Saturday, January 27, 2007

Afghan warlords won't spray poppies, Bush sends money, troops, good wishes

President Hamid Karzai of Kabul and suburbs has said no to proposals to spray Afghan poppy fields from the air with herbicide. In a statement issued Thursday, he cited concerns about possible harm to food crops, animals, inhabitants, and the environment.

Observers noted that powerful backers of Karzai's government, including the ministers of agriculture, defense, rural development, and counter-narcotics, among others, strongly opposed the spraying plan, as did governors of the big drug-producing provinces.

John Walters, the director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, visited Kabul last month and brought pressure for the spraying. Walters said Afghanistan could turn into a narco-state unless "giant steps" were made toward eliminating poppies.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul responded to Karzai's announcement with a conciliatory statement that spraying "is a decision for the Afghans to make."

This year's opium crop in Afghanistan is 6,700 tons, up 49 per cent from last year. That's enough to make 670 tons of heroin, 90 per cent of the world's production, and more than all the current heroin addicts in the world consume in a year.

U.S Ambassador Ronald Neuman said that last year, about 1,500 acres of poppies had been destroyed by non-chemical means. That's about three tenths of one per cent of the 407,000 acres in opium cultivation in Afghanistan last year. Source.

The New York Times editorialized Friday that
"the government of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, is rife with corruption, and the regional warlord allies it depends on to control outlying areas are even more thieving as well as shockingly brutal." Source.

The day after Karzai's statement defending the opium crop, Secy of State Condoleeza Rice announced that the U.S. was planning to spend an additional $10.6 billion to prop up Karzai's government, and will extend the tours of duty of U.S. troops stationed there. Source. Two days later, Pres. Bush called Karzai "to pass his and Mrs. Bush's congratulations to the Karzai family on the birth of their son." Source.

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