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In reference to "The Poppy Predicament," (article, March 27), I have some questions.

Why not purchase and destroy poppy from the local residents at a higher price than is being offered by the Taliban? Why not offer high prices for the production of foodstuffs and more conventional agricultural products, for that matter? One of the Taliban’s revenue streams would be cut, poppy cultivation would drop as economics favor other crops, and there would be a powerful incentive for local residents to work with NATO.

Letting poppy cultivation continue requires local growers to maintain direct or indirect contact with Taliban traders just to bring their crops to market. Continued poppy production provides the Taliban with more than funds; it directly assists them in maintaining and increasing their influence.

Buying Afghan ag products may seem expensive. To out-compete the Taliban, we would probably see an expenditure of at least twice what the Taliban offer, $600 million to $700 million. This may actually inflate to $1.5 billion each year in order to provide sufficient incentive for local farmers to risk Taliban reprisals, remove corruption, etc.

These costs would be trivial compared to the human and financial costs of allowing poppy cultivation to continue.

Jonathan C. ZarinniaBagram Airfield, Afghanistan

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