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Even though she hasn’t been sworn in yet, Hillary Clinton is already at odds with the Afghan foreign ministry. The reason: Clinton referred to Afghanistan as a “narco-state” during a recent confirmation hearing. Afghanistan’s foreign minister was insulted by the term, saying that it is “absolutely wrong” to classify Afghanistan as such.

“Madame Clinton is a good friend of Afghanistan, a close friend of ours,” Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta said. “But if somebody believes that our government, the government of President (Hamid) Karzai is involved as a government entity in the production of drugs, this is absolutely wrong.”

Clinton also descibed the Afghan government as highly “corrupt,” which did not charm her Afghan counterpart either.

The real problem, Spanta told the Associated Press, is that the Afghan government is not in control of Helmand province. This province is one of the most violent of the country. The Taliban are still strong in Helmand where they encourage farmers to produce opium. Part of the opium money is used by the Taliban to buy weapons and influence.

“The main production center of drugs is Helmand, and we are not in charge. Helmand (is) not under control of my government,” Spanta said. “If the international community is serious about fighting drug production and drug trafficking, they have to bring Helmand under our control.”

He added that Kabul only controls the province’s capital and some “islands” of territory around the rest of the region.

There are two sides to Clinton’s remarks; firstly, Afghanistan is a narco-state because the far majority of the world’s opium is produced in this war-torn country. Secondly, the other side of the story is that the Afghan government is no promoting opium production. It has in the past been willing to destroy opium farms but it simply lacks the strength and means to a sizeable part of the country’s opium farms.

Clinton and Spanta should both also keep in mind that opium is the only product farmers in Afghanistan can grow and make a profit. The country is nearly unfriendly to human life. Farmers are not growing poppy because they want to but because they have no alternative.

Rather than destroying these farms and taking their livelihood away from Afghan farmers, Kabul and Washington have to use Afghanistan’s opium for medical purposes. World opium and medicine organizations and businesses have long complained that they cannot get their hands on enough opium for medicinal purposes. Using Afghanistan’s opium for these purposes would help the world and Afghanistan itself.

Lastly, although Afghanistan is the world’s number one opium producing country, Clinton should express herself more carefully. She is no longer campaigning; she will be America’s secretary of state, which means that she will have to improve the country’s relationship with enemies and friends. Insulting them is not helpful.

©2009 PoliGazette. All Rights Reserved.

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