This is priceless.
A week ago, Donald Rumsfeld was saying that Europe needs to take a stronger role in dealing with the opium problem in Afghanistan.
Senior Conservative MPs are urging David Cameron to push for the licensing of legal opium farming in Afghanistan as he pays a surprise visit to the country today, Guardian Unlimited has learned.
Opposition whip Tobias Ellwood said that the lives of British troops in the south of the country were being endangered because of the coalition’s insistence on eradicating opium crops, which are often the sole means of livelihood for impoverished families in the region.
Six British soldiers have died in Helmand province over the past six weeks, most in the former opium market town of Sangin where they are fighting a fierce insurgency of Taliban warlords who have gained the support of local farmers.
“The poppy crops are the elephant in the room of the Afghan problem. We’re in complete denial of the power that the crops have on the nation as a whole, and the tactics of eradication are simply not working,” Mr Ellwood told Guardian Unlimited.
“Last year we spent 600m on eradication and all that resulted was the biggest-ever export of opium from the country.”
He said that opium farming should be licensed so that the harvest could be sold legally on the open market, bringing in income for Afghan farmers and helping to plug a global shortage of opiate-based medicines.
The plan would also limit the supply of opium to the black market, where it finds its way into Britain as heroin, he said.
Mr Ellwood said the plan had the support of several Conservative MPs and senior military figures in Afghanistan. He will meet international development secretary Hilary Benn to discuss the issue later this week. […]
Why are they so much smarter than Rumsfeld?