Afghanistan’s opium trade: allowing the inevitable?

A topic we’ve kicked around before. Afghanistan has a long history with opium, and a few years of eradication policy won’t erase that. In general, I’m against crop eradication of foreign countries, but I’d welcome a discussion on this:

“Eradication has been a failure,” says Romesh Bhattacharji, former narcotics commissioner for India. “Licensing is the only alternative.” Bhattacharji was involved in a similar government-run project in India, which he says has been a success and from which Afghanistan can learn important lessons.

Crop eradication sees the poorest of the population become either even more impoverished or sent into the arms of the Taliban, says Bhattacharji. The Taliban often attack the eradication operations, and end up looking like “white knights” to the farmers, Reinert says.

The painkillers morphine and codeine are fairly easy to make from opium, and have been produced since the nineteenth century. There is a global shortage of morphine as a painkiller, especially in the developing world.