- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The task facing NATO in Afghanistan is more challenging than ever, as the Taliban increases its hold on the south and east of the country while Western forces find themselves understaffed and caught between conflicting counternarcotics and counterterrorism strategies (“Achieving victory in Afghanistan,” Editorial, Thursday).

Policy-makers’ instinctive recourse to military means for solving these problems is further damaging the Afghan mission’s chances of success. The prospect of winning Afghan “hearts and minds” through military force and crop eradication is highly unlikely.

If we are to have any hope of success in Afghanistan, we need to concentrate on the immediate humanitarian and socioeconomic problems facing the Afghan people. The population is facing widespread deprivation and a growing refugee crisis. A failure to address these problems sends a message to Afghan civilians that Western forces are not there to help them. This only serves to drive them into the arms of the Taliban, which has used cunning propaganda to rapidly recruit many disillusioned civilians.

Moreover, counternarcotics policies must be changed. U.S.-led forced poppy-crop eradication has pushed Afghan farmers into the arms of the Taliban. The Senlis Council’s Poppy for Medicine proposal calls for pilot projects to be set up that would allow Afghan farmers to cultivate poppies for the production of morphine. This would help diversify the economy of Afghanistan’s rural communities and help win back the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

Without such measures, defeat in Afghanistan will become a genuine prospect for NATO forces.

PAUL BURTON

Director of policy

Senlis Council

London

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