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The Collective
Thursday, July 19, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the Chicago Tribune: Afghan opium poppy crop hits record

Afghanistan’s heroin-producing poppy crop set another record this season, despite intensified eradication efforts, the American ambassador said Tuesday.

Ambassador William Wood said preliminary data show that Afghan farmers harvested 457,135 acres of opium poppies this year, up from 407,715 acres last year. The growing industry fuels the Taliban, crime, addiction and government corruption.

Government-led eradication efforts destroyed about 49,420 acres of poppies this year, a “disappointing” outcome, Wood told reporters at his private residence overlooking Kabul.

I know that I am quite the fatalist on this point, but my guess is that there will be yet another record next year. And, even if we do start eradicating crops, I have no doubt that there will still be plenty of poppies to make all the heroin that the market will bear.

It is not surprising in the least, yet still depressing in the extreme, that the US government thinks that exporting the Andean coca-eradication model will actually lead to any appreciable change to the Afghanistan poppy situation. It is like copying the Oakland Raider’s offensive plan from last season because, after all, they did score a few touchdowns.

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Filed under: War on Drugs, Afghanistan | |

4 Comments

  1. I am sorry, but I don’t think we have taken near the steps that we could to eradicate the heroin trade in Afghanistan because it would destabilize the government that we have put in place. In short, it may hurt the American people, but it is not in our short term interest.

    Comment by Talmadge East — Thursday, July 19, 2007 @ 10:43 pm

  2. My underlying point is that we probably don’t even have the ability needed to eradicate the heroin trade.

    However, if you think that War on Drugs thinking can’t interfere with anti-terrorism policy, I give you this.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, July 20, 2007 @ 8:55 am

  3. It’s not that easy to find poppies in Afghanistan. They grow very fast. Poppies that were not on a farm a week ago can be there today.

    And - they can be planted in patches with other plants, making observation from the air (hard to begin with) almost impossible.

    Also, they can be grown out in the wildlands in patches only the planters know to look for, and only accessible by pack animal and foot traffic.

    And remember, even if you find poppies on a patch of land, you may not be able to link the property to an individual. Physical records of even such simple things as property ownership are hard to come by over there. And you also have some legal concerns in the Afghan government, even if you don’t have an obstructing official. Their are search protocol in the new Afghan government.

    What you’re talking about, if you want to eradicate poppy crops, is boots on the ground, and a whole lot of them - a lot more than we have to spare. And then you probably make a lot of people mad, and perhaps inspire bigger problems, perhaps a more active insurgency in Afghanistan.

    At some point you have to ask the question, is it worth it?

    Comment by Captain D. — Friday, July 20, 2007 @ 11:15 am

  4. At some point you have to ask the question, is it worth it?

    Exactly.

    And a great deal of what you mention is true (although not all) for coca as well. The depressing fact of the matter is that we have spent billions and billions of dollars (indeed, trillions) to fight coca cultivation to literally no real avail and we appear willing to head down the same path for poppies.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, July 20, 2007 @ 11:23 am

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