This is essentially a success story in a lot of ways, though not in the tangible sense. It's not the kind of success that the Bush regime can tout, mostly because they did nothing to deserve credit for.
More and more Afghans are trading production of, arguably, one of the world's most dangerous drugs - to - producing one of the world's most benign.
As we’ve all heard, Afghanistan’s opium crop topped all records this year; producing an estimated 93%of the world’s supply of the drug. To combat production of the drug, aid workers have tried introducing other [legal] crops in the south of the country - where the bulk of the poppies are grown. However, it seems the majority of southland Afghans don’t approve of the choices offered by the aid workers, instead, many have chosen to keep growing the poppy, and others have decided to try a brand new crop not indigenous to Afghanistan. It’s what they consider a much easier - less riskier crop to grow, although, admittedly, slightly less lucrative. That crop is marijuana.
That’s right. The magical hemp plant is a significantly lower maintenance crop than the poppy. In fact, some farmers have found marijuana growing to be essentially – maintenance free.
But, nirvana it’s not. Apparently, the opium [growing] habit is hard to shake and many of the farmers in the south are conflicted between the two drugs, with the majority still opting for the pink-flowered plant - not for its effects on the mind - but rather for its potential profits. The poppy plants sell at a price many times that of marijuana. For the farmers, it comes down to a case of simple economics.
But, that doesn’t mean cannabis is completely out of favor with Afghan farmers - it's not yet worn off that patented new-drug-smell.
In the northern provinces, the poppy crop has been nearly eliminated. In fact, Afghan officials have touted the reduction of poppy output in the northern Balkh Province – reportedly reducing production from 7,000 hectares of poppies cultivated in 2006 to virtually zero production - after strong local and tribal government cooperation.
But, as they say, when one proverbial door close, another one opens up.
But around the ancient citadel of Balkh, in fields where pink poppy flowers stood last year, jagged green marijuana stalks poke above other crops and in places whole cannabis fields produce a pungent aroma strong enough to be picked by passing motorists.
The farmers are still cautious. "They are not my fields," said Shamseddin, surrounded by head-high cannabis plants in full flower. "I don't know who they belong to," he said, dropping a sickle to the ground and nudging it away with his foot.
Others said they only planted marijuana to shield their cotton fields from livestock or that it was just a trial crop.
"The landlords used to plant poppy, but then the government came along and destroyed the crops," said farm worker Mohammad Yassin.
"This year we planted marijuana; the dealers will come and buy the crop from us, so we'll see what we make from it. We probably won't plant any next year."
Marijuana, while not as profitable as opium, still makes more money than other legal crops.
"In order to survive and feed their families, the farmers have to cultivate marijuana," said Balkh drug squad Chief Faiz Mohammad. "Other crops don't give a good profit."
The United States unveiled what they called a "carrot-and-stick" strategy to combat opium production just last month, and is planning on spending $25 million to $50 million in the next fiscal year to reward provinces that make significant progress against drugs.
A former warlord, now the governor of Balkh, was credited for much of the success in eliminating opium in his province. The governor is now complaining that he has yet to receive any of the promised incentives for complying with the opium reducing strategy, and he’s raised similar complaints over compensation for cutting back on cannabis production as well.
"Every year the international community announces that it is spending millions of dollars on counter-narcotics but we haven't seen a dime of that money," the Institute of War and Peace Reporting quoted Governor Mohammad Atta as saying.
Balkh drugs squad chief Faiz Mohammad said his officers had made a start in informing farmers they should not plant cannabis and had requested funding from the national and local government to destroyed marijuana fields, but it had yet to arrive.
So, what else is new? Isn’t that standard modus operandi for the Bush regime? Propose a program; get Congress to pass legislation in order to get credit for the program, and then not bother to fund it, letting the program wither and die.
The Bush regime’s "carrot-and-stick" programs, as usual, are no carrots and lots of stick.
Anyone who still believes this administration is incompetent, simply isn’t paying attention. I bet they haven’t forgotten to fund Blackwater USA’s contracts. In total, Blackwater alone has collected more than $1 billion in Contracts since the invasion of Iraq back in 2003.
Impede, impeach and imprison