[Mb-civic] Sowing Afghan security - Robert I. Rotberg - Boston
swiggard at comcast.net
Tue Jan 10 04:01:40 PST 2006
Sowing Afghan security
By Robert I. Rotberg | January 10, 2006 | The Boston Globe
THERE IS A STRIKING ANTIDOTE to worsening security in Afghanistan, where
suicide bombing and convoy ambushes now occur every day. Increasingly,
these Taliban- and Al Qaeda-sponsored attacks are linked to opium and
heroin trafficking. Afghanistan supplies 80 percent of Europe's heroin
and is the largest grower of poppies in the world. Instead of legalizing
poppy growing or attempting to eradicate the stubborn plants and destroy
the livelihoods of impoverished farmers, why not pay the farmers to grow
Afghans already grow wheat as their staple grain. Simply exhorting
farmers to turn away from poppies to wheat, saffron, and pomegranates
will not work. But providing serious, guaranteed, long-term incentives
that will encourage farmers to grow wheat in preference to poppies could
well produce addictions to wheat instead of heroin. Senior Afghans,
meeting in December at Harvard University with American and British
researchers, believe that wheat is the answer.
Americans spend about $3 billion a year attempting and failing to
expunge the Afghan poppy crop. The conclusions of a Kennedy School of
Government project on Afghanistan estimate that providing annual
guarantees for purchases of wheat at triple the world price would cost
less than eradication. To be credible for farmers, the guarantees would
have to be established for five- and 10-year periods, not just annually.
A marketing board could do the buying, and the problems of supply that
would have to be watched carefully would concern smuggling wheat into
the country rather than smuggling opium out. The results could also be
eaten by hungry Afghans, or exported to neighboring Pakistan or
Tajikistan. And Europe would benefit immensely from reduced supplies of
By thus ending the major battles to eradicate what is now the main
peasant commodity, and the source of great profits for warlords and
middlemen, subsidizing wheat would also contribute to peace. It might
also help to undercut some of the appeal of the Taliban. Terrorism now
connected with narco-trafficking would also cease, thus improving
overall national security.
If the scourge of poppy growing can be reduced and then eliminated,
Afghanistan might stand a chance to prosper and develop well. Otherwise,
the landlocked nation's future will be precarious, and the new
government will continue to be a collection of its sections, with little
Making headway on poppies and drugs would provide the central government
of Afghanistan with a sense of common purpose that could draw the
proto-nation together. Today the central government has only limited
visibility and legitimacy beyond Kabul, the capital. A handle on the
poppy problem would also give Kabul an edge over regional power brokers.
Washington and Brussels should use their collective financial muscle to
assist President Hamid Karzai's government and the new national
parliament in this way, and not by attacking farmers trying to be
productive by any means that they know how.
To accomplish these and other worthy objectives, Afghanistan needs to be
well governed. The key governance deliverable is security. Second is a
much enhanced rule of law. A climate of impunity for powerful people now
prevails, and must be altered. The state must not continue to be
complicit in the abuse of ordinary civilians. Washington and Brussels
must do more to help the Karzai government to develop its legal
apparatuses and codes. Even when the police make arrests, their
investigations are weak, and the legal system plays favorites. There are
few assurances of predictability or integrity, with many local warlords
imposing their own dictates on civil and criminal disputes. The country
also requires an ability to recognize and protect individual rights.
Battling harder against corruption is critical, also, although this is a
task largely for the Karzai government and not for outsiders.
These obstacles impede Afghanistan's emergence from conflict and chaos.
With skillful internal leadership and outside assistance, however, these
barriers can be overcome. But the time horizon is five years, not months
or single years. The role of foreign donors will remain critical for
that period, and beyond. More coordination among those donors will be
essential, but Afghanistan must provide the priorities more than it now
State building in Afghanistan is not an enduring effort. But if
drug-related and judicial reforms happen, and if Afghan and NATO forces
can reduce insecurity, then -- and only then -- Afghanistan will emerge
as a strong ally and an effective developing nation.
Robert I. Rotberg is director of the Program on Intrastate Conflict at
the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and president of
the World Peace Foundation.
-------------- next part --------------
Skipped content of type multipart/related
More information about the Mb-civic