Buying up the opium crop: a new Western policy in Afghanistan?

Ever since it looked probable that Barack Obama would win last year’s US presidential election, European governments have fretted about how they would react if, upon taking office, he asked them for a bigger military contribution to the US-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The war isn’t going down well with European public opinion, especially in Germany and Italy. On the other hand, you can hardly say No to the man you were desperate to see replace George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

Perhaps the Europeans have been asking themselves the wrong question. The evidence is growing that Obama will fundamentally rethink US policies and recognise that there are more desirable – and achievable – goals in Afghanistan than a traditional military victory. The appointments of Richard Holbrooke as the special US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and of Karl Eikenberry as the next US ambassador to Kabul, are part of this picture.


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