Taking The Bloom off The Poppy

As Afghanistan's drug trade goes, so goes the country. It's a sad admission, but an honest one from President Hamid Karzai, who this week got to the essence of his nation's challenge by saying, "The fight against drugs is actually the fight for Afghanistan." Drugs generate over half of the country's national income, and Mr. Karzai rightly emphasized this crisis at a foreign donors conference on Afghanistan in Berlin, which ended Wednesday.

An expected outcome of the meeting is a commitment by Afghanistan's neighbors to more tightly control cross-border trafficking. Also planned is more foreign aid for eradication and crop replacement of poppy fields (about 400 Afghan farmers are experimenting with saffron, the world's most expensive spice).

This endangered new democracy can use all the antidrug assistance it can get. Since the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, poppy cultivation has proliferated, accounting for two-thirds of the world's opium. A nation-building experiment now threatens to turn into a narco-state hatchery.

Mistakes have been made, such as putting Afghanistan's regional governors in charge of eradication, when some of them were involved in poppy growing. But stepped-up international commitment, and Kabul's renewed effort (Afghan troops just raided and destroyed 28 heroin factories), are welcome signs that serious attention is finally being given this problem.

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