Babylon & Beyond

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AFGHANISTAN: Expert says U.S. should buy the poppy crop to keep its profits from funding insurgency.

January 27, 2009 |  9:28 am


As the Obama Administration reshapes U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, a major issue is the poppy crop that funds the insurgency. Afghanistan is the world leader in the plant that can be made into heroin.

U.S. forces are chasing the drug lords but have declined to attack the crop in the fields. Afghan forces, so far, have proved largely ineffectual.

Defense expert John Pike, editor of GlobalSecurity.Org, has an idea: If the U.S. cannot beat the drug lords, then outbid them. Buy the crop from Afghan farmers and have it processed into medicinal morphine that can be distributed to medical facilities throughout the Third World.

"We are preparing to pour a pretty good-sized amount of new blood and treasure into Afghanistan with no other describable theory of victory today apart from sending more troops," Pike told the North (San Diego) County Times.

"Before we get too far down that road, if outbidding the drug kings is a wrongheaded idea, I would like to see someone prove that to me."

The poppy crop, Pike said, is the "stinking 800-pound gorilla" of the war in Afghanistan.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Afghan family in poppy field. Credit: Canadian Army