Balkhi first garda, primo Afghan hashish – 2007

Balkhi ‘first garda’, 2007 primo unpressed north Afghan resin from beyond Mazar-i-Sharif…

The massive scale of the 2006 and 2007 cannabis harvests in northern Afghanistan saw unprecedented availability of the highest grades of Afghan charas everywhere from Amsterdam and Berlin to London and Toronto, but had downsides such as an accompanying flood of bunk hash and new mostly negative attention from western media.

Most coverage focused on age-old dilemmas such as disputes over water rights as if they were novel phenomena, if not on more intriguing questions such as why exactly Afghan hashish was particularly pouring into countries that were major players in ISAF, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force set up to fight the Taliban and help rebuild Afghan democratic institutions….

Ironically, the immense cultivation across the north of Afghanistan came to an end due to a big cheese in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and its successor, the United Front, namely one Atta Muhammad Noor, the Governor of Balkh Province, who implemented an intensive crackdown on cannabis production following the vast charas harvest of winter 2007.

The upshot of this campaign by Noor – who governed Balkh Province until 2018 – was that the cannabis crop was forced south into provinces that were de facto controlled by insurgent groups, whether opportunist psychopaths claiming a stake in the Taliban franchise or forces directly linked to the Quetta–Kandahar axis and Pakistani ISI, the true nucleus of the ideological Taliban.

So Governor Noor, a self-righteous adherent of cannabis prohibition, handed over to his enemies in the Taliban a cash crop that in many reckonings is more lucrative than opium, ending a heyday for Afghan hashish that was even briefer than the few years democracy enjoyed in 60s Afghanistan.
Photo by Mriko, Peshawar, 2007