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Poppy Palaces in Afghanistan

Delving deeper into the corruption of a "narco-state"

WASHINGTON - "There's not much of an easy solution to anything in Afghanistan,"
Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Moscow Bureau Chief, told TRNN Senior Editor,
Paul Jay. The Afghan opium trade, operating almost unchecked by US
intervention in the area, has spread out into government corruption and
widespread heroin addiction throughout Afghanistan and Iran.

"Whatever you are talking about in Afghanistan...roads, water
quality, past war crimes, corruption, counter-insurgency's
a place where solutions are not fast and coming," Lasseter says. He
suggests solutions like crop substitution for small Afghan farmers to
demonstrate that they can make just as much or more with crops other
than opium.

The opium trade has become more than just a source of funding for
the Taliban over the years. Lasseter says that it has facilitated
extensive corruption in the Afghan government. A common
sentiment that he found throughout his interviews in Afghanistan was
the idea that "Afghan officials work with the drug dealers, or
sometimes, are the drug dealers."

As an example of the relationship, Lasseter refers to the upscale areas
where top Afghan officials live in Kabul as "poppy palaces," expensive
dwellings that most Afghans could afford to inhabit, not even
government workers. "Those are houses in Kabul in relatively upscale
areas where rents run into the $1,000 or up to $10,000 that are
frequently owned by Afghan officials or those connected witht them who
would seem to have no legal means by which to own that real estate,
much less at the expense of armoured vehicles which often pull up
around them," Lasseter says.


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Because of the extensive corruption and lack of social
infrastructure, the order and enforcement of law has precariously short
reach in Afghanistan, emphasizing an already chaotic country that some
call a "narco-state."

"There are many who would argue that the grid of the government in Kabul doesn't extend very far from Kabul," Lasseter says.

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