Friday, February 06, 2009

The drug mire in Afghanistan

The plan for NATO troops to start attacking opium producers in Afghanistan seems a pointless step into a nasty mess. The theory that drug money helps supports the Taliban is almost certainly true; if nothing else, looking Taliban leaders can collect taxes or protection money.
But poppy production provides income for one in 10 Afghans, in a country where the average monthly income is about $30. Every effort to end the industry — which provides some 90 per cent of the world's opium - will be fought by large sections of the public.
And, as this fine piece on the fumbling and corrupt eradication efforts from a couple of years ago shows, the effort is likely to cost vast sums and accomplish little.
Drug eradication spending in Afghanistan has been running at about $650 million a year — about $55 million froom Canada — while production increases.
There are alternate approaches. The Senlis Council, an international research agency with a focus on Afghanistan, has proposed a Poppy for Medicine program. Afghan villages would be supported in growing poppies and producing morphine. The pain-management drug is in desperately short supply for medical use in much of the developing world.
Western nations could also subsidize farmers to grow other crops or simply buy and destroy the poppy harvest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Taliban government was instrumental in implementing a successful drug eradication program, with the support and collaboration of the UN.

Implemented in 2000-2001, the Taliban's drug eradication program led to a 94 percent decline in opium cultivation. In 2001, according to UN figures, opium production had fallen to 185 tons. Immediately following the October 2001 US led invasion, production increased dramatically, regaining its historical levels.