Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jun 2005
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The Miami Herald
Author: Robert Weiner and Emma Dick
Note: Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the White House National Drug
Policy Office. Emma Dick is research analyst for Robert Weiner Associates.
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Terrorism)
Bookmark: (McCaffrey, Barry)


Both during and since the recent meeting of President Bush and Afghani
President Hamid Karzai, the administration has danced around the
critical issue of Afghanistan's growing drug crisis and its impact on
the terror threat. The late April arrest of Hajji Bashir Noorzai, whom
the Drug Enforcement Administration called the ''Pablo Escobar of
heroin trafficking in Asia'' for providing heroin money financing
Osama bin Laden, proved once again the connection between Afghan drugs
and terrorism. Noorzai even used al Qaeda operatives to transport the
heroin out of Afghanistan.

Yet with Afghanistan now returned -- on our watch -- to the world's
No. 1 opium and heroin supplier, Bush chose not to bring up the drugs
issue in the joint news conference with the president of Afghanistan.
Until a reporter questioned him, Bush didn't mention the issue at all.
Neither the April 23 press release announcing Karzai's visit, nor
Bush's opening statement at the May 23 news conference following the
meeting, mentioned drugs, opium or heroin.

The quiet arrest of Noorzai in New York City provided the latest
concrete link between the opium producers and terrorism. DEA agents in
Afghanistan knew that Noorzai funneled drug money, weapons and
explosives to bin Laden and the Taliban. Yet we may have arrested him
by sheer dumb luck or for fear of embarrassment for lack of action. He
was stupid enough to travel to New York. We cannot hope that
terrorists will waltz into the country so we can (or have to) arrest
them. Luck is not a strategy.

The dirty little secret is that nothing is happening because military
leaders on the ground fear that fighting drugs will destabilize
Afghanistan. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who oversaw the U.S. contribution
to Plan Colombia, points out that our generals in Afghanistan believe
fighting will be a little more difficult if we fight the drug suppliers, but
McCaffrey emphasizes that there will never be stability there with drugs as
the country's financial basis. We cannot allow poppies and the world's
heroin addiction to be the stabilizing force in Afghanistan, especially when
they are funding bin Laden -- we are defeating our own purpose.

On questioning at the May 23 news conference, Bush and Karzai said that they
are largely relying on economic incentives for crop substitution, but that
is not going to be enough -- it hasn't been in the past, and it won't be
now. While helpful, it's more just a grant to the host country than
anything. We need a Plan Colombia in Afghanistan, as when Gen. McCaffrey
collaborated with the Colombian government successfully to reduce that
country's coca crop by 50 percent. Like the Colombian success story (which
originally had its detractors), we need a serious Afghanistan plan of aerial
spraying, burning and chopping, and trained troops supporting the
government's eradication and enforcement.

The first step is for Bush to formally recognize our role in solving
this core problem. A State Department memo leaked just prior to the
Bush-Karzai meeting (no coincidence) blamed Karzai for unwillingness
''to assert strong leadership'' and Britain as ''substantially
responsible'' for Afghanistan's opium production, since we had
delegated that effort.

There you have it. It's the British! It's Karzai! It's anyone but us!
Yet the problem worsens. The amount of land now cultivating poppies
has multiplied 123 times from 2001 to 2004 -- the Taliban had actually
cracked down before we came in. These fields now yield an estimated 90
percent of the world's heroin according to federal reports, all while
20,000 of our own troops are there.

Karzai promises a reduction in opium cultivation, but our tolerance of
a small dent in the world's dominant producer will make little
difference. That's not how McCaffrey handled Colombia. He went there
several times, negotiated, obtained Colombian cooperation and
leadership, proposed a billion-dollar plan to President Clinton and
got it approved. Our inactions effectively leave us as silent partners
with the Afghan opium warlords who funnel money to the terrorist
groups we invaded to eradicate. We are, in essence, holding hands with
our worst enemy.

Afghanistan will never be stable as long as drug lords are running the
country. If we want to fight terrorism effectively, we must confront
Afghanistan's drug problem. We can't keep making excuses; we can't
keep shifting blame. We must face the problem ourselves.

Robert Weiner is a former spokesman for the White House National Drug
Policy Office. Emma Dick is research analyst for Robert Weiner Associates.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin