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Do we want to win the war against the Taliban or lose another war against drugs?

by Howard Richman & Raymond Richman

Last week a report from the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan was leaked. It included a request for additional troops or the war could be lost. We had won the war in Afghanistan in 2002 and had driven the little of what remained of the Taliban army out of Afghanistan. It was estimated that fewer than 1,000 men were in the mountains on either side of the Pakistan border.

But then we and the UN began a moral crusade against the production of opium, urging the farmers to grow other products. We offered them subsidies. We destroyed their crops when and where we could. We began to war against the Afghan farmers. The resurging Taliban offered them protection to continue growing poppies, the chief cash crop of Afghanistan.

Thanks to the opium producers, the Taliban rebuilt and strengthened its army. We allowed a defeated enemy to retake power and to be the effective government of rural Afghanistan. The Taliban succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Thus did we convert a successful war against the Taliban into part of our failing war on drugs. We continue to ignore the economic motivation behind the rural support for the Taliban at our own peril.

Disclosure: No Positions