Opium Season: A Year on the Afghan Frontier

Joel Hafvenstein, Author . Lyons $24.95 (337p) ISBN 978-1-59921-131-2

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. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/01/2007
Release date: 11/01/2007
Paperback - 337 pages - 978-1-59921-621-8
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