Profits from Afghanistan's thriving poppy fields are increasingly flowing to Taliban fighters, leading U.S. and NATO officials to conclude that the counterinsurgency mission must now include stepped-up anti-drug efforts.
This year's heroin-producing poppy crop will at least match last year's record haul and could exceed it by up to 20 percent, officials say, meaning more money to fuel the Taliban's violent insurgency.
"It's wrong to say that you can do one thing and not the other," Ronald Neumann, who recently stepped down as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said of the link between anti-drug and anti-terrorism efforts. "You have to deal with both at the same time."
Afghanistan accounts for more than 90 percent of the world's heroin supply, and a significant portion of the profits from the $3.1 billion trade is thought to flow to Taliban fighters, who tax and protect poppy farmers and drug runners.
Gee, you're fighting an insurgency in a country that provides 90% of the world, WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU EXPECT?
Now look, I understand that this is a little more complex than simply burning the fields down. Initially, we looked the other way when it came to poppy production because it is impossible to fight an insurgency with a restive population. Where we made the mistake was allowing the poppies to reach the heroin production process.
Right now, the simplest and most effective way to stop this is to burn down the fields, and pay the poppy farmers for their trouble as it is too late in the growing season for the farmers to grow something else. Then we must inform the poppy farmers that next year we will burn them down again with no payment to be made, however, if the farmers choose to grow food crops we will subsidize those crops. It would probably cost us about a half a billion a year.
When you consider how much money is spent worldwide on heroin interdiction and treatment, it is the cheapest half a billion we could ever spend. I'm sure we could even get other countries to pick up the tab.