Written by Noddy Bigears
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Topics: Iraq, Afghanistan

Saturday, 1 October 2005

image for US Discusses Afghan Military Ties in Exchange for Guaranteed Opium Supplies
Rumsfeld Laughs As He Forces Afghan President Karzai To Grow More Opium

Mr Rumsfeld flew into Afghanistan on Wednesday morning straight from a day trip to Iraq. It appears that the Iraq opium crop has failed catastrophically this year and despite re-seeding and assistance from 200,000 US military personnel it is unlikely that any harvest can be expected for the foreseeable future. Therefore, Mr Rumsfeld flew straight on to Afghanistan to open urgent discussions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and has said his country (the US) wants a long-term guaranteed opium supply from the Afghan farmers.

Afghanistan supplied more than 80% of the world's demand for heroin last year, according to United Nations sources. The irony of this urgent debate and discussions is that this year's opium crop will be much smaller than expected as the Afghan farmers have been encouraged by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to grow other crops as the bumper Iraq opium crop expected and required by the US military would have destroyed World prices whilst guaranteeing the US market demand.

Most Afghan land has been turned over to other cash crops such as growing small flowers, salad leaves and of course that Afghan special, saffron. Saffron is even much more widely grown in Iran and it is expected that the US military will be seeking opium supply guarantees also from Iran in the future.

Mr Rumsfeld earlier visited the southern city of Kandahar to boost morale among coalition troops still engaged in helping the opium growing Taleban militant farmers in the south and to get a better overview of the reconstruction work required to achieve the desired opium production quota.

It is too early to be completely sure but the BBC has seen and reported evidence that in most former poppy growing areas, farmers have heeded Afghan government warnings not to plant opium as prices were expected to be so low that they would have had to burn it on the ground.

One farmer in Nangahar put it perfectly: "We expect our government to help us. If they can not provide accurate warnings about future World prices then we would stave. Okay, we can eat our own salad leaves but we have to have Saffron cash crops to promote local and international trade and that means we do not want to grow poppy again." He added, "Surely with the Midwest grain basin being so large, they must be capable of growing their own poppies?"

Correspondents believe the US is assessing the future military role of American troops in Afghanistan in order to force the Afghan farmers to grow their poppy quota. Additional reports say it is likely that permanent US military bases in Afghanistan would be set up shortly to force the issue.

Opium futures closed up 11589% on Wall Street whilst Saffron futures remained steady.

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