Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stop the Presses

There's corruption in the illegal drug business!

The British-backed campaign to eradicate opium poppy growing in Afghanistan has fallen behind schedule and is threatened by corruption, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

The operation was designed by the British to end record levels of cultivation in the southern province of Helmand.

A 500-man Afghan police force backed by American private security contractors and two helicopter gunships began work in the drug heartlands two weeks ago aiming to destroy 22,000 hectares before April's harvest. In two weeks, only 1,200 have been ploughed.

A policeman provided a detailed account of systematic corruption within the force. "The only people [whose crops are] being eradicated are those without money or connections," said the man, who cannot be named for his own safety. "On the eradication force, this is being called 'the season to make money'."

Powerful local landowners were bribing officials at a rate of about £500 per hectare. A hectare produces about £3,500 worth of opium.

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