However, given the real-politik of the present position, we can only advise Government on the best way to extricate themselves from the position in which they have foolishly placed our troops.
We accept that HMG is not going to do an immediate and unconditional withdrawal. Their plan, insofar as such may exist, is to train up the Afghan army, and to build up the competence of the Afghan government institutions until they can take over the security of the country. The latest wheeze is to try to bribe moderate Taliban to stop fighting.
Our opponents will argue that imediate withdrawal will lead to the collapse of the Afghan state, effectively handing it back to the Taliban, with all that means in terms of religious freedom, human rights, the position of women, flying kites, stoning, amputations &c. There is also the point that the lives of ~200 British soldiers would have been sacrificed in vain.
Our counter to this is that given the present situation, the best way to achieve success, both in terms of getting our troops out with honour and with stabilising the Afghan state with some semblance of democracy, is to buy the opium and use it to relieve the agony of 6,000,000 people who die in Africa each year with untreated terminal pain. Most here will have experienced a friend or relative die of cancer in the UK, aided by morphine. Just imagine what that process would be like without any painkillers. Cancer sufferers commony jump under buses to end their suffering.
The advantage of the Opium Purchase policy is:
- Win hearts and minds of the farmers
- Pull the financial rug out from under the Taliban
- Greatly reduce the damage done to our society by ilicit morphine
- Relieve the suffering of terminal cancer in Africa
- Reduce corruption in Afghanistan
- Enable our troops to come home with honour.
The central objection to this argument presented by the FCO to Caroline Lucas in correspondence is that the mechanisms to buy and process the opium are not in place. This begs the question of why we do not use a fraction of the money being spent on the military effort to put them in place. That is what Government is for.
We must recognise that the real losers from this policy, apart from the Taliban, would be the drug dealers themselves. There is evidence that Karzai's brother is a drug dealer. We do not know how far the influence of dealers goes into agencies that make decisions in this area of policy.