Leave it to us to end the poppy curse

Leave it to us to end the poppy curse

By Ahmad Zia Massoud, First Vice-President of Afghanistan

I have no doubt that the efforts of Britain and the international community in fighting the opium trade in Afghanistan are well-intentioned and we are grateful for their support. But it is now clear that your policy in the south of our country has completely failed. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent over the last five years, the UK contributing £262 million, the US about $1.6 billion (£800m) . Yet UN figures show that opium production increased by 34 per cent last year and more than doubled in the last two years. In Helmand, where the British are based, poppies have spread like a cancer. The province now produces half of Afghanistan's opium.

Why, when so much has been spent, has the policy failed so badly? The primary reason is insecurity. Opium cultivation has continued due to the pressure exerted by the Taliban, who "tax" every aspect of the poppy crop. In more secure provinces, in the north and centre, we have succeeded in reducing opium cultivation. Second, and almost as important, the counter-narcotics policy has been much too soft. We are giving too much "carrot" and not enough "stick". Of course, it is important to bring development and alternative employment to the people. Millions of pounds have been committed in provinces including Helmand for irrigation projects and road-building to help farmers get their produce to market. But for now this has simply made it easier for them to grow and transport opium.

What is missing is the "stick". Eradication was so low last year, at only about 10 per cent of the crop, that it hardly made an impact on the production and will not be enough to deter farmers from planting in the future.

Thirdly, counter-narcotics operations are not in Afghan hands. Poppy cultivation is an Afghan problem and it needs an Afghan solution. As President Karzai rightly said last week: "Our friends should listen to us."

A further point we Afghans must acknowledge is the deep-rooted corruption that exists in our state institutions involved in combating narcotics and terrorism. We must wipe out this plague. I believe we have now reached a critical point in our struggle against the curse of opium, fundamental to the security and future of Afghanistan. The opium directly supports those who are killing Afghan and international troops. Every-one involved in the drugs trade, the farmers, the factories and the traffickers, is forced to contribute to the Taliban. This is a vicious circle: getting rid of the poppy in the south has been difficult because of insecurity, but the insecurity is fuelled by the poppy. Failure to achieve a substantial reduction in the opium crop will be equivalent to supporting the Taliban.

The time has come for us to adopt a more forceful approach. We must switch from ground-based eradication to aerial spraying. This has several advantages. It is safe - the main ingredient, glyphosate, has been in use for 30 years - it requires fewer people, and they will be able to operate in greater safety. It also has the benefit of being indiscriminate: farmers will no longer be able to bribe officials to protect their crop.

This should not create anger against the government, since it is acting with religious and legal justification, nor should it increase rural poverty. Some of the poorest provinces are succeeding in getting rid of the poppy, though it is essential that long-term projects are implemented to develop the economy and provide alternative livelihoods.

If we fail this will become a war of attrition, and more of the soldiers of Afghanistan, Britain, and other countries will be needlessly killed. As an old Afghan proverb says: "In fighting wars you don't hand out sweets."
I have met Ahmad Zia Massoud a number of times and have had a positive impression every time, especially in the dark days before the fall of the Taliban. You will have heard of his Brother, may he rest in peace.
Afghan poppy production is NOT A PROBLEM.

Dirty, low-life, scumbag addicts, pushers, dealers and suppliers in THIS country are the fcuking problem.

All that our "well intentioned" poppy crop reduction is achieving is to cost us insane amounts and lose us hearts and minds.
As stated numerous times before, why not buy the Opium from them and turn it into Morphine based products? There is apparently a shortage, and here we have too much...

Everyone wins. Except the drug dealers who's supplies of cheap heroin is cut.
How true, it's the home bred scum that need to be dealt with.
Compulsory testing of all in recieptof UK Governemt wages , starting with cabinet and all MP's.
Pass international law on all those caught by enforcers against the drugs trade.
Summary execution.

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