… despite US reversal – Britain will continue to fund the destruction of opium fields in Afghanistan despite the United States condemning poppy eradication as a waste of money
Published on Telegraph.co.uk, by Ben Farmer in Kabul, June 28, 2009.
The British Government said destroying poppy fields remained a key deterrent to growers and one of the “seven pillars” of its anti-opium strategy in Helmand province, just a day after Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy to Afghanistan, said that destroying the crop only drove poor farmers to join the insurgency.
In a reversal of policy, he said the United States would stop funding poppy eradication and instead concentrate on encouraging farmers to grow alternative crops.
The Afghan government backed Britain’s stance and defended its previous efforts, which relied heavily on ripping up or flattening poppy plants, as “perfect”.
General Khodaidad, Afghan minister for counter narcotics, said his strategy had been “the right path” …
… Britain leads international reconstruction efforts in Helmand province, where 60 per cent of the Afghan opium crop is produced. The British government is spending more than £290 million on a three-year-programme of eradication, support for farmers and pursuit of drug barons and traffickers.
British officials denied there was tension with the US over the policy change and said the detail had not been decided. A spokeswoman at the Department for International Development said: “Eradication is a key part because of the deterrent effect, not because we are going to destroy the whole crop.” She said eradication targeted big growers rather than poverty-stricken small farmers. (full text).
Neil Hrab: Iran’s ayatollahs strive to keep giddy minds busy, June 24, 2009.