U.S. Considers Paying Off Afghan Poppy Farmers
As additional U.S. forces push deep into southern Afghanistan — where the Taliban is the strongest and the cultivation of opium is the most lucrative — the Obama administration is considering paying local farmers to cease planting poppies, the Associated Press reported July 21.
The U.S. wants to stop the Taliban from profiting from the heroin trade; insurgents earned as much as an estimated $70 million from drug trafficking last year, according to the United Nations.
Critics of the payout proposal say the farmers will take the U.S.’s money but won’t stop producing the crop, especially since the Taliban provides them with a market and pays them up front.
The administration is still deciding whether to offer the payments, which would likely be handled by civilians under the direction of the State Department.
Currently, the U.S. relies on local authorities to fight heroin trafficking. Under the Bush administration poppy crops were destroyed, but that approach is believed to have motivated Afghan farmers to support the Taliban.