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Poppy Palaces in Afghanistan: Delving deeper into the corruption of 'narco-state'

Source: The Real News Network

"There's not much of an easy solution to anything in Afghanistan," Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Moscow Bureau Chief, says. He tells TRNN Senior Editor, Paul Jay, that the Afghan opium trade, operating almost unchecked by US intervention in the area, has spread out into government corruption and widespread heroin addiction throughout Afghanistan and Iran.

"Whatever you are talking about in Afghanistan...roads, water quality, past war crimes, corruption, counter-insurgency's a place where solutions are not fast and coming," Lasseter says. He suggests solutions like crop substitution for small Afghan farmers to demonstrate that they can make just as much or more with crops other than opium.

The opium trade has become more than just a source of funding for the Taliban over the years. Lasseter says that it has facilitated extensive corruption in the Afghan government. A common sentiment that he found throughout his interviews in Afghanistan was the idea that "Afghan officials work with the drug dealers, or sometimes, are the drug dealers."

Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan

As an example of the relationship, Lasseter refers to the upscale areas where top Afghan officials live in Kabul as "poppy palaces," expensive dwellings that most Afghans could afford to inhabit, not even government workers. "Those are houses in Kabul in relatively upscale areas where rents run into the $1,000 or up to $10,000 that are frequently owned by Afghan officials or those connected with them who would seem to have no legal means by which to own that real estate, much less at the expense of armoured vehicles which often pull up around them," Lasseter says.

Because of the extensive corruption and lack of social infrastructure, the order and enforcement of law has precariously short reach in Afghanistan, emphasizing an already chaotic country that some call a "narco-state."

"There are many who would argue that the grid of the government in Kabul doesn't extend very far from Kabul," Lasseter says.

... Payvand News - 05/15/09 ... --

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