- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Afghanistan produces about three-quarters of the world's opium. There is a fairly good argument that we should have been at war with the Taliban long before Sept. 11, as they are both encouraging the production of opium and profiting from it by direct taxation of the crop. Apparently, conservatives and liberals alike have much to learn about the dangers of farm subsidies.

We have known for years how many of our adversaries promote the drug trade and profit from it. Cuba, China, the FARC terrorists in Colombia and Afghanistan's Taliban regime all encourage the drug trade as a weapon against the West. So, in the war against terrorism, President Bush has correctly targeted the terrorists' money, as well as their safe havens. By cutting off the money supply and the terrorists' ability to move money, we can limit and eventually strangle their ability to finance their war against us. Still, if we are to succeed, we obviously need to cut off their ability to profit from the drug trade as well.

The State Department has said repeatedly that it lacks sufficient evidence to say that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network is financed by drug profits. But the very clear fact of the Taliban's direct profits from drugs makes the connection between bin Laden and the drug trade a short leap indeed.

Now, there are many things that the United States can deal with in the war against terrorism, and one of the most obvious but least easy to stop is the drug trade. Whatever comes to rule Afghanistan after the Taliban, it must be a regime that neither tolerates nor profits from the drug trade. It is a relatively simple thing for our armed forces to destroy the larger opium fields with plant-killing agents. But that will not stop Afghan cultivation of opium. It will only sidetrack it. What comes after the Taliban is the issue.

Interestingly, Secretary of State Colin Powell told Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf that following our military campaign in Afghanistan, the successor regime to the Taliban regime may be allowed to include some Taliban members. This astonishing statement is as bad an idea as we've heard in many a day. Aside from being willing to sacrifice themselves to protect bin Laden, the Taliban have insisted on placing themselves among the most lawless and hostile regimes on the planet. We cannot trust them to not grow opium or cultivate terrorism. There is simply no place in the world community for such a regime.

In other words, America must take a stand against such ill-gotten gains, and now is a very good time to start in Afghanistan.


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