The top US anti-drug official said that Afghan poppies would be sprayed with herbicide to combat an opium trade that produced a record heroin haul this year, a measure likely to anger farmers and scare Afghans unfamiliar with weed killers.
John Walters, the director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, said on Saturday that Afghanistan could turn into a narco-state unless "giant steps" are made toward eliminating poppy cultivation.
"We cannot fail in this mission," Walters said.
"Proceeds from opium production feed the insurgency and burden Afghanistan's nascent political institutions with the scourge of corruption," he said.
Afghans are deeply opposed to spraying poppies. After nearly three decades of war, Western science and assurances can do little to assuage their fears of chemicals being dropped from airplanes. Because of those fears -- and because crop dusters could be shot down by insurgents -- spraying would need to be done on the ground.
The Afghan government has not publicly said it will spray, and President Hamid Karzai has said in the past that herbicides pose too big a risk, contaminating water and killing the produce that grows alongside poppies.
But Walters said Karzai and other officials have agreed to ground spraying.
"I think the president has said yes, and I think some of the ministers have repeated yes," Walters said without specifying when spraying would start.
"The particulars of the application have not been decided yet, but yes, the goal is to carry out ground spraying," he said.
Afghanistan's deputy minister for counter-narcotics, General Khodaidad, said the government hadn't yet made any decisions. But a top Afghan official close to Karzai said the issue was being looked at closely.
"We are thinking about it, we are looking into it. We're just trying to see how the procedure will go," said the official, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Opium production in Afghanistan this year rose 49 percent to 6,100 tonnes -- enough to make about 670 tonnes of heroin. That's more than 90 percent of the world's supply and more than the world's addicts consume in a year.
A US official told reporters last month that if Afghans don't spray next year "there's going to be a lot of pressure on the government for spraying ... a lot of pressure from the US."
The official asked not to be named.
At the news conference on Saturday, Walters tried to emphasize to the largely Afghan media members in attendance that spraying was perfectly safe. He said the herbicide glyphosate -- sold commercially in the US under the name Roundup -- would be used, and that it was a safe and common weed killer.
He said the US uses glyphosate to spray marijuana plants in Hawaii and that it's also used against coca plants in Colombia.
"We are not experimenting on the people of Afghanistan," Walters said.
"We are not using a chemical that has a history of questionable effects on the environment," he said.
Walters said he didn't expect the fight against poppies "to be a one year success story."
A recent UN report said it would take a generation -- 20 years -- to defeat the drug trade in Afghanistan.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
BEYOND CULTURE: The US State Department was expected to announce that the Chinese government-funded institutes would have to register as foreign missions US President Donald Trump’s administration is increasing scrutiny of a long-established Chinese-government funded program that is dedicated to teaching Chinese language and culture in the US and other nations, the latest escalation of tensions with Beijing. The US Department of State was expected to announce as soon as yesterday that Confucius Institutes in the US — many of which are based on college campuses — would have to register as “foreign missions,” according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. The designation would amount to a conclusion that the institutes are “substantially owned or effectively controlled” by
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year