The war on poppies in Afghanistan
One of the major sources of opium and heroin is Afghanistan and drug trafficking is a key source of income for the Taliban.
The drug trade in the region is a verifiable threat to peace and security. The Taliban pays farmers to grow the crop and pays others to drive it out of Afghanistan to sell and raise money for Taliban militant efforts.
The reason the problem has become so great is because it was simply ignored in the past during the Bush administration.
“In Afghanistan there are marijuana plants the size of trees, they are huge and the poppy fields are miles and miles long. It’s not just a little bit of here and there. It’s all over the place. This is the only way farmers really have a way to make money,” said Jake Diliberto of Rethink Afghanistan.
The Afghan economy is heavily dependent on the poppy crop and it sustains the financial well-being of the people.
“The one thing that the UN should not be trying to do right now if they are trying to win a counter insurgency war is to stop the poppy growth. We won’t be able to confront the poppy growth so long as we are fighting an insurgency against the Taliban,” said Diliberto.
The US military cannot and should not be utilizing its strained efforts to kill the drug trade at this time. However, NGOs and other international groups can work towards changing the agricultural economy to support other products.
“The bottom line is there’s nothing that pays as good as drugs and there is no way to provide an illiterate population like in southern Afghanistan with an alternative,” said Diliberto.
In a conference 40 countries have now come together to discuss the drug trade. Diliberto believes the conference is a good step, but it ignores the growing violence and civilian casualties in Afghanistan and does not address the bigger problem of an open-ended war in the region.