The US wants to step up eradication programmes, crop-spraying from the air. But, desperate to win "hearts and minds" in Afghanistan and protect British troops, Tony Blair is on the brink of a U-turn that will set him on a collision course with President George Bush.The "pilot project" under consideration would allow some farmers to produce and sell their crops legally to drugs companies. Though currently illegal, opium production is already central to the Afghan economy, and the money is going to the Taliban insurgents and others we are currently fighting:
The Prime Minister has ordered a review of his counter-narcotics strategy - including the possibility of legalising some poppy production - after an extraordinary meeting with a Tory MP on Wednesday...
Supporters of the measure say it would not only curb an illegal drugs trade which supplies 80 per cent of the heroin on Britain's streets, but would hit the Taliban insurgency and help save the lives of British troops. Much of the legally produced drug could be used to alleviate a shortage of opiates for medicinal use in Britain and beyond, they say.
...links between drug warlords, terrorism and the Taliban are clear. Traffickers hold poor farmers in a form of bondage through the supply of credit, paid back in opium. Many of those fighting British troops during the winter months will return to their villages to harvest poppy crops in the spring and summer. The traffickers' huge profits help to fund the fight against Nato troops.It's the main source of income for many Afghans, so of course they must turn to them instead of coalition forces who are destroying their poppy crops. And what's more important? Continuing to do so in the name of the "war on drugs" (which has never succeeded in the U.S. or anywhere) or not allowing the Taliban to retake control of Afghanistan? According to the article, Britain has wisely resisted US pressure to spray poppies from the air, since more widespread destruction of impoverished farmers' livelihoods would simply drive more of them into the hands of the Taliban.
The British and others in the international community are apparently beginning to see the light, but the Bush administration and its supporters will stubbornly never approve of legalization of any form.
Unfortunately, this "victory" for the drug war may cost us big in the fight against terrorism.