Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Monday, March 24, 2008

Afghan leaders struggle to combat opium production

A recent meeting of Uruzgan Province’s poppy eradication council illustrates the difficulties local leaders face in trying to curb opium production in Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported on March 21.

Gathered around a small, wood-burning stove in the governor’s compound, the men expressed their frustration with the situation.

“No one wants to stop because the government has done nothing for us, said Mohammad Mawlawi, a local mullah. “They say, ‘We have no choice, we have to make a living to support our families.’ He wonders how to convince the farmers otherwise.

In the last six years, the international community has spent hundreds of millions of dollars for Afghan poppy eradication and a new state-of-the-art prison for drug traffickers. There is little to show for those efforts, however. Afghanistan produced 90 percent of the world’s opium in 2007, and the handful of traffickers in the new prison escaped through the under-guarded front door. These failings have forced authorities to reexamine tactics at the local level. But local leaders and coalition commanders are hesitant to lead the eradication charge against the insidious crop. Many small farmers depend on their meager yields to survive, and the destruction of their crops threatens to send them into the arms of Taliban. Many leaders and mullahs believe that increased education and the provision of alternative crops is the best means of ending the poppy’s popularity.

“If you support eradication one day, you can’t tell the people the next day we’re here for you,” said Lt. Col Tjerk Hogeveen, commander of the Dutch combat troops in Uruzgan. “They won’t believe you’re here to help them if you’re destroying their only source of income. If we want to win them over, supporting eradication without alternatives is the wrong symbol.”

For the full article, click here.


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