Severing The Taliban Lifeline

By BIGPEACE.COM | by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld
Friday, July 9th, 2010 @ 3:14AM

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General David Petraeus’ new command over the war in Afghanistan should be accompanied by a drastic change in U.S. policies that have turned this failed state into the world’s leading source of opium and Hashish .

Afghans now cultivate more than 92 percent of the world’s heroin-producing poppy crop, which supplies the Taliban with its primary source of revenue.

The U.S. failure to control the narco-terrorist axis in Afghanistan has led to escalating violence, devastating corruption, crime and growing radicalization, which has aided the resurgence of the Taliban and other al-Qaeda linked insurgencies. Under the U.S. watch, Afghanistan’s crop eradication and substitution failed, and opium production has gone from 640 tons in 2001, to 8,200 tons in 2007, reportedly falling to 7,000 tons in 2009. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported in 2009, that “Afghanistan [also became] the world’s biggest producer of hashish.”

At the G8 meeting in Trieste, Italy, in June 2009, Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, admitted that, “The Western policies against the opium crop, the poppy crop, have been a failure.” He then announced that the U.S. changed its Afghan war strategy, shifting from eradication of poppy fields to interdiction.

A Pentagon spokesman explained that the U.S. is targeting “terrorists with links to the drug trade rather than targeting drug traffickers with links to terrorism.” Indeed, March 2010 photographs  from Afghanistan show American soldiers with guns ablaze, chasing insurgents, sprinting across thriving poppy fields ¬タモ the same poppies that pay for the weapons used by the insurgents to kill American and Coalition forces and bribes to local officials.

The last nine years cost thousands of lives, wounded soldiers, and some $400 billion. We failed to secure Afghanistan, while the Taliban and the insurgencies got richer and stronger. To save lives in Afghanistan and at home, and hundreds of billions in U.S. tax payer money, Petraeus should consider a more effective approach to cutting off the insurgents’ major funding sources ¬タモ the opium poppy and hashish.

Comprehensive foreign aid programs should be implemented to subsidize alternative crops and industrial development. In addition, the U.S. should use mycoherbicides  ¬タモ specialized bioherbicide agents designed to inoculate the soil against the growth of certain plants, ensuring that the targeted plants cannot be economically cultivated. Mycoherbicides do not have adverse health or environmental effects, and target only plants they are engineered to affect. To ensure compliance, the U.S. and its allies should enforce severe penalties against poppy and hashish growers until the Afghan government is functioning properly.

Weaning Afghanistan off the poppy and hashish crop cultivation ¬タモ the lifeblood of the insurgency and the major cause for corruption in Afghanistan  – will not happen overnight. But in the long run, it will give the U.S. and Afghanistan a better chance of winning this war.

Categories: U.S. Policy

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