Afghanistan's poppy problem Joel Hafvenstein December 3, 2007
Joel Hafvenstein betrayed no culture shock when his 36 hour trip from Afghanistan deposited him in New York and we shared a Central Park bench to discuss “Opium Season,” his account of good intentions and bad consequences at the intersection of the war on terror and the war on drugs.
In 2005 he was part of a group of aid workers tasked with bringing alternative job opportunities to the many poor Afghans who count on poppy cultivation--and by extension Heroin production--for their income. He eventually fled the country when his group came under attack but has since returned.
In this conversation Hafvenstein relays his impressions of the largely failing poppy eradication effort and the wider issues at play in Afghanistan.
“The troop numbers and the aid dollar numbers are not what’s going to make the difference,” he says. What is most important is providing basic security by retraining the failing police.
“Its going to be hard to get people who will go out on the front lines like that. That is a dangerous job. But that is the kind of troop increase we need in Afghanistan.”
The danger of failure?
“If we just pull out of there it will go back to being Al Qaeda’s playground and we feel the effects of that,” Hafvenstein says. “The troops job there isn’t done. Its an important job. And what we really need to be focusing on is providing security in Afghanistan, however long that may take.”
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