U.S. Lets Afghan Farmers Have Their Poppy Fields

At last, a U.S. policy in Afghanistan that makes sense: Leave the poppy fields be.

From Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal on down, the military’s position is clear: “U.S. forces no longer eradicate,” as one NATO official put it. Opium is the main livelihood of 60 to 70 percent of the farmers in Marja, which was seized from Taliban rebels in a major offensive last month. American Marines occupying the area are under orders to leave the farmers’ fields alone.

The rationale:

"We don’t trample the livelihood of those we’re trying to win over.”

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    Just One More Step (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by bselznick on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 11:30:24 PM EST
    That's great news, but there's just one more step needed, buy the damn crop!  You take all of that profit off the black market, you get Afghan farmers to love you, sorry about those out of work drug lord types, you can process if legally for pharmaceuticals, and whatever the US does not need you can sell/donate to other countries.

    Last I read, via the UN, the entire crop would cost like 1.2 billion.  Subtracting out the costs of fighting people producing and distributing the resulting drugs you'd probably break even.

    Yes, buy the opium poppies (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Peter G on Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 12:59:11 PM EST
    out from under the drug lords' suppliers, and help the Afghans build an industry from it -- making morphine to satisfy the third world's tragic shortage of pain medication for the terminally ill.

    Better than break-even (none / 0) (#5)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 11:39:55 PM EST
    With the war, is there a ROI? With buying the crop, turning it into legitimate pharma, and selling that product, even a break-even is better than just blowing up the money.

    Yeah (none / 0) (#8)
    by squeaky on Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 01:44:16 AM EST
    I have never understood why spend all that money, and blood to create enemies when you can spend a fraction and buy the crops and win hearts and minds.

    No brainer.

    Problem is that the US wants the refined opium to go to its enemies, and has a hand in the till.


    And, the added bonus of (none / 0) (#11)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 11:24:46 AM EST
    being more in control of where the product ends up. Should take most of it off the streets, which would have the added bonus of reducing our prison population...and all the agencies that get involved in the process of filling the prisons.

    While I support this (none / 0) (#13)
    by Socraticsilence on Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 11:29:08 PM EST
    can you imagine how conspiracy nuts would take this- suddenly America is behind all the Heroin in the world.

    The US Would Never Do It (none / 0) (#14)
    by squeaky on Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 11:40:34 PM EST
    Because of the conspiracy to illegally benefit from keeping it illegal. The drug trade has been a political/military tool, and provides millions of dollars of invisible funds.

    IOW, the war on drugs would be won by decriminalizing drug use and treating abuse as a medical problem. But that would mean giving up too money and power.


    They are being encouraged to grow (none / 0) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 07:36:44 PM EST
    other things though, and the encouragement comes with money in hand as well.

    Yes, and the Taliban are (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by KeysDan on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 07:51:50 PM EST
    encouraged to grow a liking to Karzai in consideration of hard cash.

    Licenses for processing and export? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 11:17:52 PM EST
    Poppies don't turn themselves into heroin, and somebody's got to deliver it to market.

    so instead, (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 11:45:15 PM EST
    we spend billions at home trying to stop the heroin produced from those poppies from getting in the country, or on the streets. and this actually makes sense to someone?

    clearly, the inmates have taken control of the asylum.

    By destroying inventory here (none / 0) (#7)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 11:56:34 PM EST
    rather than in the field, we maximize profits for the middlemen. They've already taken a markup on every step of the trip, and there's no buildup of inventory at the retail end, so wholesale prices remain high.

    Kinda sad though... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 07:41:41 AM EST
    that this wasn't a no-brainer from the start...it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know going halfway around the world and f*ckin' with farmers livelyhoods isn't righteous, or the way to convince them you're the good guys.  Unfortunately the less-than-legit Afghan government still appears to support f*ckin' with farmers...so I don't know how much good its gonna do in Afghanistan.  

    And lets see if the policy holds the next time your local paper does an expose on suburban white kids doing heroin here at home...elected officials will be right back on the drug war train calling for Afghan farmers to be f*cked with by our soldiers...it's an easy way to win votes from the dim.

    defense (none / 0) (#10)
    by kim on Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 10:27:58 AM EST
    I can't wait to use this as a justification defense for my next possession of heroin case.