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A war on poppies that works



Published: Thu, February 3, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Los Angeles Times: It's not as if the world forgot Afghanistan, at one point ground zero in the war on terrorism, but the distraction of Iraq has meant that half-baked ideas such as aerial spraying to poison Afghan poppies have gotten further than they should.

When the Bush administration raised the possibility of attacking the poppies, the raw material for opium, Afghan President Hamid Karzai objected. Last month, Washington listened to Karzai and backed off.

The State Department has asked Congress to authorize $750 million in aid to Afghanistan for counternarcotics programs, a request that should be granted. But of the $750 million, $152million was proposed for aerial eradication; that money would be better spent on encouraging farmers to plant other crops and on building roads so those crops could get to market.

It won't be easy

There's no sense pretending that getting rid of the opium problem will be easy. Crop substitution programs have a poor record because drug crops such as poppies and coca are much more lucrative than wheat or barley.

But a coordinated program could reduce Afghanistan's poppy harvest. One good tactic is increasing efforts to find and destroy the warehouses and laboratories. That would show a willingness to attack the opium trade from the top end. Also needed is aid to farmers in growing alternative crops and job training for such needed work as building roads.




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