IN OTHER WORDS
In the morass that is Afghanistan, not just the Taliban are flourishing. So too is opium production, which increasingly finances the group’s activities. There is no easy way to end this narcotics threat, a symptom of wider instability. Even a wise and coordinated plan of attack would take years to bear real results. But the United States and the rest of the international community are failing to develop one.
The scope of the problem is mind-numbing. Opium production mushroomed in 2006 and 2007, and Afghanistan now supplies 93 percent of the world’s heroin, with the bulk going to users in Europe and Russia. The narcotics trade rakes in about $4 billion a year, which is about half of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product.
Allegations that President Hamid Karzai protects officials and warlords in the trade are troubling. Washington and its allies must press him to address this problem. They also should seize assets and ban visas for major traffickers.
Longer term, the answer lies in a consistent, integrated and well-financed plan to establish security throughout Afghanistan, put kingpins in jail, develop a market economy, and rapidly expand incentives for smaller farmers to stop growing poppies. It is all one more daunting Bush administration legacy that will be left for the next president to fix. — The New York Times