The Senlis Council, an international “security and development thinktank” which has taken on the task of evaluating global drug policy, today published a report on the situation in Afghanistan. In it they claim that Canadian troops in Afghanistan are being seen as promoting and aiding the American government’s efforts to remove the poppy plantations that are used to produce much of the world’s opium and heroin. From the Afghan standpoint, the American policy results in the destruction of valuable crops with little or no compensation and no support for the development of profitable alternative crops. Farmers so pressured often enough are turning to the Taliban or other warlords for support.
While the Canadian troops are not involved in the US effort, the report maintains that this distinction is not being made on the ground and the result is an increasingly difficult and dangerous situation for them.
Naturally, Canadian officials involved in the Afghanistan mission downplay or deny the council’s findings. Gordon O’Connor, the Defense Minister, maintains “it’s fine for this think-tank to come up with these conclusions. However, our people on the ground see things otherwise.” (Could this have come from the mouth of Stephen Colbert, or what?) That’s what I like about politicians – when confronted by research and facts, instead of considering how these new facts or interpretations might affect the situation and perhaps developing alternative approaches or even a sensible denial, they just deny their validity out of hand and continue on. We aknowledge no mistakes, therefore there are no mistakes to aknowledge.
Meanwhile Lt. -Col. Ian Hope, speaking for the military, says that the report erroneously claims that the Canadian mission is being dictated by a foreign country, and is therefore wrong. If that is actually what the report said, this conclusion would be accurate, but it is not – the report states that Afghans themselves will see no difference and make no distinction between US-led Operation Enduring Freedom forces and NATO-led ISAF stabilization troops. Since it happens that the US is actively pursuing a campaign to destroy the poppy fields, which for many outside of the main cities is the only source of income, making this distinction is obviously critical for the Canadian military. Since I’m sure Col. Hope can read, I can only understand his statement as an intentional misrepresentation of the facts to damage the credibility of the rest of the report.
And why would he want to do that, I wonder?