IN OTHER WORDS: Narco-state?

Afghanistan confronts many problems, but none is harder to solve than the widespread cultivation of opium poppies and the smuggled exports of refined opium and heroin. The Afghan drug trade corrodes the institutions President Hamid Karzai’s government needs to build, distorts economic activity and warps social structures.

Since Afghanistan shares porous borders with neighboring countries, the Afghan poppy crop also casts a long shadow over Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Russia and those European cities where 90 per cent of the heroin consumed originates from Afghanistan. Because of the American stake in helping it escape the horrors of the past, the US cannot afford to allow post-Taliban Afghanistan to become a narco-state. Karzai’s government is striving to reverse the growth of the trade but in vain. Profits from this trade finance not only provincial warlords but also Taliban remnants and Al Qaeda that prevent Afghani-stan from establishing a true rule of law and a stable democratic government.

As much as Afghans need reconstruction aid, they also need substantial resources to pay farmers for crop substitution and to support law enforcement efforts to combat the drug lords. This means a major investment over many years, but that is the price of preventing Afghanistan from becoming once again a failed state. — International Herald Tribune