US winding down efforts for Afghan poppy destruction

June 25th, 2009 - 6:00 am ICT by IANS  

Richard Holbrooke Washington, June 25 (IANS) The US is winding down efforts to destroy poppy in Afghanistan, special envoy Richard Holbrooke said Wednesday, after criticism that the zealous US approach has pushed peasants toward the Taliban.
Holbrooke, special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said President Barack Obama’s administration was making “significant adjustments” from the previous government of George W. Bush in order to root out Islamic extremism.

While testifying to Congress, Holbrooke said the US had “a continued focus on stopping the drug trade, but within that we are downgrading our efforts to eradicate crops - a policy we think is totally ineffectual.”

“We are going to increase efforts in interdiction and going after the drug lords. So we’re not downgrading narcotics, we’re downgrading crop eradication,” Geo TV said citing Holbrooke.

Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world’s heroin demand, much of which originates from the southern Helmand province, where the Taliban-led insurgents are waging a bloody campaign against the Western and Afghan forces.

Critics feared the US was pushing impoverished Afghan peasants into the Taliban by destroying their key cash crop.

Holbrooke said the US will boost aid in the agriculture sector in Afghanistan to create alternative livelihoods for the Afghan people.

The US military admitted that an eight-year-long effort to stop the drug trade in Afghanistan has failed. Experts believe the Taliban earns about $100 million annually from the drug trade.

In October last year, NATO nations for the first time authorised the international force in Afghanistan to take action against the drug lords and their facilities.

–Indo-Asian News Servic3e


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