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Former UN Counter-Drugs Chief Arlacchi Tells EIR, Resume My Plan To Eradicate Drugs in Afghanistan

July 15, 2021 (EIRNS)—Former UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) director Pino Arlacchi (1997-2002) told EIR, that with the help of China, Afghanistan today could get rid of opium plantations by implementing the plan he suggested to the European Union in 2010.

Today, that plan can be resumed, Arlacchi told EIR by phone, as Afghanistan has far more resources than in the past. He observed the positive opening of the Taliban to China for reconstruction of the country, and said that Beijing can be an element to relaunch the plan, which would take five years for eradication and five more years for consolidation.

In 2010 Arlacchi, who had been elected to the European Parliament, proposed to create “an Afghan agency with European technical assistance,” an idea to which Afghanistan’s Karzai government subscribed. The agency, to be financed at $100,000 per year, should eradicate opium cultures over five years through alternative development programs for farmers.

The European Parliament rejected the plan.

Arlacchi had also brought Russia onboard. He drafted a plan with Russia’s then director of the Federal Drug Control Service, Viktor Ivanov, with Moscow ready to co-finance the proposal, but the EU rejected it.

Earlier on, in October 2001, when the United States launched the war in Afghanistan, drugs production had been all but eradicated, thanks to the successful plan implemented by then-UNODC director Arlacchi in collaboration with Taliban authorities. But after the U.S.-led invasion, opium plantations were back. Today, Afghanistan produces 80% of the illegal opium in the world.

In an interview with the June/July issue of 2006 of 30 Days, Arlacchi explained,

“In 2000 we were only a step away from an epochal event: that would leave the world heroin traffic stranded because Afghanistan was coming off the list of countries illegally producing opium. The pressures brought on the Taliban, in fact, and political isolation at the international level that we had forced on them was producing good results. There had also been two rounds of very severe sanctions from the UN Security Council. As well, my office, through many Koran experts, had confronted the Taliban with the unequivocal fact that opium is an intoxicant prohibited, as are all other intoxicants, by their religion. The Taliban are religious, insurrectionists, fundamentalists, but even if all possible bad can be said about them, you can’t say that they are inclined to the drugs trade. They engage in it only as a necessary evil to finance themselves. The results that we were seeing in the field were that in 2001, without a bloodbath and with a minimum of coercion, the farmers were not producing opium in the areas controlled by the Taliban, that is in 90% of Afghan territory. Only a few plantations remained in the areas controlled by the Northern Alliance.”

The Northern Alliance, backed by a number of foreign countries, did not have religious scruples, Arlacchi recounts. But even there, he met its commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who told him he was “available to collaborate, to create joint committees with the UN to convince farmers to let us meet the traffickers. Unfortunately, this did not occur. As everybody knows, Massoud was killed by al-Qaeda two days before 9/11.”

With the U.S./NATO invasion, the warlords took over and restarted opium production for self-financing. The result was that the 30,000 families who grew opium in 2001 became 350,000 in 2006 and the opium price shot up from $30 to $400 per kg. That means that substitution policies have become more expensive, but it is still a fraction of what the war cost, insisted Arlacchi.

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