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Last Updated: Monday, 10 October 2005, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
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JANE CORBIN: In the wilds of Afghanistan, once Al-Qaeda's infamous sanctuary, another battle is now being fought against another insidious enemy - the poppy. The West is in danger of losing this war against drugs, and if it does we could all pay a heavy price. Afghanistan risks sliding back into anarchy, once more becoming a haven for terrorists.

DOUG WANKEL, Counter Narcotics Co-ordinator, US Embassy

If we don't start curtaining some of this problem and make strides forward, then yes you have the potential for this moving to a narco state and rather quickly.

CORBIN: Opium from Afghanistan ends up as heroin, fuelling deadly addiction in Britain. This is the inside story of the UK's battle against the poppy, a tale of secret deals, international tensions and failures.

KEITH HELLAWELL, UK Anti Drugs Co-ordinator, 1998-2002

What's happening the foothills in Afghanistan directly affects our community. The criminality within our communities and the health of our communities and the life blood in many respects of our community, it matters.

CORBIN: The heroin trail that leads to Britain begins on one of hundreds of dusty tracks, that leads to Afghanistan's borders, routes used by drug smugglers.

MAJ.TONY OLIVER: This section of the route is a real popular because as I say, it allows them several access points so essentially they do their own reconnaissance and are able to pick out, if you will, the path of least resistance.

CORBIN: US Major Tony Oliver is training a new Afghanistan Border police, they're trying to combat heavily armed and well organised drug traders.

OLIVER: There's no question that these guys will shoot first and ask questions later. They've been heavily armed with AK47s, RBK machine guns, RBG rockets, they have everything.

CORBIN: This border with neighbouring Iran is 1100 kilometres long, but there are just 30 Afghan frontier posts. They're only equipped with basic weapons and just days ago eight vehicles drove straight past this place ferrying heroin across the border.

OLIVER: They're so bold because they're so well armed, they can pretty much go where they want to go.

CORBIN: So they can just drive right across this plain and over the border.

MAN: Right across the plain, right across the border.

CORBIN: So Iran is literally just a few hundred yards over in that direction.


Yes, it's not far from here. The minimum amount of drugs go across this border is over a 1000 kilos a day and I'd say that's really minimum, probably a lot more than that. It's a huge expanse, it's wide open, it's a great wide space - it's the wild, wild West.

CORBIN: The border with Iran is only one of three main drug routes out of Afghanistan to Europe and the streets of Britain. Heroin is smuggled out across the country's northern border and through Pakistan as well. 95% of Britain's heroin comes from Afghanistan, as much as 35 tons a year, only 10% of it is seized by the UK authorities.

How successful have we been in cutting the supply of heroin from Afghanistan?

CHRIS FARRIMOND, Head of Drugs Intelligence, HM Revenue and Customs

To date I don't think we've been very successful at all. We have some pretty significant successes at our borders. We manage to make large seizures of heroin, but there are huge quantities coming out of Afghanistan.

CORBIN: When Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, visited his ally, Tony Blair, this week in London, drugs were high on the agenda. The past 4 years have required a delicate political balancing act, tackling drugs while nurturing a fragile democracy.

HAMID KARZAI, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

MAN: Poppies are terrible. Anything that is illegitimate has to be removed. Afghanistan cannot remain an exception to the world. Afghanistan has to live with the rest of the world and has to have a legitimate life.

CORBIN: Afghanistan heard the message loud and clear when the President said the government of this Islamic nation would fight a jihad on drugs. He's promised to rid the country of the poppy by 2013 and Britain has made a commitment to help him implement his pledge.

General MOHAMMAD DAUD, Deputy Minister of Interior, Counter Narcotics

The Afghan people were shamed by association with the word 'terrorism' across the world. Today drugs are shameful to us, so the people and the government of Afghanistan are making the fight against their main and most important duty, even more important than terrorism.

CORBIN: Today Kabul is fast becoming a modern city with a prosperous population, but it's the capital of a unified state in name alone. In reality Hamid Karzai's power outside Kabul is limited. Beyond the city lies a vast and lawless country, ruined by decades of conflict. Attacks by Islamic militants against westerners and coalition forces protecting the Afghan government have increased in recent months. Much of Afghanistan is still on a war footing, yet the President is trying to fight a new battle against opium.

MIRWAIS YASINI, Director, Counter Narcotics Directorate, 2003-2005

He declared the war against the drugs and he's doing his best, but the international community have to help him to get control straight through all Afghanistan.

1st June 2005

[News] A suicide bomber in a mosque in Kandahar has killed at least 20 people. They were mourners at a ceremony to mark the murder of an Islamic scholar who'd spoken out against the Taliban.

CORBIN: I travelled to Kandahar, the troubled province the President comes from. Once a stronghold of the Taliban, today it is still a centre of resistance, both to Karzai and the Western coalition which supports his fledgling democracy. I've come to Kandahar to see how the President's call for a jihad against opium production has been received on his home turf. Kandahar has never traditionally been a poppy growing area, but this year it's carpeted with the flowers. In the village of Mergam it's clear there will be a record crop, despite the President's plea to his people.

Why do you grow the poppy when you know it is forbidden and President Karzai has told people not to grow poppy.


That is correct, it is forbidden, but what about a person who can't take any more, who's ashamed and ready to die because he has no respect in his household and his children are dying of hunger. Farmer's do it out of necessity, not because they don't listen to their leaders.

CORBIN: Poppy cultivation is labour intensive and provides a whole family with its income. Thirty-three people are dependent on the crop from this one field. When the plants are ready the seed heads are scored and opium resin oozes from the cuts. Once scraped off and collected, it's the most profitable cash crop a farmer can grow. A kilo of opium past fetches him £50, a tiny fraction of what it will be worth in Britain once processed into heroin. People can barely make a living. Like so many in this war torn country, Abdul Razak is a landless peasant who has to work other people's poppy fields. He has 8 children to feed. He's a desperate man who fears losing what little he has because of the pressure his government is under from the international community. The raw opium the villagers produced is bought by local traders to be refined into heroin. Those dealers advance cash loans to the farmers to be repaid in opium the following year. The farmers become trapped in a very vicious circle of debt. An Afghan opium dealer was prepared to meet me in secret to explain how the system worked.

MAN: Many of the borrowed money from me in the winter when they had nothing to help their families survive, they borrowed from me. I lent them up to 150,000 Afghani.

CORBIN: So these farmers owe you money and how can they repay their debt?

MAN: They have to repay me with opium. They must repay us. They need to do this and they will have to grow more poppies.

CORBIN: If a poppy farmer can't pay his debts, then the dealers will take his children instead. Even by Afghan traditions which hold women to be chattels, the drugs trade has shocking consequences. Isakhel was forced to give up his 7 year old granddaughter to keep the traders off his back. He's allowed to keep Noorsavva at home for now but in a few years the trader will come to claim her and she'll be forcibly married to his son.


Our life is ruined. They kept on adding interest to our debt, making it more and more. I have to give this grandchild to try and pay off my debt.

CORBIN: And how do you feel about what you had to do, to sell this child to pay your debts?

SURKHRODAN: They made me give her to them. I had to do this. There was nothing else to give them. They pointed at her and I had to agree.

CORBIN: Already burdened by debt the farmers fear their livelihood will be destroyed and the bigger players will escape punishment.


The big dealers the government can do nothing about them, they're like birds on the wing, no one can catch them. If they're going to destroy our opium, what can we do? We just pray to God. God save our opium so we can pay off some of our debt.

CORBIN: Afghanistan wasn't always the world's biggest opium producer. During the Russian occupation in the 80s the rural economy was destroyed and people turned to the easily cultivated poppy. When the Taliban took over they encouraged opium production and took their cut. But by 2000 the pariah regime was seeking international recognition. We've discovered the Taliban did a secret deal, aid from Britain in return for a poppy ban.

HELLAWELL: There were one or two signs that they were wanting to come more into world affairs and be more accepted so that we put in a million pounds and the Americans were putting in a similar amount.

CORBIN: Keith Hellawell was Britain's drug tsar at the time, working directly to the Prime Minister. The go ahead was given for funds to be channelled to Afghanistan through an Iranian minister.

KEITH HELLAWELL, UK Anti Drugs Co-ordinator, 1998-2002

There is a great deal of scientism. I was in support of this and in fact had to go to the Prime Minister for the money because the Foreign Office were quite sceptical about this. But in the end the initiative was supported.

CORBIN: The deal was done and with brutal efficiency the Taliban cut opium production dramatically. It fell from a 1999 record of 4,600 tons to just 185 tons in 2001, the year of the poppy ban. It's doubtful the Taliban could have maintained the ban, but in the event 9/11 changed everything in Afghanistan. Britain stood alongside its American ally in the War on Terror and took specific responsibility for curbing the replanting of the poppy.

8 October 2001

TONY BLAIR: We in Britain have the most direct interest in defeating terrorists. We know that the Taliban regime is largely funded by the drugs trade, and that 90% of the heroin on British streets originates in Afghanistan.

CORBIN: With the Taliban defeated, Tony Blair was the first Western leader to visit Hamid Karzai, head of the new Afghanistan inter-administration.

7 January 2002

[News film footage]

From the start there were concerns about powerful war lords in his government. These were men the West had supported and Karzai needed them on side to stabilise the country. But some of them had ties to the drugs trade.

Dr KIM HOWELLS, Minister of State, Foreign Office

There are some very, very powerful players right across Afghanistan in positions of authority who are themselves involved in the drugs trade.

CORBIN: How far does that go? Right to the top?

HOWELLS: No, I don't think it does go to the top. I think President Karzai is an honest man, he's somebody determined to do something about this, he speaks about it very often, so I think he's the only show in town, and importantly all of the allies have got to understand that and support him.

CORBIN: The province of Badakshan is a test of Britain's pledge to support the President and rid Afghanistan of the scourge of opium. The head of a special drugs team from the British Embassy is visiting this remote poppy growing area. Chris Jones is inspecting development projects funded by Britain to the tune of 4 million pounds. The aim is to provide farmers with alternative livelihoods to wean them off opium production.

CHRIS JONES, Head of British Embassy Drugs Team

Obviously providing a boost to the rural economy and really getting that going is very, very important and what farmers are crying out for is to see real visible assistance as quickly as possible and real change in their lives.

CORBIN: Afghans have always been a step ahead of Britain's attempt to tackle the poppy in the last three years. A one off compensation to farmers to destroy their crop only prompted more people to plant the following year. And when local warlords were paid to do the job they just pocketed the money. Now the British believes the key lies in rebuilding roads and water systems so farmers can grow alternative crops and get them to market. Snowbound in winter, flooded in spring and drought ridden in the summer, it's a hard life in Badakshan.

JONES: You should see the state of the roads here, they can't get their crops to market. And here, this is a very good road to Badakshan, and yet most of the province you have to use donkeys to get around. It can actually take you well over a week to your¿ a week by donkey to get your crop to market, and so that makes anything you grow that's perishable a complete no go.

CORBIN: And poppy a really good crop.

JONES: Poppy is extremely good for people here because it's not perishable, they can store it, they can dry it, and then they can take it off to the opium department whenever they need money.

CORBIN: British tax payers are funding an irrigation canal to channel river water to the fields so farmers can grow different crops.

Have you grown poppy before and what difference will this canal make to your life now?

MAN: When our bellies were full and life was better, why should we care about opium? Before we needed it, but when I can feed myself, why should I grow poppy?

CORBIN: But it will take years and many millions in aid to establish alternatives to the poppy for the farmers of Badakshan.

JONES: It's going to be very difficult to match the expectations that farmers have. At the moment they are expecting to see their lives change dramatically in the next couple of years as a result of the international system, so it's blowing into Afghanistan. But the reality is, it's going to be many years and some areas before their fundamental way of life is improved significant.

CORBIN: And therefore many years to wean them off the poppy.

JONES: It would certainly be many years before we've tackled the opium problem in Afghanistan, yes.

CORBIN: Old Afghan hands have been critical of the softly, softly approach. Wiley Afghan farmers need a profitable crop and the threat of punishment to change their ways. American businessman, Steve Shaulis, first came here as a fruit farmer in the Taliban era.

Drought has been a problem here for a number of years.

STEVE: It certainly has, but 99 and 2000 were just horrible drought years. Many vineyards dried up. This area at one time was almost totally covered with vineyards I've been told.

CORBIN: And now it's just barren black rock.

STEVE: Now it's barren but they're slowly starting to come back, and part of our programme is to encourage the return of long-term horticultural crops here.

CORBIN: Steve Shaulis believes he can use modern technology to help Afghan poppy farmers again grow traditional fruit crops, even in the Lunar landscape around Kandahar. In a walled vineyard belonging to a former poppy farmer Mr Shaulis has set up a drip irrigation system. A group of sceptical elders have come to learn how new methods can help them to double traditional yields of grapes. This export crop is valuable like the poppy and it's legal. But the farmers need to be convinced despite the vineyard owners enthusiasm.


I grew poppy because I had no other means to feed my family, especially because of the drought, but when I saw how this worked and got help over the last couple of years, I realised the benefits and I'm not going to grow poppies anymore.

CORBIN: So it's a question of having help from the outside because otherwise it's not possible for them to do it on their own.

BAHAUDDIN: No, we couldn't do it on our own. If we get help it's possible, people will see results if you give them a little help and then they will try it themselves.

CORBIN: So far this alternative livelihood project is just small scale. It will take years to convert the farmers by persuasion alone. Mr Shaulis believes a tougher approach is called for.

STEVE SHAULIS, Executive Director, Central Asia Development Group

I'd like to see the government of Afghanistan stay strong and firm on their message, gonna make it clear, unequivocally that production of poppy remains illegal and that those producing or trading in poppy will be punished. That will cause farmers to turn to alternative crop and alternative livelihood programmes much faster.

CORBIN: While Britain pursued a softly, softly approach over the last three years, the poppy crop increased dramatically. That led to tensions with the Americans. The Taliban had reduced the crop to just 185 tons in 2001, but it jumped to over 3000 tons the next year when the UK took the lead in combating drug production and by last year there was a bumper crop of 4,200 tons. The US Congress held a hearing entitled "Are the British counter narcotics efforts going wobbly?" There was anger behind the diplomatic speak.

1 April 2004

ROBERT B. CHARLES, US Assistant Secretary of State, 2003-2005

It would be inaccurate to say that we are in complete agreement on all aspects of the eradication effort. Alternative development by itself, while a wonderful and very important component of the equation, is not going to be sufficient to induce bad guys to stop making mega bucks, big dollars, big pounds, in the area of drugs.

CORBIN: Are you saying that the British gave too much of a carrot and not enough of a stick to the Afghan situation with regard to drugs in those early years?

CHARLES: I think that's a fair statement although I can't tell you that everybody knew at that time that a pile of carrots wasn't going to solve the problem.

Dr KIM HOWELLS, Minister of State, Foreign Office

It's no use looking for a silver bullet or Rambo to come along and destroy all these opium crops and kill all the farmers and the opium dealers that are involved, that's not going to happen, it's going to be a slow process because it's a complex situation. You've go to learn the lessons of the last four years as well and say yes we have been too optimistic about this. We've looked at this through rose tinted spectacles.

CORBIN: In the years Britain followed a non confrontational policy poppy cultivation spread from three main areas to 28 of Afghanistan's 32 provinces. But after last year's alarmingly high crop, a worried Tony Blair promised new and tougher measures.

3 November 2004

TONY BLAIR: We also will announce in the forthcoming weeks a new programme on eradication of the drugs trade there because after the fall of the Taliban we actually had some.. what I believe will be a temporary increase in the amount of poppy cultivation, we've got to bring that back down again.

CORBIN: And so the British finally produced the stick this year, coordinating Afghan efforts to forcibly eradicate the poppy. Chris Jones is briefing the Afghan minister with British satellite evidence which shows uneven results across the country.

CHRIS JONES: The initial results of the analysis of [unclear] district is that the cultivation of poppy is substantially down.

CORBIN: No one yet knows what overall cultivation levels will be this year, but the minister is keen to put an optimistic gloss on things.

General MOHAMMAD DAUD, Deputy Minister of Interior, Counter Narcotics

In the past our government had no ability to act, no power, but as time has past, the government and its counter narcotic forces are building their capacity and more and more areas are coming under our control. This year we raised our chances of success in eradicating and preventing the growth of poppy to be very high.

CORBIN: But in Kandahar eradication of the poppy will turn out to be fraught with difficulties, obstruction by local officials and in some cases violence.

[News] A clash between villagers and Afghan security forces trying to destroy fields of opium poppies ripe for harvest in the southern province of Kandahar has left one person dead and six others wounded.

CORBIN: Maiwand district in Kandahar is well known as a major source of the heroin that flows to Britain. A week after the clashes there was still anger here at the way the President's campaign against the poppy was being enforced in the volatile area.

KHAN AGHA, District Governor, Maiwand

I called the Kandahar province authorities two or three times. I told them to ask the force to stop their campaign for a few hours because there was unrest among the people here, until we could find a solution, calm them down, and then start the campaign again. Then the incident happened between them, the farmers ran towards them and the forces fired.

CORBIN: The violence at Maiwand is believed to have been part of an orchestrated attempt to frustrate the government's eradication plan.

JONES: I think there the problem really was lack of cooperation from the provincial and district government.


CHRIS JONES, Head of British Embassy Drugs Team

I think there the provincial officials really didn't feel themselves committed to fighting this problem.

CORBIN: Because they're involved in the drug trade?

CHRIS JONES: I think certainly it's true that some people at provincial level in Kandahar are involved in one way or another in the drug trade and obviously what they're being asked to do is destroy their.. what they see as their livelihood.

CORBIN: Whoever you speak to in Afghanistan they'll give you evidence of how the drugs trade is corrupting Afghan officialdom at every level.

How far does this corruption run in local areas?

MIRWAIS YASINI, Director, Counter Narcotics Directorate, 2003-2005

Well it does include the district administrators, the district police commander and up to the level of the provincial police commander, and in some cases the government.

CORBIN: So it goes right through the system.

YASINI: Unfortunately yes.

CORBIN: Just outside Maiwand we caught up with the poppy eradication force run by the Americans. South Africans are employed by a private US contractor, Dine Corps, to oversee this 50 million dollar project. Afghan workers are paid a few pounds a day. British planners use satellite imagery to decide which areas the force should target. Three years on the UK's policy is more aggressive, more in line with its American partners.

DOUG WANKEL, Counter Narcotics Co-ordinator, US Embassy

I think we've had the carrot and in this instance in this country before the stick, but going forward there has to be stick there. These people will not get out of this business just because somebody gives them another option and another alternative. They will only get out of the business because there are consequences to staying in the business. What they have to understand is it's against the law.

CORBIN: The farmers of Mai Wan are now learning the consequences.

MAN: We are broken in pieces, our children are hungry, there is nothing else we can grow. This is the only crop for us and you've broken it down and destroyed it. We watered using fuel and dollars, we put a lot of effort into it.

MAN: After the Taliban destroyed the poppy people prayed for their disappearance.

MAN: Now this government will lose the support of the people, and then the people will not obey them. If the government force us to give up the poppy, we can go to the mountain to start a war.

CORBIN: Not all British experts are convinced that eradication is the answer to the poppy problem.

KEITH HELLAWELL, UK Anti Drugs Co-ordinator, 1998-2002

Eradication in itself does not really work. It's short term, it damages the people who are the people you want to win the hearts and minds of. In that environment the baddies, the drug lords, the people who are supporting the farmers become the heroes and the law enforcement agencies become the devils and that clearly is not an environment that's going to succeed in eradicating poppies in the future.

CORBIN: Fearing more violence and with Afghan parliamentary elections approaching, the government's poppy force has had to take account of local sensitivities. Maiwand's officials became involved in deciding which poppy fields and how many the force should destroy.

How much are you managing to eradicate each day because it seems to us when we go out that you eradicate some patches but there's still a lot of poppy left, and that maybe this is one of the results that the local officials are trying to negotiate. They're trying to keep as much poppy as possible.

General ABDUL RAZAK AMIRI, Head of Central Poppy Eradication Force

You know that these days it is getting hot and the poppy is ripening quickly in different places. That's why it would be difficult for us to finish destroying all of these fields in one go in time.

CORBIN: But everything I saw made it clear there were other reasons for the slow progress.

So that's the end of another long, hard, hot and dusty day for the poppy eradication force. They've only cleared about ten acres of poppy today. There's masses more still out there. It's not very much, and the reason they can't clear more is basically obstruction by local provincial officials who just don't want to see the poppy destroyed.

After three months of slow and costly eradication in poppy areas across Afghanistan the American led force has only destroyed 200 hectares out of 130,000. With the central poppy eradication force America paid around 50 million dollars to support that force and they only eradicated around 200 hectares. Now that works out¿

WANKEL: That's correct, yeah, not a very good return on the money.

CORBIN: ¿ about a quarter of a million dollars per hectare.

DOUG WANKEL, Counter Narcotics Co-ordinator, US Embassy

Yeah, I don't want to do the maths of that but sounds bad, yeah. No, look, a key thing this year I would say is this. The opium cultivation will be down in Afghanistan with tremendous lessons learnt on the part of us, the part of the UK, part of the government of Afghanistan.

CORBIN: Not for the first time Afghanistan is proving an intractable problem for the Americans and their British partners. Once more those in power have found a way to get round the rules, and to basically make you and the Americans look fools because you just hadn't eradicated what you said you would do this year.

Dr KIM HOWELLS, Minister of State, Foreign Office

I don't think there's any way of excusing the fact that not enough acreage has been eradicated, no question about it.

[10:29:29] CORBIN: The price of the failure so far can be seen on British streets. There are 260,000 UK heroin addicts and their crimes cost our society 15 billion pounds a year according to government figures.

CHRIS FARRIMOND, Head of Drugs Intelligence, HM Revenue and Customs

At the UK end of course demand reduction would be quite handy because then there wouldn't be the demand for the drugs to go in the first place and Afghans do say that. They say it's effectively a Western problem. If you weren't the consumers then there would be no market and we wouldn't be producing it. We know in quite a tightly policed society how difficult it is to work on stopping the traffickers and on demand reduction. It's more difficult in many ways to step the flow in Afghanistan but I firmly believe that it needs to be worked on at both ends and indeed in the middle.

CORBIN: British Customs are now working the drugs problem on the ground in Afghanistan, trying to seize the opium as it starts along the route to Britain. Customs officers who might normally be found in British courts like Dover are now training a mobile drugs detection team in Kabul. Ursula is a small but enthusiastic part of the UK's efforts in Afghanistan.

DOG HANDLER: We use more.. we can help much more with searching cars more efficiently and more quickly.

CORBIN: But Ursula is the only trained drugs dog so far in a country the size of France. Though Customs will be training nine more Afghan teams, it will be months before they come on stream. The Kabul unit has seized 600 kilos of drugs but mainly from villagers and small-time dealers. The highway police who were implicated in significant smuggling rings rarely have their vehicles searched. The scale of the task is formidable in a country riddled with corruption, where opium traders move vast quantities of drugs with impunity.

MAN: We pay money in order to move the opium from one place to another. There are police chiefs, commanders, governors. These are the kind of people who do this business.

CORBIN: President Karzai has declared a jihad against opium and heroin. Will he succeed in this war against people like you?

MAN: Of course not. The President will never succeed because the provincial authorities themselves are charged with arresting us. Even the governor, or whoever the powerful people in the provinces are, they're involved.

CORBIN: In recent weeks a new elite special forces unit, task force 333 has begun to shut down opium markets and arrest some middle ranking dealers. So far they've seized 135 tons of opium and heroin. The Afghan soldiers are trained and equipped by the British military, part of a new get tough attitude the UK has adopted.

HOWELLS: The big wheelers and dealers who are making billions of dollars out of this trade, there's very little risk for them, and I think that we've got to put some risk into it, and that's what we've been very reluctant to do until relatively recently.

CORBIN: Taskforce 333 has destroyed 125 heroin laboratories, but under the present legal system the culprits would be tried in the provinces and get away. A new central prosecution system with special judges is being introduced but it'll take months to establish.

CHRIS JONES, Head of British Embassy Drugs Team

I think actually we're having considerable success in destroying drug laboratories, destroying opium stockpiles, but the problem we've got is that we're able to detain people, or at least the Afghan government is able to detain and arrest people, but we're not able to bring them trial, and that's really been the focus of some of our efforts over the past 12 months to try to get at least the counter narcotics part of the judicial system up and running so we can actually see some successful drugs prosecutions.

CORBIN: So far only one major alleged trafficker has been caught, not in Afghanistan. Bashir Noorzai was lured to New York where he was arrested. The Afghan government still has to prove it has the ability to put drug dealers behind bars.

DOUG WANKEL, Counter Narcotics Co-ordinator, US Embassy

There's a lot happening right now so I think that we will see.. my prediction is that some time in the next 60 days, 90 days, you're going to see some major traffickers, mid level, high value, traffickers in Afghanistan be indicted, be arrested in Afghanistan by Afghan forces supported by the UK and US and you'll actually see them go on trial and do quite well.

CORBIN: But the key to stopping heroin in the long-term is to eliminate the poppy fields. The experience of Nangarhar however shows how painful withdrawal symptoms can be. People in Nangarhar listened to their president and instead of planting poppy in their fields this year they grew wheat and onions. But they've struggled to market the vegetables and wheat only brings in a tenth of the income opium produces. The villagers say they're suffering because Britain holds them responsible for its heroin problem.

MAN: What do we know of the West's problems with heroin exports from here. Why do these people abroad use drugs, is it necessity or a luxury, because they want to get high? People in Afghanistan wouldn't grow this crop if it wasn't for the difficulties we face.

CORBIN: Nangarhar's governor took a big political risk in supporting the central government's edict. It is dangerous in Afghanistan to do the foreigner's will when your own people risk starvation.

HAJI DIN MUHAMMAD, Governor, Nangarhar Province

The international community told me: "This time we are serious about this matter and we're trying to have a united policy." But I told them: "If you are serious then the people of Nangarhar are also ready to give up the poppy crop this year."

CORBIN: The governor was promised the international community would provide aid while longer term alternatives were developed for the farmers. Fifteen hundred breadwinners live here but only enough money has materialised to employ 100 men to dig ditches for a month. The danger is that next year these villagers will again plant poppy in these fields.

JONES: In Nangarhar the international community is providing significant assistance to get the rural economy going, but again that's not going to have the impact and the kind of timeframes that we're talking about to influence planting decisions later this year.

CORBIN: So they'll probably plant again.

JONES: I think it's certainly possible in Nangarhar that we'll see a rebound effect. We will try to obviously work with the Afghan government to contain that problem, but it is a real risk, yes.

HAMID KARZAI, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

The people have responded to the call against narcotics but that does not mean that they will not grow it again. We'll go and help them with alternative livelihoods with a legitimate economy, so people will go along with us, they will stop poppy cultivation if we help them do so.

CORBIN: Back in Nangarhar there's dissatisfaction and tension in the air. The governor emphasised for a British audience just how high the stakes were for the Afghan President and the West.

KHAN AGHA: If you do not help these people with this difficult situation, obviously they will not trust this government or the international community.

CORBIN: Are people angry here with the President and the Central Government?

KHAN AGHA: Yes, if there is nothing then they will be angry.

CORBIN: A week later Nangarhar was consumed by riots triggered by the allegation American forces had desecrated the Quran. But local anger at the drive to reduce the poppy crop is widely believed to have fuelled the violence. Against this background more punitive measures like aerial eradication have been sidelined. When the official figures are released this autumn, poppy cultivation may have been reduced, but like everything in Afghanistan it's not that simple. Better growing conditions means the opium yield may still be as high as last year The British pledged to rid the country of its poppies within 8 years is looking increasingly unrealistic.

JONES: I think we're here for the long term and I think we can succeed.

CORBIN: How long?

JONES: Many years.

CORBIN: Decades?

JONES: Certainly I think at least ten years before you'll see a substantial reduction in cultivation in Afghanistan that is actually sustainable.

HELLAWELL: They may well hit their targets but they're not going to achieve within.. by 2013, by 2030 in my view, an eradication of the illicit poppy crop by the methods they're now employing.

CORBIN: But the problem is urgent, for if the international community can't succeed in helping President Karzai kick his country's opium habit, Afghanistan risks becoming a narco state.

WANKEL: Failure is not an option in this business¿ Afghanistan because failure on the drug programme in Afghanistan is not just failure on drugs, it leads to the potential for a complete failure of the government of Afghanistan and a worsening of the national security situation for Europe and for the United States if that materialises.

HOWELLS: This crusade to do something about opium poppies being grown hasn't failed, I don't think it's failed at all. I think it's about as noble a task as any government could possibly take on. What we've got to do is make it work.

CORBIN: The recent attacks in Britain have only underlined the urgency of preventing Afghanistan from sliding into opium fuelled instability, becoming once more a safe haven for terrorists.


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