Defense Department Supports Afghan Poppy Eradication
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2007 A top priority for U.S. government officials working in Afghanistan is eradicating poppy plants and creating alternative livelihoods for farmers, a Defense Department counternarcotics official said today.
Richard Douglas, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics, counterproliferation and global threats, spoke to military analysts in a teleconference from Kabul, Afghanistan. He said the Defense Department is working with U.S. Central Command, the U.S. State Department, and the British government to combat the narcotics problem in Afghanistan.
“It’s Afghanistan’s future and their fight, but we do what we can to support the combatant commander as well as the Drug Enforcement Administration in carrying out the effort here,” Douglas said. “It’s a very important effort. As you are well aware, there are some huge challenges here, but we’re doing what we can to help (Navy Adm. William J. Fallon, commander of Central Command) and his folks here get their arms around it and make a contribution.”
The State Department is leading a reassessment of the approach to poppy eradication, Douglas said, including a focus on creating viable alternative crops for farmers. The partner agencies also are looking at attacking the money that comes from the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and funds drug traffickers and the Taliban, he said.
“I think it’s pretty clear at this point that the Taliban and other armed insurgents have awakened to the value to them of this source of income, and part of our challenge here is to help the combatant commander help other actors over here, both from the United States and from other countries, get a better handle on where this money’s going, because as we’ve learned in our own hemisphere, an important way to hurt the drug trafficker and to hurt the terrorists that work hand in glove with them is to go after the money,” Douglas said.
This is Douglas’ fourth trip to Afghanistan since taking office in January 2006. He said there are challenges on the ground, but he sees progress in the fight against drugs in Afghanistan.
“It’s not an easy problem to solve, but I do believe that the State Department and the British government appreciate the nature of the challenge,” he said. “I think they’ve been taking a serious approach not only to the strategy but also reassessing the best way to go about this.”