The Afghanistan Debacle

On Saturday, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime released its estimate of the 2006 Afghan opium crop, and the numbers are astoundingly bad. According to the UNODCO, this year's crop is 60% larger than last year's and will yield an all-time record 6,100 tons of opium. Afghan opium will account for a whopping 92% of global illicit opium production. This report, which must come as a punch in the gut to the US and NATO, strongly suggests that the US/NATO/Karzai strategy of attempting to uproot the opium crop and the opium economy--which is Afghanistan's primary economic motor--is not only failing, it is backfiring. Opium production has now spread to 28 of the country's 34 provinces, and in the restive south, opium profits are helping fuel a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgency. It is a situation eerily reminiscent of Peru in the 1980s. Maoist insurgents of the Shining Path were making inroads among Peruvian coca producers, who were being hounded by the Peruvian government at the behest of the United States. Some Peruvian generals got smart and decided to lay off the peasants, ignoring their coca cultivation in a bid to win hearts and minds. The US government got mightily pissed, but in the end, the strategy worked. The Shining Path was not able to bring the coca growers into its insurgency and eventually faded away. There is a lesson here for NATO and American war planners. You can have your war on terror or you can have your war on drugs, but it doesn't seem that you can successfully have both. It's awfully difficult to win hearts and minds when you're burning down farmers' fields and destroying their livelihoods.
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Give them a legal market

I have often thought that a good way to deal with illicit opium production would be to create a legal market for it. Opium derivatives obviously have many accepted medical uses. If the opium produced in Afghanistan could be directed to the pharmaceutical market, instead of the heroin market, the growers could be paid decently for their crop without supporting terrorists, criminals, etc. If it is not economically viable for the pharmaceutical industry to use raw opium as a source for Morphine, perhaps some of hte billions of dollars wasted on attempts to eliminate cultivation could be used to subsidize the production of morphine from a natural source.

borden's picture

indeed...

Indeed, that is the proposal that has been floated by the Senlis Council. Visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle-old/afghanistan/ for much more information about it including our editor Phil Smith's own trip to Afghanistan when he attended the Senlis conference.

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC
http://stopthedrugwar.org

There is no room for Afgan poppies in the legal trade

Many will be unaware of the long established and tightly restricted world-wide trade in legal opiates and will be surprised to learn that Australia produces 40% of the world's legal opium poppy and byproducts supply. Most of the rest comes from India and Turkey.

US drug companies import 80% of their raw opiate needs under a 20 year old US trade regulation that sets India and Turkey as the source of 80% of US legal opiate needs, the 80-20 rule.

See here: http://www.poppies.org/news/99742218366555.shtml

Australia actively lobby for the repeal of the 80-20 rule.

Like much of the world's agricultural production, opium poppy is in oversupply and methods have been adopted to favour the few selected producers over those not so lucky. Another form of protection as set by the US, the largest world opponent of free trade.

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