Pubdate: Wed, 11 Feb 2009
Source: Meliorist, The (CN AB Edu)
Copyright: 2009 The Meliorist
Author: Alex Masse
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Canadian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan will now be ordered to
target civilian producers and traffickers of illegal opiates in cases
where there is evidence of links to the Taliban.

"Alliance members, including Canada, decided at the NATO defence
minister's meeting in Budapest that [the International Security
Assistance Force] may carry out direct operations against the
narcotics industry," Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to Canada's
Defence Minister, confirmed last week.

The decision to target non-combatants in the drug industry was hotly
debated among NATO members before the order to proceed was passed down
the chain of command. One of the criticisms of the newly instated
policy is that it constitutes a breach of international law, which
prohibits the use of military force against civilians, regardless of
suspected criminal activity. The Geneva Conventions, for example,
prohibit the use of "violence to life and person" against "persons
taking no active part in the hostilities."

Reports surfaced last week that some Canadian commanders resisted the
order to attack non-military target. "Commanders on the ground refused
a NATO order to target drug traffickers in Afghanistan because they
were concerned about violating international law," NDP Defence critic
Paul Dewar charged in Parliament.

"Does the government support NATO orders that potentially put our
soldiers at risk of violating international law?" asked Dewar, adding
that the order violated the spirit of the legislation that approved
the continuation of Canada's Afghan mission.

Defence Minister Peter McKay defended the new orders. "There is no
question that there is direct linkage between the funding of terrorist
activity and the poppy crop and the funds that are elicited from that
poppy crop," said McKay.

Canada's Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk defended NATO's
decision, claiming that the links between the Taliban and the drug
trade are very strong. "The nexus between drugs and terror is very,
very strong," Natynczyk said, although he admitted that the legal
status of the order is unclear.

The controversial order is part of an attempt to deprive the Taliban
of drug industry funding, which they began to collect since the
U.S.-led occupation began. Prior to that occupation, it was the
Taliban themselves who nearly succeeded in wiping out the opium
industry by restricting the cultivation and processing of poppies.

Although heroin production was almost eradicated in 2001, Afghanistan
was by far the world's largest producer by 2002, following the
post-9/11 invasion. Afghanistan produced an estimated 3,400 tonnes of
heroin in that year while Burma, the world's second largest heroin
source, produced only 630 tonnes, according to a US State Department

While Canadian troops will not be engaged in the destruction of poppy
fields, American forces in Afghanistan are in the process of assisting
the eradication of opium-producing flowers. Until recently, occupying
forces were not involved in the eradication process, partly because of
the disdain such activities engender in the local population.

Afghan forces are also involved in poppy eradication. However,
eradication is not a popular policy in the regions affected. "The
difference between the fight here and everywhere else is everywhere
else we fight only Taliban. Here, we fight everyone," one Afghan
soldier told the Chicago Tribune.
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