At a RUSI seminar addressing Pakistan and the problems of regional extremism, ICOS made a presentation during the session entitled ‘Practical solutions and mitigation strategies: tackling the root causes of extremism’.
The speech examined the way in which the problems faced by the population in southern Afghanistan are providing a fertile source of recruitment for the Taliban, and went on to suggest policies that could restrict this flow of converts to extremism.
Mr Emmanuel Reinert, Executive Director, informed the gathering of civil servants, journalists and academics that the Taliban now draw upon an ever-expanding pool of recruits in the southern provinces, as the three interdicting security problems of poor security, poverty and the proliferation of narcotics create a fertile recruiting ground. The death of civilians at the hands of NATO bombers also provides the extremists with strong marketing material, making it almost impossible for the West to wage a successful ‘hearts and minds’ campaign in Afghanistan.
Mr Reinert went on to suggest that there was serious potential for the problems of Afghanistan to ‘blowback’ into parts of Pakistan, particularly those Tribal Areas abutting the Durand Line.
The second part of ICOS’s presentation focused upon ways in which the Taliban could be starved of new recruits, and ultimately marginalised. A twin-track approach of poverty eradication through the provision of aid and healthcare, and an effective counter-narcotics policy, was espoused.
The points raised in the presentation were supported by three short films taken by ICOS’s team of field researchers in southern Afghanistan. The aftermath of a forced poppy eradication, in which a farmer talked about the lack of an alternative livelihood and inability to provide for his family, was shown in support of Mr Reinert’s call for a Poppy for Medicine pilot programme in Helmand province.
During the Q&A session, Mr Reinert detailed the village-based Poppy for Medicine initiative in greater detail, explaining that medicines produced locally would not interfere with the present morphine distribution system enjoyed by Western states. Instead, it would be supplied to countries with un-met pain needs through a second tier system of supply, similar in ethos to existing two-tier systems such as the European Union banana trade regime with ACP countries.
Click here for a link to the RUSI website.
Click here for ICOS’s Poppy for Medicine project.