It’s that time again, and President Bush has issued his memorandum — Presidential Determination on Major Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for Fiscal Year 2008 — identifying which countries have been naughty and nice to see whether they get a lump of coal in their stocking (or a pile of cash and Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters).
Of course, it has nothing to do with drug war success. It is, to an extent, public bribery to toe Washington’s absurd drug war line, but it’s mostly a way to reward and punish regimes based on other political goals.
Now you might well ask what the United States would do about a country that had suddenly vaulted into producing almost all of the world’s opium in just a short time under a particular regime. Wouldn’t the country in charge of that be up for some strict sanctions? Of course, the country is Afghanistan and the ones in charge… well, that’s kind of… us.
So the President necessarily spends some time talking about Afghanistan, but I have absolutely no idea what was said. It’s a fine piece of obfuscation and doublespeak.
Although President Karzai has strongly attacked narcotrafficking as the greatest threat to Afghanistan, one third of the Afghan economy remains opium-based, which contributes to widespread public corruption, damage to licit economic growth, and the strengthening of the insurgency. The government at all levels must be held accountable to deter and eradicate poppy cultivation, remove and prosecute corrupt officials, and investigate and prosecute or extradite narcotraffickers and those financing their activities. We are concerned that failure to act decisively now could undermine security, compromise democratic legitimacy, and imperil international support for vital assistance.
In Afghanistan, one model for success can be drawn by comparing the marked differences in cultivation between the northern and southern provinces. Several northern provinces contributed to a decline in poppy cultivation resulting from a mixture of political will and incentives and disincentives, such as public information, alternative development, and eradication. Furthermore, several northern provinces with very low amounts of poppy are well on their way to becoming poppy free.
Despite the significant progress made in Afghanistan since 2001, the country continues to face tremendous challenges. Our struggle to win hearts and minds, while confronting the insurgency, continues to directly hinge on our ability to help the Afghan government produce visible results. We need to encourage a firm belief among the Afghan people that their national government is capable of delivering an alternative to the preceding decades of conflict. Our reconstruction assistance is an essential instrument to achieve that goal.
Ah. Yes. There’s a clear road-map.