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Terrorism & Security

Former US official accuses Afghan government of stymying anti-opium efforts

Thomas Schweich charges that President Karzai is protecting drug traffickers within his power base, and says the US Defense Department and some NATO allies have also resisted antiopium efforts.

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The New York Times reports that Karzai dismissed Schweich's criticism. "This campaign is a long-term, time-consuming campaign," he said. "It is not to be done in one or two years. It is related directly to the economy of the country. It is related directly to bringing peace in our country."

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The Associated Press writes that while a US State Department official did not directly address Schweich's accusations, he reiterated support for current US policy and Karzai.

"We know and understand that there is a corruption issue in Afghanistan but we're working with the sovereign government," [State Department spokesman Gonzalo] Gallegos said Thursday. "President Karzai has shown us through word and deed that he is working with us to help improve the plight of that country."
Corruption is a deeply rooted problem and addressing it, along with the country's massive development need, will not be quick, Gallegos said. "This is a long-term commitment in terms of time and this is a large commitment in terms of dollars."

The BBC reports that the British Foreign Office reiterated its commitment to eradicating the opium trade in Afghanistan, saying that "Drugs pose a threat to the future of Afghanistan, and the UK is one of the leaders in international efforts to combat the narcotics trade. We are committed for the long haul in this challenging endeavour, through a two-pronged approach, to tackle both supply and demand." Schweich notes in his article, however, that the British Foreign Office has be an ardent supporter of the drug war; it is the British military that has resisted supporting it.

Some have directly criticized Schweich's take on the situation. David Borden, founder and executive director of, writes that one must consider "why did all those different people – all those different kinds of people – fail to support Schweich's agenda?"

Maybe it's because these Afghans and Europeans and US military officials aren't crazy. Maybe it's because they've actually listened to what scholars have to say about this: eradication doesn't work, it drives farmers into the hands of the Taliban, security has to come first, you can't just tell a hundred thousand people in the world's fifth poorest nation to give up their primary income source with no viable replacement. Could they have taken the positions they've taken, made the decisions they've made, because they are intelligent and informed and logical and practical?
To the Schweichs of the world, it's everybody else who's crazy – or wrong, or corrupted – anyone but him. And no matter how many times his policies fail to produce the desired result when measured meaningfully, it's okay. Because that's a detail that doesn't merit asking a question about -- certainly not in an article written for the New York Times – and he's busy fighting drugs. Which obviously we have to continue to do, in the way we have done before – because – because we just do. Evidently no matter what, as far as the Schweichs of the world are concerned.

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