RoundUo on the poopies in Afghanistan

Sunday Times:

A CAMPAIGN of enforced crop-spraying to destroy the opium poppy fields will get under way in southern Afghanistan in the next few weeks, despite fears that it will undermine attempts to win the battle for hearts and minds with the Taliban.

British defence and diplomatic sources claim the campaign is the result of “US political interference” and is throwing Nato plans into turmoil. Coupled with the imminent replacement of the British general commanding Nato troops with an American, the sources predict a breakdown in security.

The spraying is likely to damage legitimate crops that farmers grow to feed their families. It could increase support for the Taliban at a time when Nato and the Afghan government are trying hard to persuade the population that they should back international reconstruction efforts.

General David Richards, the Nato commander who will be replaced at the end of February by a US general, has said that the period before a widely expected Taliban spring offensive is vital to win over Afghan public opinion.

American determination to deal with the drugs issue is putting that effort at serious risk, the sources claimed.

The Taliban are paid by poppy farmers to protect their crops and would be ideally placed to capitalise on the widespread anger among farmers that is likely if drugs eradication is not handled carefully.

“I think it is fair to say that we are at a turning point,” a British source said. “We need to get the people on side. Eradication has to take place. But doing it the wrong way, as some Americans seem determined to do, will only cause havoc.”

The push for enforced spraying, opposed by both the British and the former Helmand governor, Engineer Daud, was a key reason for his removal this month, the sources said.

The US Congress is angered that drugs production has increased by 49% to 6,700 tonnes this year — more than 92% of the world’s supply — and there have been a spate of US media reports highlighting the trafficking of Afghan heroin to America.

The differences between the UK, which has taken the lead in efforts to curb the poppy crop, and influential US politicians have been apparent for some time.

One congressional inquiry into the issue was entitled “Are the British Counter-narcotics Efforts Going Wobbly?”, an allusion to Margaret Thatcher’s entreaty to President George Bush Sr not to “go wobbly” ahead of the 1991 Gulf war.

Based on the tone of this story at least the media is going wobbly. What is it about the Brits lately? Last week they were worried about taking out the al Qaeda friendly Islamist Courts in Somalia and now they are worried about taking out the enemy's primary source of funding in Afghanistan. Did it occur to these people that if the farmers are paying the ?Taliban to protect their crops and they are ineffective, that will not endear them to the Taliban? If it were me, I would at least question why I had wasted money on paying for worthless protection.

Sorry about the typos in the headline. One of the problems with Blogger is that if you correct a headline, it does not show up in the menu on the right. You get the old erroneous headline which leads you to a page saying the post is no longer available. I may want to enter this one in Don Surber's next contest on typos though.


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