New Plan to Curb Afghan Opium Trade

Cash for Clunkers worked so well, why not cash for junk? The U.S. and Britain are staging a country-wide intervention in Afghanistan, hoping to detox the war-torn country of its poppy problem. Over the next two months, the administrations plan to spend millions of dollars to encourage Afghan farmers to stop planting opium poppy, "by far the country's most profitable cash crop," The Washington Post reports, and a significant source of Taliban funding and government corruption. "We need a way to get money in [farmers'] hands right away," said a senior U.S. military official. Their plan? To sell wheat seeds and fruit saplings to farmers for a pittance, offer cheap credit, and pay poppy-farm hands to work on roads and irrigation ditches, all before the planting season begins in early October. The program takes a different approach than the Bush administration's focus on simply destroying the poppy crops, which "wasted hundreds of millions of dollars," according to the Obama administration. Wiping out the crops succeeded only in "alienat[ing] poor farmers" and "driving people into the hands of the Taliban," Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, told reporters.