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First Secretary Haidari Speaks to Princeton University Students

First Secretary M. Ashraf Haidari spoke to a group of Princeton University students on Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics efforts on December 12, 2006. The seminar on the problem of narcotics in Afghanistan—taught by former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Dr. Robert Finn—works as a task force with each student studying and analyzing a major pillar of the country’s counter-narcotics effort. Haidari briefed the students on how drugs have become a significant obstacle to the process of state-building in Afghanistan. “Poppy cultivation and heroin production in Afghanistan began accelerating in late 1980s with the withdrawal of the Soviet forces, which did not only provide the poor with an income but also fueled the factional infighting that broke out after the fall of the communist regime in 1992,” Haidari said.

The drug problem continued throughout the 1990s, until the Taliban regime’s total ban on poppy cultivation in 2000-2001. However, Secretary Haidari stressed that this course of action was pursued as an incentive for international recognition and to raise the price on their stockpiles of opium from years of cultivation. Haidari and the task force assessed the impact of drug production and trafficking on security, the rule of law, and economy, and agreed that any effective counter-narcotics strategy should take into account the time factor and the diversity and dynamism of the drug problem.

“As we know from the experience of other major drug-producing countries, eliminating narcotics in Afghanistan will take decades—not months or years—even if we get our strategy right and provide balanced incentives and disincentives for cultivation. Our effectiveness primarily depends on interdicting and prosecuting high value drug traffickers, while separating vulnerable farmers from those with assets and who can respond positively to eradication. To vulnerable farmers, we should provide sustainable alternative assistance in the form of land, credit, and water, while building the necessary farm-to-market infrastructure to enable them to sell their products for livelihood,” Haidari emphasized.

Ambassador Finn and Dr. Wolfgang Danspeckgruber, Director of the Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination at Princeton University, joined the discussion and made valuable recommendations for the international community’s counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan.

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