Pubdate: Sun, 02 Sep 2007
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2007
Author: Eleanor Mayne, in Kabul, Sunday Telegraph
Referenced: 'Leave It to Us to End the Poppy Curse' by Ahmad Zia 
Massoud, First Vice-President of Afghanistan
Referenced: The UN report


Britain's multimillion-pound attempt to battle the drug trade in
southern Afghanistan has been a failure, the country's first
vice-president has claimed.

Afghanistan's opium harvest has more than doubled in the past two
years Afghanistan's opium harvest has more than doubled

Ahmad Zia Massoud has taken the unprecedented step of speaking
publicly about his country's drugs problem in an exclusive article for
The Sunday Telegraph, warning that despite Britain's efforts, the
poppies have spread "like a cancer".

Afghanistan's opium harvest has more than doubled in the past two
years and in a report last week, the United Nations said it expected
production to hit a "frighteningly high" 8,200 tonnes this year, an
increase of 34 per cent on last year.

Particularly embarrassing for Britain was the figure from Helmand
province, where output jumped by 48 per cent.

"It is now clear that your counter-narcotics policy in the south of
our country has completely failed," Mr Massoud says.

Writing in the paper today, Mr Massoud describes the drugs eradication
policy as "too soft", adding: "We are giving too much carrot and not
enough stick."

Britain has spent UKP208 million over the past three years on
counter-narcotic operations but Mr Massoud argues that the failure to
shut down the opium trade amounts to a victory for the Taliban.

"The opium directly supports those killing Afghan and international
troops," he writes. "I believe that failing to achieve a substantial
reduction this year in the opium crop will be equivalent to supporting
the Taliban in Afghanistan."

In contrast to the British authorities and the Afghan president, Hamid
Karzai, he said that spraying of the poppy crop was needed to break
the deadlock in the south.

British military commanders are reluctant to get involved with
anti-drug operations, fearing that it would drive farmers into the
arms of the Taliban. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake