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Opium Season: A Year on the Afghan Frontierby Joel Hafvenstein
Synopses & Reviews
A GOOD IDEA GONE TERRIBLY WRONG.
Were getting out, mate.” Charless composure was belied by the taut lines in his face and the two Afghan guards flanking him, their rifles unslung and ready. Get your things. If what were hearing from Zabul is true, weve been sitting here like bloody ducks for too long already.”
If true, the rumors from Zabul province confirmed that someone was trying to kill us, but we didnt yet know who: the struggling remnants of the Taliban, opium smugglers who found our work an inconvenience, or local militia commanders with some unknown grudge. We didnt know if they planned more attacks, or if they could strike us in the city of Lashkargah itself. So we were running. There was a small U.S. military outpost on the edge of town, next to the graveyard. By the afternoon our office and staff houses would be empty of everyone but guards, and our Western staff would be inside a bunker.
—From the Prologue
"In May 2005, four employees of Chemonics International, a Washington, D.C. — based contractor with the U.S. Agency for International Development, were among 11 Afghans killed in two separate attacks on aid workers operating in Afghanistan's Helmand province. First-time author Hafvenstein was then a young administrator for Chemonics, having eagerly joined in 2003 a small team working on U.S.A.I.D.'s Alternative Incomes Project, aiming to create thousands of jobs building a new infrastructure to offset planned eradication of the opium poppy, the mainstay of the rural economy and the raw basis for heroin sold around the world. Beginning with the news of his colleagues' deaths, Hafvenstein retraces his rapid immersion into the deeply fractured and danger-strewn politics and society of post-Taliban Afghanistan. His personal narrative gracefully introduces this complex and troubled land, measuring the impact of warlordism and police corruption on what he comes to see as the ultimately misguided U.S. emphasis on poppy eradication. While that conclusion will hardly surprise those following the escalating violence since 2005, Hafvenstein offers a revealing if narrowly critical insider perspective on the workings of U.S.-sponsored international development schemes in Afghanistan and worldwide." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
International development consultant Hafvenstein recounts his time in Helmand province, Afghanistan, from November 2004 to May 2005 working for a private company contracted to the US government. He periodizes his experience by the planting, flowering, and harvest of the opium poppies. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A young American working on the brutal fault line where the war on terror meets the war on drugs. Joel Hafvenstein signed up for a year in Afghanistan in the heart of the country's opium trade, running an American-funded aid program to help thousands of opium poppy farmers make a legal living, and to win hearts and minds away from the former Taliban government. The author was soon caught up in the deadly intrigues of Helmand's drug trafficking warlords. Click here to read the review in The New York Times or for more information on this title go to opiumseason.com.
Hafvenstein joined a team of contractors in Afghanistans harsh and brutal Helmand Province seeking to convince local farmers to stop growing poppies, the source of opium. This is his groups story of intrigue, excitement, success, and heartbreaking failure at the far edge of the world.
Opium Season is the story of a young American working on the brutal fault line where the war on terror meets the war on drugs. Joel Hafvenstein didnt know what he was getting into when he signed up for a year in Afghanistans rugged Helmand Province, the heart of the countrys opium trade. He was running an American-funded aid program with two goals: to help tens of thousands of opium poppy farmers make a legal living, and to win hearts and minds away from the former Taliban government.
The author and his friends were soon caught up in the deadly intrigues of Helmands drug trafficking warlords. He found himself dodging Taliban in poppy-filled mountain ravines and arguing with murderous, AK-47 toting bandits in police uniform. He saw both the stark beauty and the terrible cruelty that Afghans live with every day. At the height of his teams success, the Taliban attacked, killing his colleagues and destroying their work. These ambushes heralded a Taliban resurgence across the country; they also showed the weaknesses in Americas strategy that continue to undermine every American accomplishment in Afghanistan.
This is a riveting story of intrigue, adventure, and tragedy at the far edge of the world. In the tradition of The Places In Between and The Kite Runner, Opium Season examines the odyssey of an American chasing a seemingly impossible goal in the midst of chaos and describes this shattered, beautiful country and its deeply divided people.
About the Author
Joel Hafvenstein is an international development consultant, an analyst of South and Central Asia, and a writer. He has written on Afghanistan for The New York Times and Commonweal magazine, and been interviewed on National Public Radio's The Story. OPIUM SEASON is his first book.
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