Vice Squad
Monday, August 27, 2007
First, World Peace; then, Opium Eradication

Today's Baltimore Sun includes an op-ed from "the political counselor at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington," asking for help in weaning Afghans from growing opium. The counselor notes that "International experience has taught us that eradication in isolation is ineffective." But if all of the right pieces are in place, why then, the poppy crop will wither away.

What are some of the conditions that are required?

(1) "Counter-narcotics efforts must be enacted contemporaneously across the country in a strategic manner."

(2) "Above all else, farmers must be given the opportunity and necessary resources to grow alternative crops."

(3) Farmers must "have access to both land and alternative financing, such as widely available micro-lending."

(4) "[I]nvestments in infrastructure are needed. In addition to supplies of water, seed and fertilizer, farmers must have access to reliable farm-to-market roads or to cold-storage facilities to preserve products for later export."

(5) "To be effective, counter-narcotics efforts must target all players in the long chain of the opium trade, including traffickers, distributors and dealers, who pull in about 80 percent of the export value of Afghan narcotics. Essential to the prosecution of these kingpins is a functional justice sector, with coordinated law enforcement and judicial activities." (Please remind me again why alcohol sellers are never called kingpins?)

(6) "But even with international support, transnational drug traffickers will continue to permeate Afghanistan's borders and undermine the rule of law in the absence of coordinated prosecution and enforcement efforts among Afghanistan, its neighbors and consumer countries."

(7) "The international community must double its law-enforcement cooperation with Afghanistan and recommit to providing the country with long-term development aid to meet the farmers' demand for legal livelihoods."

Right then. We'll just take care of these seven issues and we can put the scourge of opium behind us. Oops, no, I meant Afghan opium. You don't think it might crop up elsewhere, do you?

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