Afghanistan Report

ReportReport Press Releases

Afghan Poppy for Medicine projects – An Economic Case Study

6 February 2008

Taliban entrenched in southern Afghanistan and running parallel governments – Presidential elections impossible if security situation does not dramatically improve

NATO’s political dysfunction means a referral back to UN Security Council is necessary

Afghan people should decide on Poppy for Medicine in referendum
LONDON – With the Taliban entrenched in the south and running parallel governments in several districts, the Afghan state has reached a decision point, ICOS said on Wednesday. According to the Council’s latest research, NATO’s failure to address Afghanistan’s security situation has made aspirations to hold Presidential elections in 2009 wholly unrealistic.

“The international community’s significant investment in President Karzai and his government will prove barren if it does not move quickly to stabilise the south and Karzai’s political support base,” said ICOS’s President and Lead Field Researcher, Norine MacDonald QC. “If the current security situation in Afghanistan does not improve dramatically, it will be impossible to hold the next presidential election, which would be tantamount to conceding control of Southern Afghanistan to the Taliban.”

UN Security Council should be involved in Afghan stabilisation process

Speaking at the release of ICOS’s latest report, “Afghanistan: Decision Point 2008”, MacDonald said that it was clear that NATO countries as a whole do not have the political will to resolve the multifaceted security problems facing Afghanistan. “Just four countries are involved in dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan: the US, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands,” she said. “It is wholly inaccurate to say NATO as a whole is supporting the Karzai government.”

With NATO countries seemingly unable or unwilling to respond to the actual realities of the situation, the issue of stabilising Afghanistan and the Karzai government must be brought back to the UN Security Council table to increase the forces deployed in the country and provide sufficient security to hold elections a year from now.

“The international community needs to increase its troop size to 80,000 and remove all national caveats restricting troop movement to the troubled south, to have any chance of defeating the insurgency. If NATO can not come to grips with the situation the matter should be referred back to the UN Security Council and a NATO Plus military force formed,” said MacDonald.

The report provided a list of individuals named as candidates for the next Presidential election, scheduled in April/May 2009. In addition to President Karzai, 24 other candidates were featured, including other Pashtuns, a number of other ethnic groups and three female candidates.

Special Forces needed in Pakistan, International troops needed at border crossing

ICOS also called on NATO -Plus special forces to support the Pakistan army in launching systematic raids on Taliban elements across the border. According to the Council, the depth and breadth of militant extremism in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas is now beyond question.

“The international community must move towards a carefully-crafted direct military intervention in Pakistan in 2008,” said Jorrit Kamminga, Director of Policy Research at ICOS. “Until these Taliban safe havens are rooted out, it will be impossible to stem the insurgency in Afghanistan.

“International troops should be deployed in specialised border patrol forces at key strategic locations along the border with Pakistan,” he added. “Forces from those NATO states that have up to now been reluctant to send their forces into direct combat against the Taliban should be encouraged to patrol the borders.”

Poppy for Medicine referendum urged in Afghanistan

In further recommendations, ICOS urged the Karzai government to initiate a referendum on Poppy for Medicine, which would see farming communities granted a license to grow poppy for the production of essential medicines such as morphine. There is a worldwide shortage of morphine. This referendum should be held parallel to the 2009 Presidential elections.

“The Afghan people must be given a larger voice in decisions and actions directly affecting their lives,” said Kamminga. “The current US-led counter-narcotics policy of forced poppy crop eradication has added to the cycle of poverty and violence that has gripped the southern part of the country, instead pushing farmers into the arms of the Taliban. President Karzai must use the power vested in him by the Afghan constitution (see bottom of release) to give the people of Afghanistan an opportunity to voice their concerns and visions for the future of their country.

“Poppy for Medicine would bring illegal cultivation under control in an immediate yet sustainable manner, while offering Afghan rural communities a financial incentive to cut ties with the insurgency.”

Latest UNODC figures released on Wednesday revealed that poppy cultivation has hardly changed from last year’s record harvest of 192,000 hectares.

“Once again, this shows the complete lack of effectiveness of current counter-narcotics policies in Afghanistan,” said Kamminga. “If we do not quickly move away from destructive, short-sighted strategies that disillusion the farmers and fuel the insurgency, all development and stabilisation efforts will be in vain.”

In October 2007, the European Parliament endorsed the Council’s Poppy for Medicine initiative with an overwhelming majority, while Canada’s Manley Report, released earlier this month as a blueprint for Canada’s future role in Afghanistan, recommended the implementation of Poppy for Medicine projects as a positive way for the international community to engage in Afghan counter-narcotics policies.

A nationwide survey commissioned by ORB on behalf of ICOS in 2007 revealed that 8 in 10 of the British public supported a Poppy for Medicine initiative, while 73% of those polled believed Prime Minister Gordon Brown should personally endorse running scientific pilot projects in Afghanistan.

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