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Thursday, February 22, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Spero News reports (Plan Afghanistan: Another Colombia mistake) that the next ambassador to Afghanistan is likely to be William Wood:

Wood, the US ambassador to Colombia since mid-2003, has been nominated to serve as the US ambassador to Afghanistan. His credentials, most agree, are strong. But it is worrying that he might promote the same failed policies used in Colombia – a supply-side drug control strategy that has a heavy military element with little development aid attached.

Colombia and Afghanistan have some commonalities. The governments of both countries fight an asymmetric war against an insurgency determined to remove it from power. Colombia is the world’s leading supplier of cocaine, Afghanistan of heroin. And both countries receive heavy amounts of military aid directed at combating “terrorism” and reducing drug demand inside the US and elsewhere through inflating street prices by attacking the supply.

I have no doubt that we will pursue identical policies in Afghanistan as we have in Colombia (with potentially disastrous consequences, as I noted last week).

Greg Weeks noted the same trend earlier this week, including the training of Afghan police by the Colombians.

Cross-posted at La Política Colombiana.

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3 Responses to “Colombia: the Sequel (a.k.a., Afghanistan)”

  1. Ratoe Says:

    Steven, what do yo make of this comparison between Columbia and Afghanistan in the article? It seems that there is VERY little similarity between the two–other than the existence of armed insurgents and an informal drug trade. These elements you could also find in probably half the countries in Africa, as well.

    Columbia at least seems to have a relatively strong state whereas the Afghan government’s authority ends at the Kabul city boundary. Columbia’s insurrection is essentially a domestic affair, whereas Afghanistan has numerous exogenous forces involved (Arab money, Pakistan, etc…)

    I don’t know much about Wood, but his bio suggests he is a career Foreign service officer with primarily a Latin American background.

    The State carrerist aspect is reassuring, but wouldn’t it be better to have someone strongly versed in the intricacies of North-Central Asian politics, culture, and history as Ambassador to Afghanistan?

  2. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    You are correct: on a whole host of dimensions there is very little that is comparable between the two cases.

    The only axis of comparison (and one that I myself have made) is that we have the rampant cultivation of the raw material for illicit drugs that can be used to fund violent actors.

    My hope (which I always knew was in vain) was that it would be obvious from the Colombian case that our policies are no curtailing violence, but exacerbating it.

    We are about to employ the same policies in Afghanistan and instead of funding just a local insurgency, but rather will help fund international terrorist activities as well.

    The ONDCP can have all the commercials they want about how the local junkie is promoting terrorism, but the truth of the matter is, US policy is as much to blame as anything else.

  3. Greg Weeks Says:

    Same policy AND same ambassador? Amazing.


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