Pubdate: Tue, 29 May 2001
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2001 Newsday Inc.


Afghanistan's Taliban Regime Is Brutal And Harsh - So Why Does Washington 
Send It Aid?

The Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, recognized as legitimate only by three 
Islamic nations, are a decidedly odd choice for an outright gift of $43 
million from the Bush administration. Theirs is a brutal regime with one of 
the worst records on earth for violations of human rights-witness its new 
requirement that minority Hindus wear identifying badges.

This is the same government against which the United Nation imposes 
sanctions, at the behest of the United States, for refusing to turn over 
the terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

So why are we sending these people money -so much that Washington is, in 
effect, the biggest donor of aid to the Taliban regime?

The gift, announced recently by Secretary of State Colin Powell, ostensibly 
is to help Afghani farmers through one of the worst droughts in their 
nation's history. The real reason is to reward the Taliban for imposing a 
tough new ban on the cultivation of the opium poppies that supply the 
international heroin trade.

The Taliban, whose leaders aren't squeamish about using draconian measures 
to enforce compliance with their strict interpretation of Islamic law, have 
succeeded in stopping the cultivation of opium poppies dead in its tracks: 
No farmer in his right mind wants the Taliban's zealous enforcers to pay an 
unwanted visit. But the same farmers are now in danger of going under, 
particularly since nothing else grows reliably under droughtconditions -and 
nothing else generates the same profits as opium.

The Bush administration, intent on fighting illegal drug production abroad, 
is so delighted at the opium ban that it's willing to overlook America's 
differences with the Taliban-such as its barbaric treatment of women, its 
trampling on the rights of religious minorities, its desecration of 
religious statues, even its protection of bin Laden.

So while we slap economic sanctions on the brutal Taliban, we lavish $43 
million on it for being tough on drugs. The multiple demands of diplomacy 
sometimes require a degree of policy ambiguity-but this looks more like a 
case of the left hand not being much acquainted with what the right hand is 
up to.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager