Pubdate: Fri, 11 Jun 2004
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2004 The Miami Herald
Author: Robert Weiner, and Jeffrey Buchanan
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Terrorism)


Just as the administration's Iraqi mission has been damaged by the
scandal of prisoner abuse and other failures, the policy in
Afghanistan has been undercut by the rebirth of the Afghani poppy, the
main ingredient in heroin.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage admitted during a hearing
last month that last year was the ''biggest year ever -- for poppy
cultivation and growth in Afghanistan. So you would be wrong if you
don't hold us responsible.'' The future looks even worse: A U.N.
report says that two out of every three Afghan farmers plan to
increase their poppy crop in 2004.

Dirty Drug Money

While the administration has made inroads into eradicating Colombian
coca fields and is attacking Colombia's heroin as well, it has
dangerously ignored Afghanistan's poppy problem. Afghanistan, after a
two-year lapse, is once again ''the world's largest cultivator and
producer'' of opium and heroin, according to the 2004 White House
National Drug Control Strategy. Afghani crops in 2003 were more than
double the 2002 crop. As much as half of Afghanistan's GDP now comes
from poppy cultivation and heroin production.

How could this happen with so many U.S. troops on the ground,
especially since dirty drug money pays for terrorism?

At an April 29 hearing, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., questioned Deputy
Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz on his department's ''reluctance
to get into the narco-terrorist game'' at a time when ``the three key
terror groups in Afghanistan -- the HIG, the Taliban and al Qaeda --
all are now largely dependent on heroin sales to fund their

Fighting drugs in Afghanistan is not a priority -- we're giving it a
pass. Some of the worst culprits in this illicit trade have even been
our closest allies, the members of the Northern Alliance -- the
opposition to the Taliban with whom we worked to retake the nation.
While they were helping U.S. forces weed out the Taliban, it seems
that they were doing some gardening of their own.

The White House has offered a manual eradication plan that State
Department Assistant Secretary for Narcotics Robert Charles admits may
at best eliminate ''15 to 20 percent of the poppy crop,'' and that in
fact is led by the British, not us. Why so meager an Afghani anti-drug
plan when the world's foremost coca producer, Colombia, with U.S.
assistance is approaching a 50 percent reduction and neighbors Peru
and Bolivia have gone down more than 60 percent?

The White House policy has proposed $2.3 billion a year in development
grants and loans for Afghani economic alternatives. However, with
warlords and farmers making six to 100 times more on poppy than any
other cash crop, the administration's policy will not affect poppy
farmers' habits without massive eradication and enforcement.

Similar economic programs had only minuscule effect in Colombia until
Plan Colombia, initiated by former drug czar Barry McCaffrey and
continued by the Bush administration, aggressively eradicated the drugs.

Massive Training

We need a Plan Afghanistan to rid the heroin and make the world safer.
Where are the planes spraying and destroying the drug fields in
Afghanistan as we spray in Colombia? We need massive training to
involve our thousands of troops, actively and aggressively -- not just
by the six to 10 anti-drug experts returning from one-week Drug
Enforcement Administration courses in Turkey and Uzbekistan as is now

By acting at a snail's pace, the administration is effectively working
in consort with Afghanistan's tribal drug lords and jeopardizing our
own goals. Cut off the drugs, and you take a major step to cutting off
the terrorists.

Robert Weiner was spokesman for the White House National Drug Policy
Office and House Narcotics Committee, and Jeffrey Buchanan was
chairman of the Charles Village Foreign Policy Forum at Johns Hopkins
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin