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Crop Eradication Undermining Progress- Afghanistan

Crop Eradication Could Undermine Progress in Afghanistan
CARE urges U.S. Government to pursue a more effective and appropriate strategy

In a letter addressed to the newly confirmed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 31 international and Afghan civil society organizations commend the Bush Administration for turning its attention and resources to addressing the drug trade problem in Afghanistan.

But, the groups warn that massive eradication efforts in 2005 could risk destabilizing large areas of the country and undermine the remarkable progress Afghanistan has made since 2001.

“An effective counter narcotics strategy must contribute to the stabilization of Afghanistan and help authorities build a legitimate state and economy,” explains Paul Barker, CARE’s country director in Afghanistan.

Millions of Afghans are directly involved in the narcotics business, which accounts for about 40 percent of the country’s total gross domestic product.

A recent U.N. report found that the amount of land cultivated with poppies rose 64 percent between 2003 and 2004 and has spread to all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces.

The 31 signatories urge the United States to prioritize alternative livelihood and interdiction efforts rather than crop eradication. “Equally important,” says Barker, “is the newly elected government’s capacity and resolve to prosecute drug traffickers and corrupt officials.”

According to CARE and the other signatories to the letter, it is precisely because the narcotics industry is so entrenched that excessive emphasis on crop eradication could undermine the economy and devastate already poor families.

A lack of viable livelihoods is likely to increase farmer’s debts to local merchants and money lenders, forcing them to mortgage their land to drug traffickers.

Girls can also fall prey to the drug trade as they have been sold to pay off opium-related debts, a situation that would undermine efforts to restore the rights and dignity of Afghan women.

In addition to promoting alternative livelihoods, the letter to Dr. Rice makes specific recommendations to the U.S. government to ensure that the response to the drug problem is most effective.

Key recommendations emphasize that:

• Arial eradication should not be used under any circumstance

• Intelligence efforts focus on identifying major drug traffickers

• Funds be committed to build law enforcement capacity to arrest major traffickers and political protectors

• High officials in the Afghan government be required to disclose their assets in accordance to the provisions of the Afghan constitution.

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