HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Afghanistan Considers Amnesty for Drug Traffickers
Pubdate: Mon, 10 Jan 2005
Source: Financial Times (UK)
Copyright: The Financial Times Limited 2005
Author: Victoria Burnett


The Afghan government is considering the possibility of offering
amnesty to local drug traffickers as part of its new strategy to fight
the opium trade, senior Afghan and western officials in Kabul said.

Afghan officials said the government needed to ponder unorthodox
approaches to combat an industry that has ballooned over the past
three years, awarding huge means to drug traffickers that overshadow
those of the government that is trying to fight them.

If youre in the UK and you have the luxury of state institutions, you
dont have to do this. But in Afghanistan you have to be pragmatic and
consider different solutions given the precarious security situation,
said Hanif Atmar, minister of rural rehabilitation and development.
One possibility was to offer to protect traffickers from prosecution
if they put their ill-gotten gains to work in the countrys
rehabilitation, he said.

Some western officials in Kabul expressed cautious support for the
proposition on Monday but said discussions were at an early stage. The
proposition was in keeping with the governments offer of amnesty to
moderate members of the former Taliban regime they said.

They warned that the practicalities of an amnesty - such as how it
would be applied and towards whom - would be complicated and could run
counter to other initiatives, such as the recent formation of a
judicial task force to target high-profile traffickers. Offering an
olive branch to some traffickers while putting others in jail would
send a mixed message, they said.

Afghanistan and its international allies have pledged to spend more
than $800m this year on a counternarcotics programme that includes
opium poppy-eradication, economic alternatives for farmers and
arresting traffickers. But they are struggling to find a middle line
between aggressive policies and outright war with the powerful druglords.

Mr Atmar, minister for rural rehabilitation and development, said drug
traffickers made about $2.2bn inside Afghanistans borders last year.
Their drug industry was so intertwined with the provincial power
structures as to be indistinguishable, he said.

They have $2.2bn to destroy our police, our army and our
administration. If money determines loyalty, then you have a problem
here, he said. The lines between a druglord and a warlord are
[completely] blurred.

One western security adviser who is familiar with drug policy called
the idea insane. What would they offer amnesty in exchange for? That
they wouldnt do it again? he asked.
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