KABUL, Afghanistan — The effort to win over Afghans on former Taliban turf in Marja has put American and NATO commanders in the unusual position of arguing against opium eradication, pitting them against some Afghan officials who are pushing to destroy the harvest.I like the way they call it "opium", by the way, without once mentioning the more emotive word "heroin."
“Marja is a special case right now,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Eggers, a member of the general’s Strategic Advisory Group, his top advisory body. “We don’t trample the livelihood of those we’re trying to win over.”Genius. Just like our own domestic growers of weed. Oh, hang on.
United Nations drug officials agree with the Americans, though they acknowledge the conundrum. Pictures of NATO and other allied soldiers “walking next to the opium fields won’t go well with domestic audiences, but the approach of postponing eradicating in this particular case is a sensible one,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, who is in charge of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime here.Yes I'm sure he is. In charge of getting the drugs and committing the crimes.
The argument may strike some as a jarring reversal; in the years right after the 2001 invasion, tensions rose as some Afghan officials vehemently resisted all-out American pressure to stop opium production.Yes, but that was when America didn't have a claim on any of the poppies, silly.
Afghanistan now produces 90 percent of the world’s opium. And one way or another the opium trade supports an estimated 1.4 million households in the country, which has a population of 25 million to 30 million. It also provides enormous amounts of money to the Taliban, with a recent United Nations study estimating the insurgents had earned as much as $600 million in taxes from farmers and traffickers just from 2005 to 2008.Well, 90 per cent is quite a lot. Must be pretty lucrative, really. For whoever's, you know, overseeing the racket.
The farmers themselves do not get rich on the harvest.Not the farmers, then.