Afghanistan’s President Karzai complained in an interview yesterday that U.S. tactics in his country were weakening the local governments and not strengthening them–“Eventually, if the world is to succeed in Afghanistan, it will be by building the Afghan state, not by keeping it weak.” Obviously his biggest internal problem is to fight the corruption brought on by the immense fortunes to be had in the Opium trade.
“Afghanistan is providing close to 95 percent of the world’s heroin,” the State Department’s top counternarcotics official, Tom Schweich, said at a recent conference. “That makes it almost a sole-source supplier” and presents a situation “unique in world history.”
In 2006, Afghanistan accounted for 92 percent of global opium production, compared with 70 percent in 2000.
We spend close to $500 million a year to try to forcibly eradicate the poppy crop in Afghanistan. As The New Yorker’s brilliant John Lee Anderson showed last year, the eradication program itself is corrupt and politically motivated. Why don’t we give Karzai the $500 million to set up a government opiate production company to buy up all the poppies at the current market price of $250 per kilo to supply the world’s legitimate pain mitigation drug industry? The 2 million kilos that would buy is probably more than the world needs, but it would sure go a long way towards strengthening the central government and eliminating corruption.