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October 2007
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How things change…

Not that long ago, anything approaching the Senlis proposal in Afghanistan was completely ignored or dismissed out-of-hand by the U.S. government. Opium eradication was the only possible solution to dealing with Afghanistan.
However, as the situation continues to show no signs of improvement and U.S. looks more and more embarrassing every day, the previously taboo becomes thinkable.
In a new report at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, Lieutenant Colonel John A. Glaze writes:

The United States should deemphasize opium eradication efforts. U.S.-backed eradication efforts have been ineffective and have resulted in turning Afghans against U.S. and NATO forces. The Council on Foreign Relations in New York has warned, ‹Elimination of narcotics will take well over a decade, and crop eradication is a counterproductive way to start such a program.Š While the process of eradication lends itself well to the use of flashy metrics such as ‹acres eradicated,Š eradication without provision for long term alternative livelihoods is devastating Afghan‰s poor farmers without addressing root causes. […]

The United States should explore the possibility of assisting Afghanistan in joining other countries in the production of legal opiates. […] The Senlis Council recommends a strictly supervised licensing system in Afghanistan for the cultivation of opium for the production of essential opiate-based medicines such as morphine and codeine. Such a licensing scheme is already being administered in Turkey, India, France, and Australia. While cultivation for legal uses is not a ‹silver bulletŠ solution to Afghanistan‰s opium problem, it could eventually become a viable source of income for some farmers.

This is the Army speaking. It’s still too timid, but a remarkable concession nonetheless, even in an academic paper.

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