|Posted by Jerrald J President on March 27, 2017 at 12:50 AM|
Surprise!!!! By JJP
Taliban's Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say
The first American narcotics experts to go to Afghanistan under Taliban rule have concluded that the movement's ban on opium-poppy cultivation appears to have wiped out the world's largest crop in less than a year, officials said today.
The American findings confirm earlier reports from the United Nations drug control program that Afghanistan, which supplied about three-quarters of the world's opium and most of the heroin reaching Europe, had ended poppy planting in one season.
But the eradication of poppies has come at a terrible cost to farming families, and experts say it will not be known until the fall planting season begins whether the Taliban can continue to enforce it.
''It appears that the ban has taken effect,'' said Steven Casteel, assistant administrator for intelligence at the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington.
The findings came in part from a Pakistan-based agent of the administration who was one of the two Americans on the team just returned from eight days in the poppy-growing areas of Afghanistan.
Mr. Casteel said in an interview today that he was still studying aerial images to determine if any new poppy-growing areas had emerged. He also said that some questions about the size of hidden opium and heroin stockpiles near the northern border of Afghanistan remained to be answered. But the drug agency has so far found nothing to contradict United Nations reports.
The sudden turnaround by the Taliban, a move that left international drug experts stunned when reports of near-total eradication began to come in earlier this year, opens the way for American aid to the Afghan farmers who have stopped planting poppies.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced a $43 million grant to Afghanistan in additional emergency aid to cope with the effects of a prolonged drought. The United States has become the biggest donor to help Afghanistan in the drought.
''We will continue to look for ways to provide more assistance to the Afghans,'' he said in a statement, ''including those farmers who have felt the impact of the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taliban that we welcome.''
The Afghans are desperate for international help, but describe their opposition to drug cultivation purely in religious terms.
At the State Department, James P. Callahan, director of Asian affairs at the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs who was one of the experts sent to Afghanistan, described in an interview how the Taliban had applied and enforced the ban. He was told by farmers that ''the Taliban used a system of consensus-building.''
They framed the ban ''in very religious terms,'' citing Islamic prohibitions against drugs, and that made it hard to defy, he added. Those who defied the edict were threatened with prison.
Mr. Callahan said that in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, where the Taliban's hold is strongest, farmers said they would rather starve than return to poppy cultivation -- and some of them will, experts say.
In parts of Nangahar province in the east, where the Taliban's hold is less complete, farmers told the visiting experts that they would flee to Pakistan or risk illegal crops rather than watch their families die.
The end of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has come at a huge cost to farmers, Mr. Callahan and Mr. Casteel said. The rural economy, especially in the usual opium-poppy areas, had come to rely on the narcotics trade. ''The bad side of the ban is that it's bringing their country -- or certain regions of their country -- to economic ruin,'' Mr. Casteel said. ''They are trying to replace the crop with wheat, but that is easier said than done.''
''Wheat needs more water and earns no money until it is sold,'' Mr. Casteel said. ''With the opium trade they used to get their money up front.''
The Taliban, who used to collect taxes on the movement of opium, is also losing money, adding another layer of difficulty for a government that is already isolated and not recognized diplomatically by most nations.
Afghanistan is now under United Nations sanctions, imposed at the insistence of the United States because the Islamic movement will not turn over Osama bin Laden for trial in connection with attacks on two American Embassies in Africa in 1998.
American experts and United Nations officials say the Taliban are likely to face political problems if the effects of the opium ban are catastrophic and many people die.