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Political Counselor Haidari Speaks to the U.S. National Guard

Agribusiness Development Teams

Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari spoke to a large group of national
guardsmen from the States of Indiana and Texas in Bloomington, Indiana, on October 14, 2009. Organized in Agribusiness Development Teams, they will soon be deployed to the provinces of Khost, Paktiya, and Ghazni, where the agricultural experts will provide technical assistance to local farmers, create agribusiness opportunities, as well as rebuilding and building irrigation systems. Haidari extended the gratitude of the Afghan Government and people to the national guardsmen for deploying to Afghanistan, welcoming their badly needed expertise to help revitalize the country's agriculture sector.

"We in the Government have been asking for increased attention and resources to the agriculture sector for the past eight years. And, now, we welcome the realization that in order to help reduce poverty in Afghanistan and to create livelihoods for our rural population, the agriculture sector must be revitalized," said Haidari. Highlighting the problem of opium poppy cultivation and production in Afghanistan, he noted that sustainable rural development was the key to addressing the problem on the long run. Haidari referred to the successful experience of Thailand in eliminating drug production over a long period of time through sustainable alternative development assistance to the country's affected areas. He said that the problem in Afghanistan was now increasingly isolated to a handful of southwest provinces, and that the number of drug-free provinces in the country had increased.

"Where the Government is present and we have provided alternative
development assistance to sharecroppers, drug production has declined. But where our presence is limited or weak, the problem has bloomed," noted Haidari. He called on the international community, as well as regional players, to fight narcotics together, while helping Afghanistan strengthen its governance and law enforcement institutions to arrest and punish drug traffickers, who drive the drug industry in the country. He also called on the international community to fight drugs on the demand side, as much as they try to do that on the supply side in vulnerable environments, such as Afghanistan.

"At the end of the day, narcotics and its trafficking are a major
transnational security threat, which cannot be addressed in Afghanistan
alone. We need to fight it on many levels, and assist Afghanistan with
long-term development and law enforcement assistance to get rid of this threat," said Haidari.

 

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