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Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan

Barnett R. Rubin writes in Informed Comment Global Affairs:

The U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement released a new “U.S. Counternarcotics Strategy for Afghanistan” this month. The strategy calls for added efforts in all pillars of the Counter-Narcotics effort in Afghanistan, but its most salient change from the past is its proposal for more forceful and extensive eradication of opium poppy crops. The Strategy calls for “non-negotiated” eradication, ostensibly in order to avoid the manipulation of eradication by local elites to exempt their own crops and focus eradication on their rivals or the powerless. While the Strategy states that no means of eradication will be used without the approval of the Government of Afghanistan, it contains many examples of thinly veiled pressure on the Government of Afghanistan to authorize the spraying of herbicides both from the ground and from the air.

Implementation of this strategy will lead to a rapid deterioration of security at least in the south of the country and the further weakening of the Afghan government. Afghans will conclude (if they have not so concluded already) that the U.S. does not consider Afghanistan to be sovereign and that the foreigners are in Afghanistan to pursue their own agenda, not to help Afghanistan. Significant portions of the countryside that have been neutral or pro-government will move toward the Taliban. The farmers will respond to the greater risk imposed by eradication not by stopping poppy cultivation but by preventing the government and international community from entering their areas. By and large, they will succeed, especially as US resources, credibility, and alliances continue to be drained by the disastrous war in Iraq.

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Related: The second installment of this article >>

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