July 13, 2007

Ambassador Jawad Interview: Transcript, Part II

Jeff Kouba at the recently-relaunched Peace Like A River has transcribed and posted the second half of the transcript of my interview with Ambassador Said T. Jawad of Afghanistan. In this half, I asked Ambassador Jawad about the issues with the drug trade, whether he felt Afghanistan had been abandoned by the West, and questioned how his nation was approaching gender equality, especially in education. Ambassador Jawad gave direct and frank answers and didn't hesitate to give details:

CQ: Do you feel that Afghanistan has been shortchanged in terms of support following the invasion and occupation of Iraq?

Ambassador Jawad: Afghanistan is shortchanged, that's for sure. I don't know if it was after the Iraq invasion, because after the Cold War when the Soviets were gone we were also shortchanged, there was no Iraq back then. There has been underinvestment in Afghanistan. I don't know how much of that relates to Iraq, but certainly you would have not been in this position that we are right now had we invested adequately in the past five years in Afghanistan.

I asked about the poppy trade, which many have criticized the current government of Hamid Karzai for not doing enough to stop. The real story is much more complicated. Ambassador Jawad explains why Afghan farmers have little choice but to grow poppies -- and why they're more slaves than willing participants in the global drug rings:

Ambassador Jawad: ... Even if you convince a farmer to grow apples or pomegranate or something else, if there is no road to take it to the market, there is no cold storage facility, there is no market at all, it is difficult for him to do it in the long run. He might do it once or twice, but he will change his mind. So, fighting narcotics in Afghanistan or anywhere in the world is truly a matter of economic opportunities. If you look at the example of Turkey, they succeeded in eliminating opium in Turkey by development. If you emphasize only one aspect of the fight against narcotics such as eradication, like in Columbia for instance, then you will be in it for a long time. You have to fight narco trafficers, eradicate the poppy fields, build the institutions, provide for alternative livelihoods, and work closely with the countries that are either benefitting or are involved in the trafficing, in the processing and production of illicit drugs.

CQ: Ambassador Jawad, you said something here, and I just want to make sure that people understand it. A lot of people who are growing poppies are being forced to do so because of basically what we would call in this country loan sharking. They are being forced into a type of slavery in order to pay off the ever increasing interest on loans where the rate is 100% or more. Is that the main problem? Is that how the drug trafficers really lock in that poppy crop?

Ambassador Jawad: They come in the winter, when the farmer really doesn't have a source of money, they need the money. They will give them loans with a very high interest rate. But also as I mentioned, when a farmer grows opium, the crop is like cash. You can harvest that deadly crop and put it in a plastic bag and it will be sitting in a corner of a room for two or three months. It is not like grapes where you have to market it in a matter of a week, or turn it into juice or something, otherwise you will be losing the entire year. And especially if there is no agro-processing facilities, to turn for instance that grape into juice or a raisin or something else, then you'll be losing your entire harvest of the year. But, when you grow opium, and you harvest that, and you just put in a plastic bag and it will be sitting in a room without even needing a refrigerator or anything, and when you need to sell it, it's like a piece of a cake, you just cut a piece of it, it's almost cash. You go to the market and you sell it. So all these factors affect the mentality of the people who are growing poppy. And again, we have some of the best orchards, in Afghanistan, vineyards particulary in Kandahar, in the Shomali Plain, but when you have vineyards, you have to have a mindset of five to ten years. Some years you might make it well, some years it might not be so good, you should have to pass it to generations, to your son or family.

But when you grow poppy, all you need is three months. You grow it, you harvest it, and as I mentioned, you put in your pocket and you become a refugee again if needed. So we have to make sure that people are replanted in their home and in their village, like other plants. They grow their roots back into their home and village and they feel that yes, there is a future of five to ten years, and therefore I'm going back to rebuild the vineyards of my father or restore the orchards of my family.

Be sure to read all of the transcript, especially if you didn't get a chance to hear the interview live.


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Comments (3)

Posted by Carol Herman | July 13, 2007 12:38 PM

Jack Kennedy had a "better take" on the commerce clause. When the issue was forcing landlords to rent to people they didn't want to have as renters. He said, "it should come up only if the property was on a state line, and had a front in one state; and a back, in the other.

As to these turkeys debating "fairness" ... it's like watching prostitutes debate "marriage."

And, I hope Dubya knows how to use his veto pen. He's gonna need it, if he wants to leave office with a shred of dignity, intact.

Posted by KBK | July 13, 2007 6:58 PM

How much would it cost for the USA to simply buy the poppy crop at the going rate each year? We could get some of it back by selling a portion to the drug companies.

That would get the Taliban out of the loop and we could work with Afghanistan to transition to alternative crops.

Posted by Hale Adams | July 15, 2007 9:15 PM

It would be even better if we made opiates lawful again, as they were prior to 1914. You can't make obscene profits in a black market in drugs if there's no black market.

The War on (Some) Drugs is every bit as perverse as our grandparents' War on Alcohol. At least they had sense enough to end their War-- what did they know that we don't?