Sunday, February 24, 2008

Opium big business in Afghanistan

Bill Moyers Journal

February 15, 2008

Recent official reports have touted many successes in Afghanistan, but the country still faces many problems. Back to back bombings in one week of February 2008 left over 140 dead — leading to calls from NATO leadership for troop increases. In addition, Afghanistan's government ranks high on indices of corruption and more and more Afghans are turning to opium production for money and the Taliban for security. According to the U.S. Department of State, "Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of illicit opiates."

For Sarah Chayes, who came to Afghanistan just after the fall of the Taliban as a reporter for National Public Radio, it's a frustrating turn of events. Chayes left NPR to stay and help rebuild the country, first working with Qayum Karzai, President Hamid Karzai's older brother to start Afghans for Civil Society, an organization designed to teach civics as a basis for sound economic development and later starting the Arghand Cooperative.

While Chayes agrees with many people that Afghanistan's hopes rest in part on its ability to develop some alternative to the poppy plant, she disagrees with many in the international aid community about the solution. Chayes notes that Afghan farmers are turning to opium not out of ideology or strong-arming by the Taliban, but as a business decision. As she explains to Bill Moyers on THE JOURNAL:


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