Marja and Poppy Eradication Efforts

The US forces have stopped poppy eradication in Marja—Helmand—that produces over 50% of Afghanistan’s opium production, in order to win the support of the population This is a blunder against the counter-narcotics efforts. The US forces will now be securing poppy fields in Afghanistan.

There should be alternative crops cultivation programs supported by the UN and the US. By allowing people in Marja to grow on such a large scale, how the counter-narcotics efforts would succeed in all parts of the country? It would encourage people in other provinces to grow, who have stopped growing poppy.

The Marja Operation against Taliban in Helmand Province has been a success. It has not only been a strong hit weakening the operational capability of Taliban, but striking right at the heart of their financial reservoir. But unfortunately the US military is no longer supporting eradication in the area in order to gain support of the population, who were controlled by Taliban until recently. The the US forces, Marja is a special case right now regarding poppy. Local population is reportedly dependent 60 to 70% on opium production for livelihood. But its not the solution. Local population should be supported with alternative cultivation programs rather than encouraging poppy.

The US policy against drug eradication has been a total failure. Despite millions of dollars spent on efforts to eradicate the illicit drugs, still the drug production is high. There have been different approaches by the US and Afghan Government. The Afghan Government had opposed the US plans to spray herbicides on poppy fields. There are differences between the US and other NATO giants who are involved in larger counter-narcotics operations.

A change in policy is needed to eradicate the drugs production. The UN, NATO and the US should have a joint eradication strategy going persistent and strict. The most effective way of eradicating poppy is aerial-spray of herbicides, which yet so far, has never been tried. At the same time, NATO forces should be involved to stop movement and interception of chemicals and drug transportation while operating against drug lords. NATO is not operating against such drug lords, who are indirectly supporting Taliban insurgency.

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Filed under Poppy, US Troops in Afghanistan

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