Sunday, February 11, 2007

From one narco-state to another

President Bush has nominated William Wood, the current U.S. ambassador to Colombia, to the same post in Afghanistan. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the press that the President's intent was to transfer the Colombian model to Afghanistan.

Among the numerous voices questioning the wisdom of this judgment was the New York Times, which editorialized on Feb. 6:
The limited gains Colombia has achieved in recent years have been offset by an overly generous amnesty program for right-wing paramilitary leaders and drug traffickers, which has seriously compromised the rule of law. And American aid has been disproportionately directed into military and police programs, leaving far too little to promote alternative livelihoods for Colombia’s farmers. Despite all the money spent, the amount of land planted with coca crops has risen and the net harvest has been reduced only slightly. Afghanistan’s problems will not be solved by copying these mistakes.
Source. It sounds like, apart from the language barrier, Wood will feel right at home in Colombistan.

A long, insightful piece on the Colombia/Afghanistan parallel by Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times (London) makes a similar point. In Afghanistan, he says:
Here, too, the West is intervening in a narco-economy that is destabilising a pro-western government. Here, too, quantities of aid have been dedicated to security yet have fed corruption. Here, too, intervention has boosted drug production and stacked the cards against law and order. This year’s Afghan poppy crop is predicted to be the largest on record. European demand has boosted the price paid for Afghan poppies to nine times that of wheat. At this differential a policy of crop substitution is absurd. ...
Some 40,000 Nato troops from more than 30 different countries are gathered in Kabul. Since many of them refuse to fight, the city has become a holiday camp for the world’s military elite. Outside the capital, military occupation acts as a recruiting sergeant for insurgency, leaving Nato bases constantly on the defensive. ...
Jenkins' piece, titled "America is doped up in Colombia for a bad trip in Afghanistan," observes that in Helmand province, a major poppy area, "drug lords are the only counterweight to the Taliban." Source.

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