John Walters, Director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, says opium poppy cultivation is a bad deal for the Afghan people:
“It supports warlordism. It supports terror. And what we have to recognize is those who drive this [drug production] are those who are the landowners who force sharecroppers to grow poppy rather than licit agricultural products. In some cases, they’re corrupt officials. In some cases, they’re tribesmen who have been taxing and running this. In some cases, they’re the Taleban and the terrorists who hold a gun to people’s head or threaten to kill their families if they don’t plant poppy and if they participate in voluntary eradication.”
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai says fighting the illegal drug trade is difficult:
“Yes, we do have the problem of poppies and narcotics in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is committed to fighting it because this evil is first hurting us, and then youth in the rest of the world. We are committed. It will take time.”
The United States will assist in providing public information to the Afghan people on the dangers of illegal drug production; alternative livelihoods and rural development; poppy eradication and interdiction of the chemicals and technology needed to produce illegal drugs; and reform of Afghanistan’s legal system to combat corruption and bring drug traffickers to justice.
U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Thomas Schweich says “we are seeing significant poppy reduction in [Afghanistan’s] northern provinces.” But, says Mr. Schweich, in southern Afghanistan, where Taleban insurgents operate, poppy production is increasing:
“So the strategy we’ve developed is designed to do two things: one, consolidate the gains in the north, increase the reach of the poppy-free geographic area in Afghanistan, ensure that there’s no resurgence of poppy in those areas and then sort of tighten the noose around the southern provinces where we’re seeing an increase.”
Mr. Schweich says “what we’re trying to do here is dramatically increase the incentives for being poppy-free or reducing poppy production” and “are looking for substantially harsher disincentives for those areas. . .where we see poppy increasing.”