Britain and US split over defeating Afghan opium trade

Attempts to eradicate Afghanistan's opium crop have abjectly failed and British soldiers who take part in such operations may face legal action, an international think-tank has said.

Britain is sending a task force of almost 6,000 troops to Afghanistan to fight the resurgent al-Qa'ida and Taliban and also take part in tackling the country's poppy crops. These supply 90 per cent of heroin to this country and the UK is planning to spend £20m a year on eradication.

But at the eve of the London Conference on Afghanistan ­ co-hosted by Tony Blair, the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President ­ differences are emerging between Britain and the US.

American officials are pressing for aerial crop-spraying. But aid agencies and human rights groups point out that poppy fields are often adjacent to ones growing vegetables and wheat. British officials are against spraying. But a report by the Senlis Council, the think-tank, showed yesterday that the US administration was advertising for aerial spraying jobs in Afghanistan.

Recent job postings by the US Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs include the position of "Aviation Eradication Ops and Safety Officer" and an "Aviation Maintenance Adviser" for operations in Afghanistan. According to the report, a US government document says "the end game of the CN [Counter Narcotics] aviation programme is the curtailment of the supply ... through aerial and airmobile eradication of drug crops".

The Senlis Council is setting up a fund, and commissioning lawyers to act for farmers whose poppy fields are destroyed.

The British force being sent to Afghanistan will come under a Nato mandate which stipulates that troops deployed should concentrate on peacekeeping and training the Afghan police and army. Nato officials said that does not include opium eradication.

The UN has also warned about the dangers of foreign intervention. Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said the military "should not be involved in eradication. This should be run by the national authority" because crops destroyed could be "replanted in weeks".

Mr Costa said the West had been the author of its own misfortune over heroin. "I see very little progress in the consumption side. We need prevention programmes in schools, testing on roads like breathalysers, and campaigns like anti-smoking campaigns," he said.

British defence sources said last night that British troops would not be playing a direct part in opium eradication, but would be training and guiding Afghan government forces.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor