Colombia as Model for Afghanistan?

General Peter Pace thinks so:

The United States’ top military official said Friday that American-backed anti-drug and counterinsurgent operations in Colombia – the world’s largest producer of cocaine – could serve as a template for Afghan efforts to fight drug production. (continue)

And he is not alone by a far shot. The re-assignment of William Braucher (former US ambassador to Colombia) to Kabul confirms that the ideological -and disastrous- “War on Drugs” model is indeed the next thing for Afghanistan. For years now groups inside Afghanistan, in the civil society, and among the more precient of Afghanistan observers have warned against Colombia-style eradication efforts in Afghanistan. The argument has been made that in the absence of mechanisms of alternative livelihood -and enough time to allow for an effective transition- any eradication efforts, no matter how massive, will run aground in the face of simple laws of economics.

Unless people -as rational agents with calculated self-interest- are not convinced of the fact that cultivating crops such as wheat or saffron are equally or more profitable than growing opium poppies, they will keep on growing poppies. With time, as eradication makes it costly for some to cultivate poppies, at the same time it increases the margin of profit for others who will continue to take the risks and cultivate it. And then with some more time, those people will find ways to arm their militias (Taliban for FARC) to protect their investments.

Let’s face it: the whole war-on-blank metaphor has proved disastrous, and Afghanistan is still a little better off stuck with the war-on-terror part of it to afford another war-on-drugs at the same time. The war-on-blank mindset is uncompromising, idealistic, and impractical – and serious policymaking is anything but these: it is pragmatic, settles for setbacks, and admits mistakes and adjusts course accordingly.


One Response to Colombia as Model for Afghanistan?

  1. Alphast says:

    I have read somewhere that it would be far more cost efficient (but probably not as popular with the Western voters) to actually buy the poppies crops. I mean that if the ISAF or any donor countries would simply (and forcibly) buy the afghan production directly from peasants and at a fixed but decent price, this would ruin the gangs and smugglers in one or two seasons. And brutally stop the Taleban’s source of income. Part of the poppies could then be destroyed, the rest used in the pharmaceutical industry. With stable income and a safer environment, locals could then have access to micro credit tools and to an improved life in general…

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