Crop Eradication Could Undermine Progress in Afghanistan
OSPC is one of 31international and Afghan civil society organizations to send a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice commending the Bush administration for turning its attention and resources to addressing the drug trade problem in Afghanistan and warning that massive eradication efforts in 2005 could destabilize large areas of the country and undermine the remarkable progress Afghanistan has made since 2001.

February 1, 2005

The Open Society Policy Center and 30 other international and Afghan civil society organizations have sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to commend the Bush Administration for turning its attention and resources to addressing the drug trade problem in Afghanistan and to warn that massive eradication efforts in 2005 could risk destabilizing large areas of the country and undermine the remarkable progress Afghanistan has made since 2001.

Millions of Afghans are directly involved in the narcotics business, which accounts for about 40 percent of the country’s total Gross Domestic Product. A recent UN report found that the amount of land cultivated with poppies rose 64 percent between 2003 and 2004 and has spread to all 34 of Afghanistan ‘s provinces. An effective counternarcotics strategy must contribute to the stabilization of Afghanistan and help authorities build a legitimate state and economy. The letter urges the United States to prioritize alternative livelihood and interdiction efforts rather than crop eradication.

According to the letter, it is precisely because the narcotics industry is so entrenched that excessive emphasis on crop eradication could undermine the economy and devastate already poor families. A lack of viable livelihoods is likely to increase farmer’s debts to local merchants and money lenders, forcing them to mortgage their land to drug traffickers. Girls can also fall prey to the drug trade as they have been sold to pay off opium-related debts, a situation that would undermine efforts to restore the rights and dignity of Afghan women.

In addition to promoting alternative livelihoods, the letter makes specific recommendations to the U.S. government to ensure that the response to the drug problem is most effective. Key recommendations emphasize that aerial eradication should not be used under any circumstance, that intelligence efforts focus on identifying major drug traffickers, that funds be committed to build law enforcement capacity to arrest major traffickers and political protectors and that high officials in the Afghan Government be required to disclose their assets in accordance to the provisions of the Afghan Constitution.

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