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Monday, July 16, 2007

Using Economics as an Ally in Afghanistan

Perhaps there is an opportunity to use an opium licensing system as an ally in the war and reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. This seems like an idea worth exploring further:

Winning with opium in Afghanistan, by Raymond Kendall and Norine MacDonald, Project Syndicate: Despite considerable effort ... since 2001 to eliminate the Taliban and al-Qaida, the insurgency in the south of the country has gathered momentum at breakneck speed in recent months. Our field research shows that we are not winning the campaign for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people — the Taliban are. ...

The aggressive United States-led counter-narcotics policy of crop eradication has failed to win the support of Afghans, because it has triggered a chain reaction of poverty and violence in which poor farmers, with their only livelihood destroyed, are unable to feed their families. This has been exacerbated by the failure to provide even the most basic aid and development in the country's poorest areas.

At the same time, communities have been torn apart as a result of bombing campaigns, which have destroyed the very homes we came to protect. This, in addition to four years of drought, has forced entire families to leave their villages for makeshift internal refugee camps.

You do not win people over by bombing them, but by helping them. The Taliban have exploited the failures of the international community in extremely effective anti-Western propaganda...

Eradication will never be successful in Afghanistan, because it destroys the single crop that will grow in the south's harsh climate — and thus serves as the main source of income to millions of people. So a new, long-term, economically sustainable solution is urgently needed ... in order to achieve the support of the deeply impoverished rural population.

As a way to address this dilemma, the Senlis Council is proposing ... scientific pilot projects to research an opium licensing system..., which would be a core component of the economic reconstruction process. A system in which poppies are cultivated under license for the production of pain-killing medicines such as morphine and codeine would allow farmers to pursue their traditional livelihood and way of life, and, more importantly, to feed themselves and their families. There is a global shortage of morphine and codeine, particularly in underdeveloped countries, where these vital medicines are often in short supply, if not completely unavailable.

Not only would poppy licensing address the poverty and hunger crises that have engulfed the south of Afghanistan; it also would stabilize existing local structures, giving communities a reason to support President Hamid Karzai's government and the international community. ...

But for such a system to be successful, the poverty in the south of the country must first be our top priority. According to the World Food Program, 70 percent of the population lack food security. An immediate injection of emergency food and medical aid is urgently needed...

Only then could a new, long-term development strategy in Afghanistan ... be implemented. Licensing the opium crop would be a realistic and pragmatic cornerstone of that strategy's success.

    Posted by on Monday, July 16, 2007 at 12:09 AM in Economics, Policy | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (9)


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    Raymond Kendall and Norine MacDonald explain the idea: A system in which poppies are cultivated under license for the production of pain-killing medicines such as morphine and codeine would allow farmers to pursue their traditional livelihood ... [Read More]

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