Thursday, January 25, 2007

Poppy harvest update

Amid the first signs of friction between the United States and the British there's a debate in Afghanistan going on about whether or not to spray the poppy crop which is currently growing in the country, to destroy it. The American government backs spraying. The British - worried about a local backlash - do not. Today Associated Press reports that the new governor of Helmand has ruled it out, though somehow I doubt that his intervention will end the argument. The sense of urgency of these discussions is because the weather conditions have apparently been perfect for opium poppy farming and the harvest is expected to begin early, in March.

In the meantime, the British Medical Association has stepped in, suggesting that Afghan farmers should be licensed to produce the crop, to legalise their way of life and help end a shortage of diamorphine in the National Health Service. Critics of this idea say that the drug smugglers can always offer more for the crop. The other way to deprive the Taliban of this major source of revenue, of course, would be to legalise the drug in Britain. And I look forward to meeting the politician brave enough to advocate that...

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