minor drug offenses. Looking at the criminal history records we assembled from Illinois and NCIS records, it sometimes appeared that every inner city male (primarily Black, to a lesser extent Latino, rarely White) had a drug conviction, rendering him ineligible for future legitimate employment, and likely driving him back into the drug economy. Much of the gang-related violent crime I observed was driven by gangs fighting over drug turf; a decrease in violence was often a sign of successful consolidation of territory, and not to be viewed as a positive sign of a citywide decrease in crime.”
It wasn't until working in Afghanistan that Inge saw how devastating U.S. drug policies were to Afghanistan, particularly how Afghans were forced to bear costs in terms of governmental corruption and violence that would be unacceptable in the US. “Being from Chicago, I saw analogies with the Al Capone days of Prohibition,” she says. In 2011 and 2012, she worked in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, the largest poppy producing area in the world, as governance and rule of law adviser to the U.S. Marines. “I saw how close to the edge these subsistence agricultural communities were living. Poppy (long shelf life, easy to store, small volume) functioned as the family ‘savings account.’ US Marines were drawn into firefights with various local insurgents who seemed to have no connection with Taliban or al Qaeda, but were quite determined to protect their drug turf, which reminded me a lot of Chicago street gangs. The result was deteriorating security and increasing malnutrition in an area that could easily support itself off legal poppy revenues.”
Inge recalls a meeting at the Kabul Embassy in 2004 during a discussion about how to get Afghan farmers to grow wheat instead. “I asked whether legalization might change the equation. I was told that this was off the table as a matter of U.S. policy and I should not mention it again. Intellectual dishonesty and a refusal to look honestly at cause and effect prevented good analysis of the problems in Afghanistan--and resulted in soldiers and Marines dying in a fight that was unwinnable.”
Currently semi-retired and working as a consultant, Inge lives in Bend, Oregon. She is a law school graduate of the University of Chicago and also holds a PhD from the University of Michigan.