David Borden, Executive Director
We at DRCNet partly see drug reform as a human rights movement, and so ten years ago when very few Americans had heard of the Taliban, but the UN and the Clinton administration intended to fund them to do opium eradication, we condemned the Taliban in this newsletter and criticized the proposal. The fear of human rights advocates was that the brutal regime would be able to use the money to further establish its hold on power. Anyone who watched the footage of Taliban atrocities airing on US news stations after 9/11 can understand why that's a bad thing. Other reasons for opposing the Taliban are quite well known now.
Today we continue to fund the Taliban -- we don't say we do, we claim to be fighting them, we even send our soldiers to fight them in person -- but we are funding them. We are funding them by prohibiting drugs. Because drugs are illegal, they cannot be regulated, and so their source plants are grown wherever and by whomever is willing and able to gain a foothold in the market. For a large share of the global opium supply, at the moment that means Afghanistan. And the Taliban are cashing in on that.
And how. Just this week, a NATO commander said opium may provide as much as 40% of the Taliban's revenues, hundreds of millions of dollars -- some experts say it's more like 60%, he added. If opium-derived drugs were legal and regulated, that wouldn't happen. And governments are therefore at fault for creating a funding source for a movement that is destabilizing Afghanistan, that is abusing the rights of its people, and that may still be helping Al-Qaeda, all of this five years after we thought we had gotten rid of them for good.
US officials continue to press for more opium eradication, but experts agree that eradication helps the Taliban too, by driving the farmers into their arms -- of course while failing to reduce the opium crop, instead only moving it from place to place. And while Afghanistan's government has not unleashed all the eradication the US government wants, it has done enough to hurt. A hundred thousand Afghans are employed in the opium trade and don't have another way to make a living. We can't just tell them they can't grow opium anymore, and expect them to comply or that serious damage to the nation-building and counter-insurgency programs won't result.
Ten years ago, the west helped the Taliban for the sake of fighting the drug war. Today, the Taliban is an enemy, and we fight the drug war supposedly to fight them, but in the process instead help them -- see how no matter what direction the drug war compass points, one way or its opposite, it never points to anywhere good. That is why I say, enough already, stop funding the Taliban and other dangerous people through drug prohibition, legalize drugs to make this world a safer place.