Pubdate: Thu, 28 Aug 2008
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2008 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Almas Bawar Zakhilwal


Re: "Progress in Afghanistan," (Opinion, Aug. 26).

Writer Robert B. Zoellick's arguments for the advancement of 
Afghanistan's infrastructure, particularly the health and education 
sectors, are to be commended. However, a vital component missing in 
Zoellick's argument and in the country's development program has been 
omitted; effective counter-narcotics policies.

With more than three million Afghans currently financially dependent 
on poppy cultivation for survival, current U.S.-led policies aimed at 
addressing Afghanistan's spiralling opium production have not only 
proven unsuccessful but counter-productive. Forced poppy-crop 
eradication, a strategy that has failed to reduce poppy cultivation, 
while alienating local farmers and pushing them further into the arms 
of the Taliban, lies at the heart of the country's problems.

There are alternatives to eradication that have yet to be explored. 
The benefits of micro-finance, as Zoellick rightly points out, can 
certainly not be ignored. The Senlis Council advocates the Poppy for 
Medicine program whereby opium would be made into morphine locally, 
and sold internationally. As the world's biggest opium producer, 
Afghanistan has great potential to contribute to the international 
pharmaceutical market. Counter-narcotics operations are vital if we 
are to neutralize the insurgency and win back the hearts and minds of 
the Afghan people.

Almas Bawar Zakhilwal

Canadian Director

Senlis Council

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