I would like to propose a solution to the issue of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and the fight against the Taliban. It seems we want to stem the flow of poppy because its sale supports the Taliban, but because of its profitability, it is difficult to do without alienating the farmers.

Some have suggested buying the poppy and then destroying it. I find this wasteful and defeatist. We need to put the poppy to work. Just as agriculture was the backbone of American growth, so it could be with Afghanistan.

Codeine is by far one of the most used analgesics in the world. The primary method of codeine production is synthesis from morphine. Morphine is the primary active ingredient in opium, which comes from the opium poppy. Hence, if the government of Afghanistan worked with a pharmaceutical company to first buy Afghanistan’s No. 1 crop, farmers would become the backbone of a major legitimate export. The pharmaceutical company could first buy raw opium for conversion, while the government and the pharmaceutical company build plants to convert opium within the country, thereby reducing transportation costs and producing more jobs within Afghanistan. Refineries to concentrate the morphine could be first, followed by conversion plants to turn the morphine into codeine.

One hectare of poppies is required to produce 1.3 kg of morphine and conversion would produce a roughly equivalent amount of codeine. To meet 1995 demands for codeine would have required 139,554 hectares or 1,396 square kilometers of poppy fields. Afghanistan could easily meet this demand based on production figures from 2005-2007.

Think this is crazy? It is similar to a proposal by the International Council on Security and Development. India, Turkey and Australia already grow opium for exactly this purpose.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 David T. WoodwardCamp Taji, Iraq

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