FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JUNE 14, 2004

Contact: Bob Weiner/Sasha Varghese 301-283-0821 or 202-329-1700

BUSH-KARZAI MEETING TUESDAY MUST STOP AFGHANISTAN HEROIN SURGE TO WORLD’S #1 OR WILL FAIL TO STOP TERROR FUNDING, SAYS FORMER WHITE HOUSE DRUG SPOKESMAN


(Washington, DC) – "President Bush and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai must agree at their meeting Tuesday to stop Afghanistan’s surge to the world’s number one opium and heroin supplier, or they will fail to stop the funding base for the terror of Al Qaeda," former White House Drug House Drug Policy spokesman, Robert Weiner, said today.

"Unless President Bush and President Karzai make an announcement of an enhanced plan against opium and heroin, their meeting will be a failure, because it will fail to truly stop terror and the source of terror’s funding – the whole reason we went into Afghanistan in the first place," Weiner, the Office of National Drug Policy’s spokesman 1995-2001 and earlier the U.S. House Narcotics Committee’s spokesman, contends.

Weiner ripped the Administration for "allowing Afghanistan on our watch to return to being the world’s number one heroin producer after several years of decline." He asserts, "Fighting drugs in Afghanistan is not a priority -- we're giving it a pass with acquiescence and a token program meant not to offend."

Afghanistan, after a two-year lapse, is once again "the world's largest cultivator and producer" of opium and heroin, according to the 2004 White House National Drug Control Strategy. Afghani crops in 2003 were more than double the 2002 crop, Weiner points out.

"How could this happen with thousands of U.S. troops on the ground, especially since dirty drug money pays for terrorism? The answer is that the liaison of the current Afghani government to the opium warlords there stops them from doing it, and our fear of offending their government’s economic and political base stops us too. We have effectively become silent partners of the Afghani opium warlords."

"We need a Plan Afghanistan, like Plan Colombia, to rid the heroin and make the world safer," Weiner proposes. Colombia has surprised critics by succeeding in its plan to reduce coca cultivation by half.

Weiner asserted, "Economic assistance for alternatives is not enough. That only encourages other farmers not growing opium to do so to get our money. We need a real plan – eradication and enforcement with the help of our thousands of troops there, with planes spraying and troops burning and chopping – to get the job done."

In an op-ed column in the Miami Herald June 11, entitled "Afghanistan: Eradicate Poppy Fields, Terror Funding", Weiner and Jeffrey Buchanan of the Johns Hopkins University wrote, "Just as the administration's Iraqi mission has been damaged by the scandal of prisoner abuse and other failures," our anti-terror policy in Afghanistan "has been undercut by the rebirth of the Afghani poppy, the main ingredient in heroin."

"The future looks even worse: A U.N. report says that two out of every three Afghan farmers plan to increase their poppy crop in 2004," Weiner stated.

The White House has proposed $2.3 billion a year in development grants and loans for Afghani economic alternatives. However, Weiner contends, "With warlords and farmers making six to 100 times more on poppy than any other cash crop, the administration's policy will not affect poppy farmers' habits without massive eradication and enforcement. Similar economic programs had only minuscule effect in Colombia until Plan Colombia aggressively eradicated the drugs. And a tiny program of eradication, led by the British, does not achieve the end either." Weiner points out that drug money laundering is $200-400 billion worldwide annually – "a different magnitude than simple economic alternatives and a photo op small eradication can solve."

Weiner asks, "Where are the planes spraying and destroying the drug fields in Afghanistan as we spray in Colombia? Where is the massive training to involve our thousands of troops in eradication -- not just by the six to 10 anti-drug experts returning from one-week Drug Enforcement Administration courses in Turkey and Uzbekistan as is now done?"

Robert Weiner Associates Public Affairs and Issue Strategies

Tel. 301-283-0821 / 202-329-1700