Sunday, June 28, 2009

It took you guys long enough to figure out something

A lot of us knew from the beginning. You don't force impoverished farmers to dump a lucrative crop like opium poppies unless you offer something as good in return.

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TRIESTE, Italy – The U.S. is shifting its strategy against Afghanistan's drug trade, phasing out funding for opium eradication while boosting efforts to fight trafficking and promote alternate crops, the U.S. envoy for Afghanistan said Saturday.

The aim of the new policy: to deprive the Taliban of the tens of millions of dollars in drug revenues that are fueling its insurgency.

The U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told the Associated Press that poppy eradication — for years a cornerstone of U.S. and U.N. drug trafficking efforts in the country — was not working and was only driving Afghan farmers into the hands of the Taliban.

"Eradication is a waste of money," Holbrooke said on the sidelines of a Group of Eight foreign ministers' meeting on Afghanistan, during which he briefed regional representatives on the new policy.

"It might destroy some acreage, but it didn't reduce the amount of money the Taliban got by one dollar. It just helped the Taliban. So we're going to phase out eradication," he said. The Afghan foreign minister also attended the G-8 meeting.

Eradication efforts were seen as inefficient because too little was being destroyed at too high a cost, U.N. drug chief Antonio Maria Costa told the AP.

The old policy was also deeply unpopular among powerless small-scale farmers, who often were targeted in the eradication efforts.


Mike Goldman said...

What alternate crops are they going to grow with a similar market value and are you going to subsidize their alternate crops forever?

Worth pointing out again that cannabis grows well in Afghanistan, and it would make an economic alternative without subsidy. Of course I don't expect the UN drug chief to support this option.

ellroon said...

Alternate crops take time to set up and the Taliban virtually salted the earth in some places so they had no option but poppies. It will be terribly hard, for the Taliban destroy groves and trees at will. I know some nut trees and pomegranates will grow. I wish them luck.

Pot might grow well, but no politician would ever suggest something like that. Instant electoral death...