Case Studies

ALCIS exposes extent of opium trade in Afghanistan

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ALCIS exposes extent of opium trade in Afghanistan Alcis exists to reveal critical information and insight about complex environments. Alcis also trains others to do likewise. With the assistance of advanced satellite imagery, Alcis plays a critical role in validating the effectiveness of tactical strategies and providing evidence-based situational awareness. Recently, Alcis began reviewing a military mission aimed at eliminating opium labs in Afghanistan, which started in November 2017. The strategy: airstrikes, but how effective was this strategy in countering the narcotics operation. In May 2017, drawing on pre and post-event WorldView-3 imagery, Alcis examined the impact of the Mother Of All Bombs (MOAB) that was dropped in Eastern Afghanistan. Within three weeks of the event Alcis released a detailed report on the MOAB strike, a report that was then picked up by the Guardian and other news outlets. This analysis was informative in shaping the approach to analysing the impact of subsequent airstrikes on heroin processing laboratories. Step one: previous analysis EXTRACTING THE EVIDENCE Step two: detailed analysis A series of airstrikes had taken place on a number of reported heroin processing laboratories in northern Helmand. Alcis used satellite imagery from Maxar SecureWatch to locate the airstrikes and worked with its research partners who sent in a survey team to understand the impact on the community. The team was able to quickly locate the strike locations and speak with knowledgeable locals, who provided valuable insight on under reported civilian deaths and in another instance how quickly the labs were rebuilt and back in action. This combination of imagery analysis and field work led to the production of a highly insightful report. Assessment: Airstrikes had little impact on opium operations and were instead damaging the community. The resolution of imagery made it possible for Alcis to map the location of airstrikes so that targeted field surveys with more focused questions could be conducted quickly and safely in the right location. Step one case study Step two Figure 1. MOAB area of impact Figure 2. Nine buildings hit by airstrikes; one was an occupied residence that killed the nine civilians.

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