The Afghan Opium War
June 14, 2010 · By Sanho Tree
IPS Drug Policy Director Sanho Tree says that the worst thing the U.S. military could do in Afghanistan right now is forced eradication of poppies, because it would alienate peasant farmers and drive them into the arms of the Taliban. The farmers will turn to illicit crops to feed their families.
Earlier this week, the Russian government convened an international conference in Moscow to call for a dramatic escalation of the drug war in Afghanistan. I went on RTTV (the Russia's English language news channel) to explain why such measures would be ineffective and counterproductive. Indeed, even Patrick Ward (the head of supply reduction for the US drug czar's office) agrees that forced eradication of opium poppies would push some of the world's poorest farmers into the arms of the arms of the Taliban.
The Russian government has been urging the U.S. to adopt aerial fumigation on the grounds that it has been such a "success" in Colombia. Apparently, they took press releases of US drug warriors at face value!
Last fall, I had an exchange with Russian drug czar Viktor Ivanov at the Nixon Center about the difficulties of eradicating drug production.