Friday, February 08, 2008

Afghan opium: Buy! Buy!

Congratulations to Polly Toynbee (Comment, February 8) for highlighting the way out of the mess that is happening in Afghanistan by licensing the opium crop. The opium trade accounts for 53% of the Afghan GDP, it accounts for 93% of street opiates for addicts worldwide, and it underpins the war effort of the Taliban, as well as funding terrorists and criminals. Meanwhile, people in Africa are dying in agony, with no access to opiates. The Senlis Council have drawn up a plan to license the Afghan poppy trade, and use it for medical purposes. They are backed by the Italian Red Cross and the Afghan Red Crescent. Licensing of the opium crop is an entirely reasonable and humane solution to what is otherwise an impossible objective of securing some kind of "victory" in Afghanistan.

The response to this proposal of the Foreign Office is to worry that some of the purchased crop might be diverted to the black market. This overlooks the fact that all of the present crop is going that way at present. They also worry that adequate security arrangements to control the purchased crop are not in place. This begs the question of how quickly they can be put in place, and how much more efficient such arrangements would be compared to the present forlorn attempts to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people while ripping up the crop that provides their livelihood.

2 comments:

a very public sociologist said...

I agree with your piece. The reason why the foreign office are dragging their feet is entirely political. Could you imagine the head lines the government would get for condoning "heroin" from the Taliban? Sad fact is they care more about column inches than helping people out.

DocRichard said...

I was a bit disturbed to find that UNDOC - the UN's drug agency - are also opposing the legitimate use of the Afghan poppy.

Makes you wonder about the flow of cash in drug control circles.