Kill All Poppies

by Joshua Foust on 10/1/2008 · 4 comments

Did you know the one thing missing from Southern Afghanistan was an increased focus on eradicating poppies? U.S. Army Gen. John Craddock, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe, certainly thinks so… after a whopping three day visit.

Of course, eradication does nothing to combat the reasons behind opium. The insurgency does not exist because of opium, it exists because of local conditions the Taliban exploit—opium cultivation is just a second-order indicator of how well the Taliban is exploiting those conditions.

Previously, we discussed the idiocy of eradication, and how there are established precedents for why going after opium itself is counterproductive to the overall goal of reducing cultivation. And also, why the Marines have been smart to ignore opium in their deployment to Helmand (which has shown terrific promise, if only a successful unit would stick around long enough to capitalize on that promise).

Subscribe to receive updates from Registan

This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

For information on reproducing this article, see our Terms of Use


JTapp October 3, 2008 at 6:39 pm

I’m really curious what your take is on this news.

Laurence October 4, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Did you see this in the NY Times today?

Afghan ‘Dictator’ Proposed in Leaked Cable

PARIS — A coded French diplomatic cable leaked to a French newspaper quotes the British ambassador in Afghanistan as predicting that the NATO-led military campaign against the Taliban will fail. That was not all. The best solution for the country, the ambassador said, would be installing an “acceptable dictator,” according to the newspaper.

“The current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust,” the British envoy, Sherard Cowper-Coles, was quoted as saying by the author of the cable, François Fitou, the French deputy ambassador to Kabul.

The two-page cable — which was sent to the Élysée Palace and the French Foreign Ministry on Sept. 2, and was leaked to the investigative and satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné, which printed excerpts in its Wednesday issue — said that the NATO-led military presence was making it harder to stabilize the country.

“The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution,” Sir Sherard was quoted as saying. “Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that would rapidly collapse without them. As such, they slow down and complicate a possible emergence from the crisis.”

Within 5 to 10 years, the only “realistic” way to unite Afghanistan would be for it to be “governed by an acceptable dictator,” the cable said, adding, “We should think of preparing our public opinion” for such an outcome.

Sir Sherard, as quoted, was critical of both American presidential candidates, who have vowed, if elected, to substantially increase American military support for Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.

In the short run, “It is the American presidential candidates who must be dissuaded from getting further bogged down in Afghanistan,” he is quoted as saying.


Josh SN October 5, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Poppy cultivation is strongest in four southern regions, from Farah to Kandahar. The Taliban is strongest in the “east” from Paktika to Nurestan.

The fact that these regions don’t overlap confuses me, although I am aware that the Talibs have a presence in Helmand (one of the four southern regions)

Joshua Foust October 6, 2008 at 8:31 am

JoshSN, I don’t really find it very confusing. The simple fact is, there is no correlation I’ve been able to see between poppy cultivation “fueling” the insurgency, instead of merely trailing its presence. That being said, Helmand is almost lost to the West at this point, and the Taliban is closing in on Kandahar. So they co-exist, but that wouldn’t explain why Khost, Ghazni, and Paktika have also seen areas fall under Taliban influence without a massive uptick in poppy cultivation.

The connection just isn’t there. Which is why I see this stuff and think they don’t know what they’re talking about and are just grasping at straws.

Previous post:

Next post: