The Second Front: Poppies

The US campaign against Afghanistan as an exporter of terrorism won't achieve much unless it also deals with that country being the leading exporter of heroin to the world.

The two vices are linked by a flow of drug money that helps fund the ruling Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorist network. But the heroin trade flourishes mainly because Afghanistan's dirt-poor farmers find the growing of poppies, from which opium and heroin are produced, is an easy way to survive in a harsh, drought-stricken land.

President Bush has said he doesn't care about "nation building" in Afghanistan, but whoever ends up ruling that war-ravaged land deserves some sort of Marshall Plan that would prevent terrorist plotters from finding it a haven again and tapping into the heroin trade.

The Bush administration had allocated millions of dollars to Afghanistan earlier this year to end the poppy growing. And the Islamic Taliban appeared to have forced many farmers to convert to other crops. But when faced with a need for money against US military operations, the Taliban lifted their ban on poppy growing.

Now, the main recipient of Afghan heroin - Europe - fears a flood of the drug on its streets, which can take as much of a toll as terrorism itself.

What's more, much of the heroin comes out of areas controlled by the anti-Taliban opposition forces, which the US is moving to support.

The US "war" on terrorism now joins the war on drugs. Fighting both - together - will be complex, but necessary.

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