US initiates historic shift in Afghan counter-narcotics policy

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London, July 1 (ANI): The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) today hailed the monumental move by the US to stop the failed policy of poppy crop eradication in Afghanistan.

It also called on the US, UK and the international community to back its "Poppy for Medicine" proposal in the war-torn country.

On Saturday, the US announced that it would withdraw its support for efforts to eradicate opium cultivation in Afghanistan.

Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that eradication "didn't reduce the amount of money the Taliban got by one dollar."

Shortly after the Taliban fell in 2001, the US-led international community in Afghanistan adopted eradication as part of their counter-narcotics policy in an attempt to curtail the opium crisis.

Since then, eradication policies have been inefficient and counter-productive in winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

"Eradication provides the Taliban insurgency with an even more valuable currency than money, and that is loyalty," said Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director of ICOS.

"Farmers have turned against the US and ISAF military when their livelihoods were destroyed; with the US stopping its own eradication policies, the West has a real opportunity to turn the situation around and build trust with the Afghan people."

"This move by the US represents a 'historic shift' in its counter-narcotics policy, yet it won't go far enough to alleviate the opium crisis in Afghanistan," said Reinert.

"In addition to ending poppy eradication programs, our Poppy for Medicine proposal is a crucial step to successfully cutting off Taliban supplies and provide sustainable and viable livelihoods to Afghan farmers."

After the US announcement, the UK government spoke out against the new stance by the US and vowed to continue its own eradication efforts.

"I would urge the UK and the entire international community to eliminate poppy crop eradication from their counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan, and to support a truly viable alternative based on scientific study, namely, Poppy for Medicine," said Raymond Kendall, Former Secretary-General of Interpol and a Member of the ICOS Advisory Board.

The Council called on the US to implement its proposed Poppy for Medicine programme to license the growing of the poppy crop in Afghanistan for localised, tightly controlled production of morphine, currently unavailable to 80 percent of the world's population.

Since 2005, ICOS has conducted intense research on its Poppy for Medicine initiative. The European Parliament endorsed the proposal in October 2007, yet was rejected on several occasions by the Bush Administration since005.

"The Poppy for Medicine programme, if implemented, would function as a counter-insurgency initiative which would end Taliban funding through drugs trafficking and drive a wedge between insurgents and poppy farmers.

Changing Afghanistan's counter-narcotics policy is a first bid to win back the hearts and minds of Afghanistan´s 2.4 million farmers currently dependent on illegal poppy cultivation," he added.(ANI)

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