Monday, April 28, 2008

Guardian Letter: Afghan plan

Your leader (Afghanistan: a failing mission, April 28) accepts that the battle there is no nearer being won, and "there appears to be no plan and no consensus on how to stabilise the country". True, there is no consensus, but there is a plan, which is endorsed by the Afghan Red Crescent, the Italian Red Cross, the Senlis Council and the European Parliament and the European Green Party: buy the opium and put it to medical use.

NATO is on a Mission Impossible if the plan is to crush the opium growers, since they generate almost 50% of the Afghan GDP.

While our soldiers are exposed to danger and frustration in the futile task handed them by Bush and Blair, the market in illicit opium is funding the Taleban, assorted terrorists and criminals as it finds its way onto our streets. When it gets here, addicts burgle, rob and spread their illness in order to pay for their habit. Meanwhile in the global south, about 6 million people a year die of cancer without the relief of opiates. Some of them hang themselves in order to end their pain. If that happened to one person in the UK, it would be front page news, but 6 million Africans? No story.

It would be entirely realistic for the World Health Organisation to buy the crops from the Afghan farmers, as we do in India and Turkey, and put it to medical use. So why do we not do it? The key argument used by Government to block this plan is "Some of the purchased crop might leak onto the black market". This is the most risible blocking argument we have yet to hear from any Government, since all of it is leaking to the black market as things stand.

You say there are clear warning signs that the Afghan mission is at a turning point. Let the legitimisation of the Afghan opium crop be that turning point.

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