Eradication could undermine Afghanistan reconstruction, new study warns

05 December 2006
In the media

International pressure for 'quick fix' repressive drug control programmes risks further destabilising Afghanistan and could lead to a worsening of the current conflict, according to a new report from the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI). 

 

Politicians look at the Taliban, drug traffickers and opium fields as malign elements which have to be killed, arrested and eradicated. But quick fix solutions based on this destructive logic are illusory,” says Martin Jelsma, co-ordinator of the TNI Drugs and Democracy Programme and co-author of the report.

With a dramatic upsurge in opium poppy cultivation and the growing armed conflict in southern Afghanistan, proposed harsher measures include calls for NATO involvement in drug control, and the use of more aggressive eradication techniques, such as aerial spray-ing with herbicides or the introduction of a poppy-killing fungus.

A Colombia-style ‘Plan Afghanistan’ would be the worst possible path to take,” says Jelsma. “Colombia is a dramatic example of how aggressive eradication can put in motion a vicious cycle that has devastating consequences for farmers, as well as for peace building and stabilisation.”

Prioritisation and the right sequencing are essential. Forced eradication should not happen where alternative livelihoods are not sufficiently in place or where it is likely to exacerbate conflict. “A first important line to draw is to keep NATO forces fully out of drug control operations,” says Jelsma.

The report also argues that the international drug control community should re-think some of the persistent dogmas that are adding to the pressure on Afghanistan to apply repressive strategies to curb production. “It is an illusion to think that whatever strategy is applied in Afghanistan, that it will ‘solve’ problems related to heroin addiction in Europe,” says Jelsma. “Heroin-related health problems need to be addressed primarily by sensible policies in the consumption markets – not by stepping up eradication in Afghanistan.”

Overdose deaths and transmission of blood-borne viruses through injecting drug use should be reduced by quality treatment services and harm reduction programmes, such as methadone treatment, heroin maintenance, needle/syringe exchange and consumption rooms. The full report Losing Ground: Drug Control and War in Afghanistan is available online.

For more information: Press briefing

Martin Jelsma, cel –31-6-5571 5893 or Tom Kramer, cel –31-6-5260 6294