Comment: the refusal by the Marines to destroy the crop should not be surprising in and of itself. The impoverished Afghan farmers depend on it for income and in the “battle for hearts and minds,” that is an important consideration. Considering that other options are available, such as purchasing the opium to make medical morphine, and that evidence exists that President Karzai’s cabinet are involved with the trade, the NATO denial is to be taken with a grain of salt.
In addition, the heroic work of Daniel Hopsicker has indicated that elements of U.S. and Western intelligence continue to profit from the drug trade.
Russia has accused the United States of “conniving” with Afghan drug producers by not destroying opium crops as U.S. troops advance in Helmand Province, one of the major opium growing regions.
The allegation, which came in a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, was the second time this week that Moscow has criticized the West over the opium issue. NATO rejected the charge and said Russia could help by providing more troops to combat the insurgency.
U.S. Marines in Helmand Province have told villagers that they will not destroy this year’s crops. In the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, which was captured by U.S. troops last month, the U.S. offered to pay poppy farmers to destroy their own crops and provide seed for them to plant other crops next year.
Afghanistan produces over 90 percent of the world’s opium.