Richard Holbrooke, the new US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan described the US and NATO attempts to arrest Afghan poppy production as “wasteful and ineffective.” The BBC reported on Saturday, that Holbrooke reported that despite US expenditures of $800 million/year in poppy eradication efforts the US is getting no return for their investment. Holbrooke recommends that the US should redirect money spent on eradication to assistance to farmers.
About a month ago, I wrote here about the damage US poppy eradication policy was doing on the overall effort to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat the resurgent Taliban. Holbrooke’s comments are a hopeful indicator that US policy will shift over the coming months, away from destroying the livelihood of farmers (which ultimately encourages their support of the Taliban) to providing alternative means of wage earning. As I wrote a month ago, if this means purchasing crops from these farmers t several times the market price, it will be money well spent. Aggressive eradication methods not only do not work to stem the tide of poppy farming but actively undermine the US mission in Afghanistan.