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Afghans hold on to their insurance policy

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									Afghan Media Review 1- 26 -2006 Afghanistan's opium future .......................................................................................................... 1 CENTCOM, drugs and Afghanistan ............................................................................................ 3 Develop the Place, For Everyone's Sake ..................................................................................... 5 81 political parties registered in Afghanistan .............................................................................. 6

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Afghanistan's opium future Korea Herald, Editorial 01/24/2005 By Emma Bonino This month, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Afghanistan that could pave the way for a new and more open-minded approach to counter-narcotics strategies worldwide. In fact, the resolution calls on the participants at a conference of donors, to take place in London at the end of January, "to take into consideration the proposal of licensed production of opium for medical purposes, as already granted to a number of countries." This proposal was originally made by the Senlis Council, an independent organization based in Paris, during a workshop in Kabul last September. The text introduced by the European Liberal Democrats, with the support of virtually all political groups in the European Parliament, is revolutionary, not only because it goes against conventional thinking, but also because it raises the issue above the stagnant reality of the "war on drugs." In Afghanistan, that so-called war has essentially been based on eradication campaigns and alternative livelihood projects, which have achieved only scant results. The European Parliament's new stance may, I hope, mark the beginning of a radical policy shift by all actors involved in rebuilding Afghanistan. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, despite concerted efforts at eradication and crop substitution, Afghanistan produced 87 percent of the world's opium in 2005 - roughly 4.1 tons - generating $2.7 billion of illegal revenue, which amounts to roughly 52 percent of the country's GDP. The 2005 Afghanistan Opium Survey, released last November, estimates that the total value of this opium, once turned into heroin and distributed around the world, could reach more than $40 billion. Moreover, in recent years, factories and laboratories for processing opium into heroin have been sprouting in Afghanistan, producing 420 tons of heroin last year alone. The increase in domestic heroin production has provided a massive boost to the local retail market, giving rise to concerns about HIV/AIDS spreading in a country with poor infrastructure and nonexistent health services. In addition, the itineraries used by the export convoys are no longer limited to the infamous "golden route" through Pakistan and Iran, but have multiplied, employing exit points in former Soviet Republics such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. This is helping to promote further instability in already volatile political contexts. International counter-narcotics policy is currently driven by pressure for rapid and visible results. But eradication and alternative livelihood projects mainly affect the lowest end of the value-added chain, the farmers, with no real impact on those higher up, such as large landowners and local traffickers, not to mention the extremely powerful drug lords and the international cartels and mafias. Most landless farmers find it difficult to switch to different crops, being caught up as they are in the illegal opium-denominated market, which forces them to live at the mercy of the drug traffickers, who provide them with access to credit and market outlets. The result of this was laid out in a report by the European Union's Election Observation Mission that I presented in Kabul last December: Afghanistan risks becoming a "rentier" state with easy access to resources that lubricate corruption throughout its entire political system, finance illegal armed groups, and fuel regional destabilization. Illicit Afghan networks, replicating well-known methods that organized crime has applied successfully for decades in

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other parts of the world, are mobile and resourceful, and can plug into a range of legal economic activities to sustain themselves. This might lead Afghanistan into a situation of no return: becoming a narco-state that drifts away from any form of rule of law and disengages itself from the fragile social contract with its own citizens that it has started to establish. As New York University's Barnett Rubin, an expert on Afghan society has put it: "Afghanistan cannot be stabilized while the most dynamic sector of its economy is illegal, nor if more than half of its economy is destroyed." So what should be done? Because of the serious threat that the illegal drug economy poses to stability and democracy in Afghanistan, we must start thinking in terms of regulated poppy growing for medical purposes, in particular for painkillers, with the active participation of donor countries and the United Nations itself. Indeed, the United Nations estimates that just six countries prescribe 78 percent of the total legal production of opiates, implying shortages of opium-based painkillers in many of the United Nations' 185 other member states. Hence the potential legal demand is huge. Moreover, the United Nations also estimates that there are 45 million people living with HIV/AIDS in countries where health systems are either absent or very poor, and that over the next 20 years there will be some 10 million new cases of cancer in the developing world. These estimates, together with poor countries' additional needs when natural catastrophes strike, imply that the potential legal demand for medicinal opiates is even higher. An increase in production of "medical" opium would address its lack of availability worldwide. It would also provide Afghan peasants, who have been growing poppy despite forced eradication of the plant and incentives to change crops, with an option that is regulated by law and that, in time, could have an impact on the heroin trade. Governments, international organizations and individuals that participate in the London conference must not dismiss the call made by the European Parliament, for it offers a far more workable strategy to promote Afghanistan's future than the current counter-narcotics policies permit. Emma Bonino is a member of the European Parliament. Top

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CENTCOM, drugs and Afghanistan The Washington Times 01/25/2006 By Robert Charles Time to re-read the tea leaves in Afghanistan. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and NATO's operational commander have just declared narcotics to be "the number one threat" to Afghanistan's democracy and freedom. If not prescient, CENTCOM is on the mark. While little noticed, that simple pronouncement is path-breaking. No one on the ground dared to make such an assessment two years ago, even six months ago. But reality often intrudes on wishful thinking, and so it has here. In 2006, Afghan narcotics traffickers are doing what you would expect. In a nation that is poor, illiterate, under-trained, predominantly road-less, has a poppy-favorable climate, no criminal justice system to speak of, and boasts a history of warlords and terrorist domination, they are planting, processing, trafficking, buying public officials, killing where necessary, financing what they like, settling in. To be clear, Afghanistan is a beautiful nation. In fact, the raw majesty of its mountains takes your breath away. The toughness of the people, climate, oscillating temperatures, history and culture give one pause when thinking about its future. The country has made enormous strides toward a new and democratic way of life, but the way ahead is truly road-less. Mountains of work lie on the horizon, and are anything but inviting. Nevertheless, CENTCOM and NATO have spoken. Now watch the debate in Congress and the administration. To follow that thread where it leads, there must now be new energy, priorities, timetables and resources. Oddly, in Iraq, we are getting the edge, regaining a degree of ballast Iraqi familiarity, even if a distant memory, with education, discipline, order, law, peace and prosperity is predictably lifting this long lumbering enterprise off the ground. It has all hallmarks, largely under-reported, of becoming permanently airborne. Iraq's past reaffirms the nation's conviction to win, to make a new way, and to make it stick. Gaps exist, but they are not getting wider. Objectively, there is lift. Afghanistan is different. The whole strategy for success must quickly evolve. The narcotics monster is still holding the Afghan people's wings in its ugly jaw. The only way to free them, really and finally, is to tackle that monster, making no more excuses. Yes, this will mean more money and public discussion, more infrastructure, and a more frontal assault on poppies, processors, traffickers, corrupt public officials, and drug-funded terrorists. The irony is that what you are reading is already known to anyone who has spent time in, or makes policy relating to, Afghanistan. No rocket science here. Needed is a spotlight and some political courage, left and right, to get this ball rolling. Policy makers in both parties who follow this issue know the hour glass is thinning at the top, mounding at the bottom. America must act, evolve, accept the challenge -- even at this late hour -- or risk getting pinned in those same jaws. They know that resources are few, public discussion muted, consequences worrisome and more easily kept in the bottom drawer. But in reality, CENTCOM and NATO are opening the bottom drawer. Some messy stuff in there. Several weeks ago, the Afghan interior minister was accused of smuggling drugs and of letting captured traffickers go free. Why? "It was very late at night when they were arrested." Meanwhile, the governor of the Helmand, the top heroin-producing region in the country, faces allegations of sheltered tons of opium. Increasingly, heroin is woven into the fabric of society. The drug quilt settles slowly over a cold nation.

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What does all this mean? Where is the solution? Where is has always been. Provincial governors are widely viewed as corrupt, and for good reason. Governor-led anything is destined to fail. In 2003, governor-led eradication, the object of world-wide derision, proved this. Instead, we must accelerate a viable criminal justice system, boldly enlisting the Afghan people and leadership (still largely uncorrupt) in the mission of their lives: ending the narcotic monster's grip on their future. As Americans, we can rally Europeans, inspire Afghans, draw nations from around the globe to this mission, while giving both expertise and emphasis. We can let others know, as CENTCOM has begun to, that we think this battle matters. A new and robust combination of public diplomacy, anti-heroin education in country, alternative agriculture nationwide, credible poppy eradication (only possible with aerial spraying in a land with no roads), enforcement of the law, and a commitment to the toil of climbing the counter-narcotics mountain is the way ahead. Perhaps the only thing worse than not reading tea leaves, is reading them and looking away. Ho-hum is our natural first reaction. The natural second one should be, let's get on with it. CENTCOM has bravely broken the ice. It is now time for the rest of us to take the plunge. Robert Charles, president of the Charles Group, was assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement 2003-2005, and initiated various police training and counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan during that period. Top

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Develop the Place, For Everyone's Sake Inter Press Service 01/25/2006 By Sanjay Suri LONDON - A new push for the development of Afghanistan -- and to improve security in the country -- comes in response at least as much to the needs of Western countries as of Afghanistan. The London conference on Afghanistan Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 will draw about 60 delegations, mostly countries but also some multilateral agencies such as the World Bank. It is being cochaired by the British government, the Afghan government and the United Nations. That co-chairing is symbolic. It means that the British move is seen to involve the Afghan government, and have international legitimacy. The co- chairing is being underlined by the presence at the conference of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Through the conference, as through international initiatives for Afghanistan so far, development for Afghanistan is of interest particularly in so far as it translates into security for the West, besides Afghanistan itself. The reason for the British initiative is clear: to progressively reduce space within Afghanistan for terrorist groups to operate. Which means that it will never be enough for the internationally-backed Karzai government to control just Kabul. Far too many areas within Afghanistan are outside the control of government and international security forces within Afghanistan. The new push in Afghanistan seeks to cover these areas in two ways: physically and developmentally. Physically through extending the control of security forces into regions outside their control at present, and secondly, to cover the areas under physical control with development initiatives that would seek to preclude any revival of the Taliban or of Islamist extremism. The British offer impressive statistics on progress on both these tracks. Over the first phase of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process, DDR as it has come to be called, about 62,000 men from known armed militias have been disarmed. About 60,000 of them have been absorbed into official security or other groups. Control has been extended into several regions outside of Kabul, particularly in the north of the country. The situation remains more volatile in the troubled south. On the development track within these areas, the statistics seem impressive at face value: an economy that grew 16 percent in 2003, 8 per cent in 2004 (with a fall in growth said to be due to weather conditions), 28,000 Afghans trained as policemen, the return of six million children to school, 37 percent of them girls and with about a third of the teachers women, the return of about four million refugees, and signs of freedom in a new media. Much of this has been supported by an input of about 15 billion dollars from the international community since 2001. Statistics of this kind can never be on the ground exactly what officials claim them to be, but there is little doubt that foreign forces have had far better luck in Afghanistan than in Iraq, though Afghanistan has seen growing signs of violence described variously as terrorism and insurgency. The security push by international forces, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) troops and by the newly assembled government forces is being described now as more counterinsurgency than counter- terrorism.

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The claimed difference is that counter-terrorism is security activity aimed at locating and taking out terrorist groups, while counter- insurgency is creating a security environment within a region that makes normal activity possible -- in the process also of eliminating terrorist threats wherever located or encountered. Much of this is of clear interest to the West. And that has meant that the 'compact', the statement of the conference, has been prepared principally in London. Karzai is expected only to approve it. This 'compact' is expected to provide the international framework for international involvement in Afghanistan over the next five years. The conference has not been billed as an aid conference, but cash pledges are expected from several of the rich countries that will be attending. These are expected to fund the Provisional Reconstruction Teams (PRT) charged with local reconstruction work in Afghanistan. In their new phase, these teams are to be sent to new areas in the bid to cover all of Afghanistan with a safety net. But uncertainty remains over both security and reconstruction teams. The United States has announced a reduction of its forces in Afghanistan. The Dutch government too has expressed doubts over the continuation of deployment in Afghanistan. Some of the optimism over Afghanistan arises over the relatively better position in relation to Iraq. The recent upswing of attacks on foreign and security forces has been seen as just a blip. The Taliban is not seen to have popular support, in relation to insurgent groups acting in Iraq. Seen from the West, Afghanistan looks a hopeful place -- when compared to Iraq. Top

81 political parties registered in Afghanistan 2006-01-26 15:13:56

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KABUL, Jan. 26 (Xinhuanet) -- With the collapse of hardliner Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the mushroom growth of free media and political parties got momentum as over 80 political groups have come into being in the post-conflict country, a local newspaper said Thursday. So far, 81 political groups and parties with different manifesto have been formed and registered with the Justice Ministry, daily Cheragh reported quoting Abdul Ghias Alyasi, an official of the Ministry. Islamic principals or western democracy had inspired the manifestation of majority of these groups. However, Alyasi added that the Justice Ministry had refused to register those parties linked with armed groups or those owning private militias. Since the collapse of Taliban fundamentalist regime by a U.S.-led military in late 2001, around 100 political outfits and over 270 newspapers, magazines and four private televisions have been established in the war-shattered nation. The former radical regime, besides banning television and closing down girls' schools, also outlawed political forces during its six-year reign in the country. Enditem Top

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