New strat­egy an­nounced to com­bat Afghan opium trade

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Brian Black­well

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion on Aug. 9 an­nounced a new strat­egy to re­duce drug traf­fick­ing in Afghanistan, the world-wide leader in opium pro­duc­tion.

The five-pil­lar plan also aims to in­crease the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s con­trol over the coun­try, where a dra­matic rise in the har­vest­ing of opium is seen as con­tribut­ing to an in­crease in ter­ror­ism.

“What we are try­ing to do is dra­mat­i­cally in­crease in­cen­tives in poppy seed re­duc­tion,” said Thomas Sch­we­ich, the deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for In­ter­na­tional Nar­cotics and Law En­force­ment Af­fairs. “Also we’re look­ing for harsher dis­in­cen­tives where poppy seed pro­duc­tion is in­creas­ing.”

The area un­der poppy seed cul­ti­va­tion in Afghanistan sky­rock- eted from 20,000 acres when the Tal­iban was ousted from power in 2001 to more than 400,000 acres last year.

In a re­port ac­com­pa­ny­ing yes­ter­day’s an­nounce­ment, the State De­part­ment cited ev­i­dence that Tal­iban com­man­ders re­ceive fi­nan­cial sup­port from opium pro­duc­tion.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the re­port said, Tal­iban com­man­ders are “pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity/safe pas­sage for drug ship­ments and are col­lect­ing ‘do­na­tions,’ both money and sup­plies, such as ve­hi­cles from wealthy traf­fick­ers, to sup­port the Tal­iban cause.”

The five pil­lars of the strat­egy are:

Pub­lic in­for­ma­tion. The plan calls for a greater fo­cus on the link be­tween opium pro­duc­tion and the in­crease in ter­ror­ism in Afghanistan.

“Through­out the year, in­ter­dic- tion suc­cesses and the ar­rests of high value tar­gets should be widely pub­li­cized through­out the Afghan me­dia,” the re­port said. “Pub­lic in­for­ma­tion em­pha­sis on in­ter­dic­tion serves to dis­pel mis­in­for­ma­tion that coun­ternar­cotics pro­grams only tar­get poppy farm­ers and to demon­strate that no one group is be­ing un­fairly tar­geted.”

Al­ter­na­tive de­vel­op­ment. The re­port said that many fam­i­lies have turned to opium cul­ti­va­tion be­cause Afghanistan is one of the world’s poor­est coun­tries. Through an al­ter­na­tive de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, the gov­ern­ment hopes to pro­vide short- and long-term al­ter­na­tives for opium planters.

The pro­gram also will pro­vide be­tween $25 mil­lion and $50 mil­lion in in­cen­tives to pro­vin­cial lead­ers who re­duce or elim­i­nate opium pro­duc­tion in their ar­eas.

Poppy elim­i­na­tion/erad­i­ca­tion. The re­port sug­gests that a “na­tional net poppy re­duc­tion tar- get be­fore the fall of 2007 plant­ing sea­son [should be es­tab­lished] to cre­ate an at­mos­phere of ac­count­abil­ity.” Those prov­inces that ex­cel in re­duc­ing or elim­i­nat­ing poppy pro­duc­tion could be re­warded, the re­port said.

Such re­wards could in­clude spe­cial grants for projects of in­ter­est to pro­vin­cial gov­er­nors, in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion and pro­mo­tions to pres­ti­gious po­si­tions.

In­ter­dic­tion/law-en­force­ment op­er­a­tions. The U.S. gov­ern­ment will pro­vide the Coun­ternar­cotics Po­lice of Afghanistan with the abil­ity to pro­tect the el­e­ments of the five-pil­lar strat­egy, the re­port said. Such aid in­cludes train­ing, equip­ment and men­tors for the force un­til the spe­cial com­mand force is able to op­er­ate on its own.

Jus­tice re­form/pros­e­cu­tion. The re­port calls for the Afghan gov­ern­ment to ex­pand its abil­ity to pros­e­cute drug traf­fick­ers. Dur­ing the next few years, the U.S. gov­ern­ment in­tends to in­crease its jus­tice sec­tor sup­port for the Afghan gov­ern­ment.

Agence France Presse / Getty Images

Afghan Na­tional Army sol­dier on pa­trol in the main city of Ghazni prov­ince on Aug. 9.

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