Most Afghans admit that the drug business is bad. Religious leaders preach against the use of opium and heroin. But the farmers and tribal leaders justify getting involved by pleading poverty, and the need for money. Moreover, tribal and religious leaders make a point that, if you do not use the drugs, even if you produce them, you are much less evil. Donate some of the proceeds to the local mosque and religious leaders, and you're practically home free.
The problem with the Afghan drug lords is that money talks, and talks very convincingly. After decades of war, poverty and privation, most Afghans are more interested in getting paid, than in building a new Afghanistan. The drug lords know that many tribal chiefs, government officials, and even religious leaders, are for sale. It's the dirty little secret of the drug business, that so many people have a price.
But this is not unique to Afghanistan. In most parts of the world, where the services of peacekeepers are needed, money is just another weapon. And often it's a more effective weapon than guns. For example, in Lebanon, when Hizbollah set out to stage a raid into Israel last July, they bribed some Indian army UN peacekeepers to insure that they got into, and out of Israel, with minimum fuss. This was particularly important, because the Hizbollah crew wanted to take some Israeli soldiers alive.
But in most cases, the gangsters are willing to pay cops and peacekeepers to just stay away from whatever illegal scam that was bringing in the money. In some parts of the world it's logging, or mining (for gold, diamonds or whatever). And often it's about drugs.
The crooks do not want so much peace and order that it will interfere with their money-making operations. Peacekeepers quickly learn this, if they were not aware going in. Peacekeepers have a choice. They take the money and be still, or just stand aside without taking the bribes. But if the peacekeepers take on the gangsters, they can expect a hard time, proportionate with how much money is at stake. In many parts of the world, that's a lot of money indeed. And lots of guns and nastiness for anyone trying to shut down the illegal operations.
In Afghanistan, the country's opium trade provides a major source of funds for the Taliban. Government and Coalition officials have failed to make effective use of this in their propaganda against the Taliban. There are reasons for this.