To the People

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Trouble Winning the Hearts, Minds, Feet, Hands...

More of the same out of Afghanistan. From the Times
The tractor roared through the field, the plough tearing through the valuable poppy crop as the farmer looked on. A helicopter searched for insurgents and armed police stood watch, their uniforms replaced by robes and turbans to make them less conspicuous.

“The people are unhappy with this eradication campaign; if it goes on they will all join the Taleban,” Dilbar, a poppy farmer in Helmand province, told The Times.

The prospect of such a surge in Taleban numbers is bad news for the 5,000 British troops based in Helmand and 1,400 more heading there after the announcement by Des Browne, the Defence Secretary. The fiercest fighting since the Taleban were overthrown in 2001 came last year, with more than 4,000 people killed, and intelligence reports predict a new offensive this spring.

[ellipsis]

Farmers take huge risks to grow poppy as the market price is 20 times that of wheat. But without aid they have little choice and when the crop is destroyed they are crippled by debt, often having borrowed heavily from landlords to plant the crop. Landlords make no concessions for eradicated crops and the farmers are still expected to pay off their loans.

Smugglers who take the drug out of Afghanistan are also rewarded handsomely for their trade. Very few, if any, smugglers or landlords have been punished, and in southern Afghanistan operate virtually beyond the law. “It will be impossible for us to eradicate the entire poppy. We will need months and months and the poppy will be ready for harvest in only three,” Aminullah said.
Full article here.

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