Newsbrief: European Drug Think Tank Rips US on Afghan Opium Policy -- No "Plan Afghanistan," Please, Says Senlis Council 10/15/04

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Inspired by recent pronouncements by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that the Bush administration is working on a "master plan" modeled on Plan Colombia to deal with Afghan opium production, a leading European drug policy think tank has urged the US to think again. While agreeing that that opium production funds warlords and private armies on all sides of Afghanistan's lingering armed conflicts, the Senlis Council (http://www.senliscouncil.net) called this week for a radically different approach.

incised papaver specimens (opium poppies)
Established by the Drug Policy Fund of the Network of European Foundations in May 2002 at Senlis, France, the council serves as an international collaborative framework for gathering expertise and generating new initiatives on drug policy. The Senlis Council targets high-level policy-makers at the national and intergovernmental level to adopt new ideas on drug policy.

Both the US and the international community must treat the drug issue as the number one priority in reconstructing Afghanistan's war-ravished economy and political institutions, the Council said this week. "It is the drug trade, with the lucrative illicit market that it creates that is behind the instability in Afghanistan because it creates corruption and gives power to individuals or groups that threaten democracy, such as warlords and private armies," said Council executive director Emmanuel Reinert in an October 7 statement.

But US-style "war on drugs" policies are a "failed policy model" that only fuels the drug trade in countries like Afghanistan, the Council said. "The United States has traditionally been the driving force behind the purely law-enforcement based 'war on drugs' approach which has been dominating the international drug control system for the past 40 years," Reinert said. "The fundamental problem which lies behind Afghanistan's drug crisis is this failed policy model. It does not provide the solution to the drug problem in Afghanistan or elsewhere."

According to the United Nations, opium accounts for more than half of the Afghan economy, with revenues estimated at $2.3 billion. The West cannot eradicate or repress its way out of the problem, said the Council. "Military action or the eradication of opium crops may perhaps make a small dent on the opium production in Afghanistan, but it will not solve the root of the problem, which is the flourishing illegal economy created by the sale of opium," said Reinert. "Even military power is not enough to defeat the force of the extremely lucrative illegal drugs economy."

Instead of tried-and-failed prohibition policies, said the Senlis Council, the West should turn toward internationally integrated policies such as a health-based approach to heroin consumption combined with regulated drug production that would allow for economic development and the establishment of the rule of law in countries like Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan needs sound solutions, not eradication plans," said Reinert.

And given the past performance of the US, the initiative should come from Europe, the Council said. "Considering past experiences and erroneous policies of the US, which does not appear to be learning from its mistakes, Europe seems best placed to continue the initiative to assist Afghanistan," said Reinert. "Afghanistan is unfortunately a perfect example of how the powerful market created by illicit drugs can totally disrupt, destabilize and jeopardize a whole country, even a whole geographical region."

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Issue #358, 10/15/04 A Message from the Executive Director on What DRCNet is Planning After Election Day and Why We Need Your Help | Now You See It, Now You Don't: The Amazing Vanishing DEA Pain FAQ | Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative Appears Headed for Victory | Second Medical Marijuana Initiative Faces Tough Fight in Oregon | Medical Marijuana on the Local Ballot in Ann Arbor, Berkeley, Columbia | DRCNet Book Review: "Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs in China" by Frank Dikotter, Lars Laaman and Zhou Xun (Oxford University Press, $35.00 HB) and "Opium: A Portrait of the Heavenly Demon" by Barbara Hodgson (Greystone Press, $14.95 PB) | Newsbrief: VP Hopeful John Edwards Makes Methamphetamine a Campaign Issue | Newsbrief: AMT, Foxy Methoxy Permanently Placed on Schedule I | Newsbrief: Congress Votes to Double US Troops in Colombia | Newsbrief: European Drug Think Tank Rips US on Afghan Opium Policy -- No "Plan Afghanistan," Please, Says Senlis Council | Newsbrief: Dinosaurs Walk the Earth as Prohibition Party, Independent Candidate Demand Return of Alcohol Prohibition | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | This Week in History | Administrative Assistant: Part-Time Job Opportunity at DRCNet | The Reformer's Calendar
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