Buying Afghan drug crop would hurt Taliban: General William Hobbins of the US Army
Source: Reuters Alert Net
May 23, 2007
By John O’Donnell
LANDSTUHL, Germany, May 23 (Reuters) – Western nations should club
together to buy Afghanistan’s drug crop and provide incentives to
farmers to grow wheat instead, thereby starving the Taliban of funds, a
U.S. general said.
General William Hobbins, who is advising on the NATO-led assault on
Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, said cash from heroin-producing
poppies were paying for smuggled arms. But it was not the military’s job
to eradicate the poppy crop, he said.
“If the European Union and Western governments got together and bought
the (poppy seed) crop and destroyed it and encouraged the growing of
wheat it would probably be cheap,” Hobbins said in an interview with
“(Cheap) when you compare it to the health costs of heroin addiction or
the cost of prisons.”
Hobbins’ recommendation is similar to that of the Senlis Council, a
security think-tank which has advocated licensing the production of some
Afghan opium to make medicines.
“I think heroin is the source of funds for the militants,” said Hobbins,
who also commands the U.S. air force in Europe.
“You cut that off and all of a sudden, the arms flow stops. There are
many things the military is not geared to do. Eradication of crops is a
Violence has surged in Afghanistan in recent months after a winter lull.
Last year was the bloodiest since U.S. and Afghan opposition forces
toppled the Taliban from power in 2001.
“There are some pushes going on now that it’s springtime and the poppy
seed harvest is almost over. What does that tell you about the people
harvesting the poppies?” said Hobbins, implying they were linked to the
Hobbins defended the allies’ use of air strikes against the Taliban,
which have caused rising civilian casualties that analysts say undermine
support for the West’s mission.
Allied forces too have argued among themselves as to how much force is
appropriate. “I don’t see limitations in the use of air power,” said
Hobbins, who also directed the air operation in Kosovo. “We are adapting
to get very precise munitions in very small areas.
“The adversary are hiding in areas where they shouldn’t be. They are
hiding amongst non-combatants.”
Hobbins said European terrorism was spreading.
“The terrorist network is expanding,” said Hobbins. “All the areas there
along the Russian federation — there is a lot of roots of terrorism
there. It is (also) in northern Africa so we are moving east and south.”
Hobbins played down tensions with Russia which have recently come to a
head over a proposed missile defence system in Europe.
“I have told my Russian friends that I’m not interested in flying
against them. I want to fly on their wing. So that we together could
handle a terrorist problem.”