Sunday, March 26, 2017

Music Video - Zara Larsson - Only You

Video Report - Discussion: The first female Hong Kong Chief Executive.

Yemen: Attack on Refugee Boat Likely War Crime

 An apparent Saudi-led coalition attack on a boat carrying Somali civilians off the coast of Yemen highlights the need for accountability on the second anniversary of the Yemeni armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said today. Several witnesses reported that on March 16, 2017, a helicopter fired on the boat, killing at least 32 of the 145 Somali migrants and refugees on board and one Yemeni civilian. Another 29, including six children, were wounded, and 10 more remain missing. Photos of the boat taken the next day show damage consistent with gunfire from an aerial attack. All the parties to the conflict denied responsibility for the attack. Only the Saudi-led coalition has military aircraft. The Houthi-Saleh forces do not. Somalia, which supports the coalition, called on the coalition to investigate. But the coalition has repeatedly shown itself unable or unwilling to credibly investigate its own abuses.
“The coalition’s apparent firing on a boat filled with fleeing refugees is only the latest likely war crime in Yemen’s two-year-long war,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Reckless disregard for the lives of civilians has reached a new level of depravity.”
One of the boat’s four Yemeni crew members told Human Rights Watch that the boat was about 50 kilometers off the coast of the Yemeni port city of Hodeida, traveling away from Yemen, when it was attacked. That evening the captain had told the passengers to be quiet as they were transiting through “a very dangerous place,” two people onboard told Human Rights Watch. Earlier in the journey a vessel had approached and told the crew to stop the boat, but the boat continued.
Four people aboard the boat said that at about 9 p.m. they saw a helicopter repeatedly shoot at the boat. A Somali woman refugee, 25, who was wounded in the attack, said, “All of a sudden, I saw a helicopter above us. ... They attacked abruptly. … When they kept firing at us, those of us who spoke Arabic kept saying, ‘We are Somalis!’” Another woman said that she was hit by a fragment from an explosive weapon. A crew member and others said a large naval ship also fired on the boat.
After the attack, the boat docked at Hodeida port at about 4:30 a.m. The head of the fishing port, Daoud Fadel, said, “We couldn’t find a place to put the bodies, so we had to put them in the place where we store the fish.” Another witness said that, in addition to those who had been taken to nearby hospitals for treatment, about 15 men were wounded from bullets or fragments during the attack. Both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi-Saleh forces denied carrying out the attack. The official state news agency of the United Arab Emirates reported that a UAE military source denied that its forces had been involved and welcomed an international investigation into the incident. Coalition members have naval vessels patrolling access to the Hodeida coast, while Houthi-Saleh forces maintain control over the port. The US, which has been carrying out airstrikes in Yemen against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), also denied carrying out the attack.
Under the laws of war, attacks against civilians that are deliberate or reckless are war crimes.
Since March 26, 2015, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has carried out military operations, supported by the United States, against Houthi forces and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The coalition has conducted numerous airstrikes that have unlawfully struck homes, markets, hospitals, and schools.
The Houthi-Saleh forces have indiscriminately shelled civilian neighborhoods, recruited child soldiers, and arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared scores of civilians. Since the start of the current conflict, at least 4,773 civilians had been killed and 8,272 wounded, the majority by coalition airstrikes, according to the United Nations human rights office. Human Rights Watch has documented 62 apparently unlawful coalition airstrikes, some of which may amount to war crimes, that have killed nearly 900 civilians, and documented seven indiscriminate attacks by Houthi-Saleh forces in Aden and Taizz that killed 139 people, including at least eight children. Human Rights Watch has also documented the Houthi-Saleh forces use of banned antipersonnel landmines and the coalition’s use of widely banned cluster munitions. Both parties have blocked or restricted critical relief supplies from reaching civilians.
On March 23, 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an international, independent commission of inquiry into allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by all sides in Yemen, a call repeatedly made by national, regional, and international organizations over the past two years.
The UN Human Rights Council fell short of establishing a full stand-alone inquiry in September 2016, but passed a resolution mandating the UN human rights office to deploy additional human rights experts to investigate abuses by all sides. Governments should fully support the office’s expanded investigative mandate in the absence of a standalone international inquiry, Human Rights Watch said.
The Saudi-led coalition-appointed Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) has failed to meet international standards. It has absolved the coalition of responsibility in nearly all of the 17 incidents it has so far investigated and released findings that differed drastically from those of the UN and others.
Although the coalition has conducted widespread unlawful attacks, the United States, United Kingdom, and France continue to sell billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Human Rights Watch was not able to determine which coalition member carried out the attack on the refugee boat, but the US State Department has approved licenses for the sale or servicing of military helicopters to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Jordan. Governments should suspend all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia or risk complicity in future unlawful coalition attacks, Human Rights Watch said.
“Despite the growing mountain of evidence of coalition abuses, the US, UK, and France seem more focused on selling arms to the Saudis than on their possible complicity in coalition war crimes,” Whitson said. “After two years of unlawful attacks on civilians and civilian structures, Saudi Arabia’s allies should reconsider their support and use their leverage with Riyadh to end the violations.”

#SHAME - Australia selling military equipment to Saudi Arabia during brutal Yemen conflict

Australian firms have secured contracts to supply military equipment to Saudi Arabia, an autocracy accused of ongoing war crimes in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 civilians.
Defence has approved four military exports to the kingdom in the past year and the Australian government has led the push for more.
But the government is refusing to release details of the approved military sales, citing commercial-in-confidence rules.
Australia Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne visited Riyadh in December to promote Australian materiel to senior government figures including Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the head of the National Guard.
"The minister received a very positive reception, as did the business representatives who visited," a spokeswoman for Mr Pyne said. The pitch to sell more to the world's biggest buyer of arms comes after the Dutch parliament voted last year to ban military exports to Saudi Arabia on humanitarian grounds.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of Arab states on a bombing campaign in Yemen's north against Houthi rebels, which overthrew the government and have been labelled proxy fighters for Iran.
The United Nations recently confirmed at least 10,000 civilians had been killed in the conflict and warned some coalition attacks "may amount to war crimes".
A coalition blockade has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
"I despair for Yemen", said Sarah Phillips, a University of Sydney researcher.
Dr Phillips said both sides had used brutal tactics but Saudi Arabia's airstrike targeting had been "reckless at best", hitting funerals and hospitals at times.
Asked about Australian military exports to Saudi Arabia, Dr Phillips said: "I would find that deeply concerning, with the ways in which previous assistance from other Western nations has been used upon the civilian population."
The US provides logistical support and refuelling for the coalition but former president Barack Obama halted the sale of a precision-guided technology to the Saudis on humanitarian grounds. President Donald Trump reversed the decision this month.
Meanwhile, the legality of Britain's sales is being challenged in a High Court case and the Ministry of Defence is investigating 257 alleged breaches of international law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia briefly appeared on a UN "list of shame" as a violator of the rights of children in war but was then "temporarily" removed.
Greens Defence spokesman Scott Ludlam said an Australian minister soliciting military contracts from Saudi Arabia was "hideous".
"They are bombing hospitals, schools, agricultural areas, the port, bridges, power infrastructure, water infrastructure, attempting to starve an entire country into submission," Mr Ludlam said. "These are the sorts of crimes arms embargoes are for."
Australia has called for a ceasefire but neither Mr Pyne nor Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would comment on Saudi Arabia's use of force.
Pyne said military export applications were subject to "strict controls" and assessed against five criteria: international obligations, national security, human rights, regional security and foreign policy.
Pyne would not comment on the value of materiel exports to Saudi Arabia or say whether the market was growing. He declined to name which businesses accompanied him to Riyadh. The shipbuilder Austal said that it joined the trip and had held preliminary talks about providing Saudi Arabia with high-speed support vessels. Thales Australia would not comment on whether it attended or exports to the country.
Lowy Institute research fellow Rodger Shanahan said if Australia were to expand exports to Saudi Arabia, it should focus on defensive equipment rather than munitions that could be misused.
"As the British have found out, Saudi use of overseas munitions in a military operation you might not want your name attached to is always a potential problem," Dr Shanahan said.
Saudi Arabia first denied then admitted to using cluster bombs purchased from Britain in the 1980s.

Video - Thousands rally in Sanaa, Yemen against Saudi-led airstrikes

Music Video - Ariana Grande, The Weeknd - Love Me Harder

Obama to travel to South Pacific island to work on memoir: report


Former President Barack Obama is planning an extended stay in the South Pacific as he begins to write his memoir about his eight years in the Oval Office, according to a new report.
Obama has added the South Pacific island of Tetiaroa, once owned by actor Marlon Brando, to his post-presidency vacation spots, according to The Washington Post.
Both Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama have signedmultimillion dollar book deals with Penguin Random House, the publisher announced last month.
The bidding war over the rights to the books had reportedly soared above $60 million, the Financial Times reported in February, although the specific financial terms of the book deals were not released. 
No details on the titles or publishing dates for the post-White House books have been released.
The Obamas plan to donate some of their advances for their books to charities, including the Obama Foundation, The New York Times reported.

The Death Of Trumpcare Is The Ultimate Proof Of Obamacare’s Historic Accomplishment

By Jonathan Cohn
There’s little enthusiasm for going back to the way things were.
The Affordable Care Act overcame the tea party protests of 2009 and the Democrats losing their filibuster-proof Senate majority in 2010. It survived two challenges in front of the Supreme Court and the calamitous rollout of

Former President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Health Care for America Act on March 23, 2010. The historic bill was passed by the House of Representatives after a 14-month political battle that left the legislation without a single Republican vote.

Now it has withstood the attempt to replace it with the American Health Care Act, better known as Trumpcare.
Somehow, despite the intense political forces arrayed against it, and the mind-boggling policy problems it tries to solve, the 2010 health care law keeps defying efforts to wipe it out. That says something about the people who wrote it ― and what they have achieved.
Obamacare has never been hugely popular, and it has never worked as well as its architects hoped. Millions of Americans don’t like it and, even now, there are parts of the country where the markets are struggling to survive.
But the program has provided security and access to care for millions of others. More importantly, it has shifted the expectations of what government should do ― and of what a decent society looks like.
This week’s defeat of the Republican repeal effort shows just how hard it is to undo those changes. And it won’t get any easier.
What Obama And Pelosi Did (And Trump And Ryan Didn’t)
On Friday, hours before President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) formally conceded their bill lacked the votes to pass, White House press secretary Sean Spicer signaled what was coming. Trump, he said, had “left everything on the field.”
The statement was preposterous.
Trump and the Republicans in Congress had spent all of 63 days trying to pass their Obamacare repeal ― less than three weeks of which were spent actually debating the text of the AHCA. They held votes before Congressional Budget Office evaluations were ready, and were about to ask the full House to decide on the proposal just hours after making major changes to it.
Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had already indicated he intended to bypass his committees altogether and take legislation directly to the floor ― perhaps with a quick House-Senate negotiation, a fast vote and a signature from the president.
By contrast, it took former President Barack Obama, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) more than a year to pass Obamacare ― a politically tortuous period that many people later blamed for Democrats losing their House majority in 2010.
At the time, every apparent error loomed large ― from taking on health care at all, to letting the process drag out for more than a year, to slavishly crafting a proposal as CBO specified, to cutting unpleasant deals with health care’s special interests.
Lost amid the recriminations was the talent each player brought to his or her task ― and the Democrats’ single-minded focus on avoiding mistakes of the past in order to achieve something their party had been trying to do since the days when Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House.
I am not saying we needed 14 months to do this. But I think a more careful and deliberate approach ... would have gotten us further down the path to a solution. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)
The work had begun long before Obama even ran for president. In the aftermath of the defeat for Bill Clinton’s 1994 health care plan, activists, advocates and intellectuals regrouped ― and then spent literally years hashing out their ideas for achieving universal coverage in a politically viable way. When Obama did run, he borrowed their work for his own plan. When he was elected, the most pivotal committee chairman of the process, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), was ready with his own blueprint that looked nearly identical.
Baucus had done something else: Working with then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), he had convened meetings with virtually every health care stakeholder, from hospitals to unions to insurers to patient advocacy groups, exchanging ideas and negotiating over principles. It meant that when the actual legislating started, the channels of communication were already open and the groundwork for a common vision was already in place.
And still it was a nearly impossible task. Like the Republicans this year, Democrats found consensus difficult to achieve ― among the outside groups, and within their own ranks as well. Liberals wanted a more generous program, and a public option. Moderates wanted to avoid too much government spending and too much meddling with the way independent businesses operate.
But unlike the Republicans, the Democrats’ reaction was to work with the different groups and slowly bring them along ― most vividly, by negotiating with a handful of moderate Republicans, in the hopes that one or two (or maybe more) would sign onto the plan. It never happened, but the effort to woo those members helped secure moderate Democrats who needed to tell their constituents that, yes, they had tried to be bipartisan.
One reason Democratic leaders were able to preserve legislative momentum was that they understood, at all times, where they were trying to go ― and they were fluent enough in the policy to handle direct negotiations on their own. One of the enduring images of Obama during the Affordable Care Act fight was his visit to a Republican Party policy retreat in Baltimore, where he fielded questions and parried criticisms from the assembled members for roughly 90 minutes.
The work that led to Obamacare had begun before Obama even ran for president. 

Trump, by contrast, seemed to lack anything beyond a superficial understanding of the bill, to the point where allies worried about letting him negotiate details. “Either doesn’t know, doesn’t care or both,” a Capitol Hill aide told CNN about the president.
As for Pelosi, her job was easier than Ryan’s in one important sense. Nobody in her caucus was as extremist or nihilist as the Freedom Caucus, partly because Democrats had done so much prep work and hammered out a rough consensus before the hard legislating work began. But Pelosi didn’t try to jam through “slapdash” legislation, as Harold Pollack, writing in Politico, recently called the AHCA. And she didn’t flinch when her political task looked utterly hopeless.
When Kennedy’s seat went to Scott Brown, depriving Democrats of a filibuster-proof majority to approve a final compromise, she told Obama she would get the votes for the Senate’s bill ― and she did, taking charge of the whip count personally ― and working her caucus, one member at a time, until she had a majority. On Sunday, during an appearance on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), conceded that maybe the Democrats knew what they were doing.
“When the Democrats came to power in 2009, for 60 years at least, they had been pursuing a national health care system, yet they didn’t introduce legislation for eight months, and they didn’t pass it for over a year of Barack Obama’s first term,” Cotton said. “I am not saying we needed 14 months to do this,” he added, “but I think a more careful and deliberate approach, which we now have time to do because we are going to have to revisit health care anyway, would have gotten us further down the path to a solution.”

Video Report - Nancy Pelosi​: "Today is a great day for our country." - Mar 24, 2017


Music Video - Kar Gayi Chull -

#INDIA - Doctor fights female feticide by delivering baby girls for free

Sonia Phalnikar 

In a bid to curb killings of baby girls in India, one doctor has started a unique initiative: He waives his fee if a girl is born in his hospital. But tackling deeply entrenched mindsets that favor boys is a challenge.
"It's a girl."
The three words struck terror in Jaya Sable's heart when she gave birth 10 years ago. That's because her husband and his family badly wanted a boy. They didn't even visit her in hospital. Instead, Jaya was punished when she came home for not bearing a son. Her husband and in-laws beat and harassed her for months. Finally, they attacked Jaya with acid, partially disfiguring her face. They even managed to have Jaya legally declared dead by procuring a fake death certificate.
Sometimes I wish I had given birth to a boy. My life would have been different. I would certainly have been spared this torture," the 27-year-old says as she lies in a hospital in Pune, recovering from a second reconstructive surgery, her right arm bandaged, her chest, neck and jaw crisscrossed with deep scars.
Jaya's case is extreme but it's a stark reminder of the widespread preference for boys over girls in India. It's an attitude that's led to rampant female feticide, infanticide, neglect of girls and in Jaya's case, attempted murder.
Campaigners say millions of female fetuses have been aborted in recent years despite legislation outlawing antenatal sex screening and government campaigns urging people not to kill their daughters. Earlier this month, police in the Sangli district of Maharashtra, about 230 kilometers (142 miles) south of Pune, discovered 19 aborted female fetuses near a hospital in what they say was a thriving illegal abortion racket.
The anti-girl bias has also had a corrosive impact on India's sex ratio. According to the 2011 census, for every 1,000 boys born in India, only 927 girls were born. The latest figures, released at the beginning of 2016, showed that figure had fallen further, to 918.
Sweets for boys; tears for girls
The statistics made Dr Ganesh Rakh realize just how dire the situation was. The doctor, who's treating Jaya in a burns ward in his hospital, said he routinely noticed that whenever a pregnant woman came for her delivery, all her relatives would be full of hope that the baby would be a boy.
"They would celebrate and distribute sweets if a male child was born. But if a girl was born, the relatives would disappear, the mother would cry, the families would ask for a discount. They would be crushed," the 41-year-old says.
That prompted Rakh to launch "Mulgi Vachva Abhiyan," which translates from Marathi as "Campaign to save the girl child," at his own hospital in January 2012. The idea is simple - Rakh waives all fees if a girl is born. And, the hospital staff celebrates the arrival of a baby girl with a cake and candles.
We want to send out a message that a girl's birth is worth celebrating," Rakh says. More than 500 girls have been born in his hospital since the launch of the campaign. None of the parents have been charged any fees.
'It's going to be a girl'
But, Rakh is well aware that a campaign alone won't solve the problem. A large part of his work consists of providing counseling to pregnant women and their relatives.
Since many families are hellbent on having a boy, putting enormous pressure on the prospective mother, Rakh says he counters it by repeating the mantra "You're going to have a girl" right from day one to mentally prepare the family - even though he doesn't know the gender of the baby and isn't legally allowed to tell the family.
"Sometimes our first impression is that the patient and her family react quite negatively when I say it's going to be a girl. Then I know we need to pay more attention to the case and monitor it closely," Rakh says. "Our aim is to ensure that the fetus remains healthy and grows well and that the family doesn't carry out an illegal sex determination test or female feticide in those nine months."
The doctor and his staff spend a lot of time understanding the family's concerns and easing their fears about having a daughter. Rakh also organizes marches through Pune's streets to convince people that a daughter is as precious as a son. He's contacted doctors around the country to join him in his campaign - and he says many have pledged support.
Fear and blind faith
His experience on the ground has given Rakh a deep insight into the mentalities and beliefs behind the traditional preference for boys over girls.
"The thinking here is that the family isn't complete without a boy. The boy is the one who carries on the family's lineage," Rakh says. "Girls on the other hand are seen as a burden, who will leave the parents for their matrimonial homes. Marriage customs dictate that the girl's family has to pay a large dowry to get her married. And they also have to bear all the marriage expenses. No wonder people are scared of having a daughter."
People like Chandabai Budhwant. The 55-year-old laborer is from a village outside Pune. She's come to the hospital to meet her three-day-old granddaughter. Chandabai herself had six daughters and then a son.
"After I had a son, I felt like I had finally become successful. People stopped taunting me and saying unkind things because I only had daughters," she says. "I didn't want my own daughters to go through the same thing. That's why I had hoped they would only bear sons. I feared for them."
It's a fear that prompted Chandabai to visit "holy men" and get "medicine" from them and pray in different temples to ensure her daughters gave birth to a male child.
Change is possible
But Chandabai insists she and her relatives have changed their minds since coming to Dr Rakh. She's now happy that her daughter Ashwini has given birth to a baby girl - who the hospital staff has named "Angel." Chandabai says the family plans to educate her and not simply spend huge sums of money on her marriage when she grows up.
Nurses and doctors from the hospital crowd around the infant, pressing flowers into the beaming mother's hands, cutting a cake in the baby girl's honor and singing "Happy birthday Angel."
Rakh says getting one family to change their mind about having a girl can go a long way.
"They talk about it with other people who also rethink their own ideas. So, it has a domino effect. I think it can bring real change," Rakh says. "The day people start celebrating a daughter's birth is when I'll start charging my fees again," he says.

Afghanistan, a Dangerous Place to Be, to Have a Baby

“Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous and most violent, crisis ridden countries in the world,” where one third of the population needs help, according to the United Nations.
A recent report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs found that 9.3 million people in Afghanistan are in need of aid due to armed conflict. The population of Afghanistan is more than 32 million.
In 2016, every province in Afghanistan was affected by a natural disaster or armed conflict. More than half were affected by both. The fighting killed more than 8,000 civilians in the first nine months of 2016. A half million people lost their homes by November.
Jens Laerke is with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
"We expect very high levels of conflict-induced displacement and already this year, over 38,000 people have been newly displaced.”
More than half of those displaced were children.
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, or UNICEF says children and mothers are at great risk. The organization calls Afghanistan one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a baby, a child or mother because of limited access to health care.
UNICEF reports that thousands of Afghan women die every year because of problems linked with pregnancy. It says those deaths can be prevented. In 2015, it says more than one in every 18 Afghan children died before their first birthday.
UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac, says their poor diet is a silent emergency. He says more than 41 percent of Afghan children under age five are stunted. It is one of the highest rates in the world.

"Stunting, as you know, is a sign of chronic undernutrition during the most critical periods of growth and development in early life. Children who suffer from stunting are more likely to contract disease, less likely to access basic health care and do not perform well in school."
Boulierac says that the education system in Afghanistan has been destroyed by more than thirty years of conflict. He says three and a half million children do not go to school. An estimated 75 percent of them are girls.

To Defeat Terrorism In Afghanistan, Start With Opium Crops in Nangarhar Province

By Anders Corr 

This month, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed an attack on a military hospital in Kabul, killing more than 40 civilians and defenseless patients. The attack came two days after the Afghan military announced that its month-long “Shaheen 25” operations had killed 250 Islamic State militants in the terrorist organization’s Afghan stronghold of Nangarhar Province. Two weeks ago, an Islamic State improvised explosive device (IED) injured three U.S. soldiers in Jalalabad, the capital city of Nangarhar. Last week, the U.S. military in Afghanistan vowed to defeat Islamic State in area by the end of 2017. Military strikes and raids against Islamic State and the Taliban are needed, but when militants are captured or killed, these terrorist groups can quickly hire more from their compatriots across the border in Pakistan. To end the cycle of Islamic State, Taliban, and other terrorist violence in Afghanistan requires constriction of terrorist financing, including through both demand and supply interventions against drug revenues that in part finance terrorism.

A member of the Afghan security force fires a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher during an operation against Islamic State (IS) militants in Kot district of Nangarhar province on February 16, 2017. Afghan National Army (ANA) and international air forces, including the U.S., launched a joint military operation against Islamic State (IS) militants, after houses of locals were torched and several people were killed by IS fighters in the area. Credit: NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images
Afghanistan produces 70-80% of the world’s opium, and in 2015, over 127,000 people worldwide died of opium-related deaths. Afghan opium production surged 43% in Afghanistan in 2016, in part due to a new genetically modified poppy seed introduced from China in 2015. Targeting opium production in Afghanistan is timely, and important for two reasons: opium does harm to opiate abusers worldwide, and as an illicit economy, it incentivizes corruption and criminality, and is being used to fund terrorism. In economic terminology, the opium crop in Afghanistan has major international negative externalities, and these externalities can only be fully controlled through better law enforcement.
The farmers and landless laborers in Afghanistan who grow or work on opium crops are some of the world’s poorest people. Their illicit form of livelihood is accepted out of desperation, and so we should be understanding and empathetic towards their plight. Better opportunities should be afforded to opium growers to draw them away from their economic dependence on opium. But the laws of economics will always draw some growers back when prices of opium rise. Therefore disincentives like poppy eradication are necessary. In Afghanistan, drug supply should be decreased through accelerated opium poppy eradication, like aerial herbicide dusting and confiscation of land used for poppy production.

Afghan addicts inject and smoke heroin in Jalalabad on January 31, 2013. Sixteen years after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to drive the Taliban from power, Afghanistan produces 70-80% percent of the world’s illegal opium, funding much of the militia’s insurgency despite an expensive Western eradication program. Credit: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty
The policy response to narco-terrorism in Afghanistan has been muted by the risk aversion of politicians, corruption of officials, the niceties of academics, and the timidity of development experts who shy away from imposing disincentives on impoverished opium farmers. Those who are hurt by opium growers, such as Afghan and global victims of terrorism, crime, corruption, and drugs, are not as well organized as opium growers. They are a diffuse interest group, compared to opium growers, who are a concentrated interest group able to influence local and national politicians in Afghanistan. Policies that help decrease the drug supply, and decrease funds to terrorists, need to be implemented despite the Afghan opium cartel’s resistance.
Demand should be decreased through better treatment policies for drug users that reduce users’ harm in exchange for giving them treatment, while targeting dealers with traditional law enforcement techniques. This will decrease demand for opium in Afghanistan, which will facilitate conversion of agricultural land to legitimate crops. The alternative to a tough and holistic strategy against both supply and demand will allow narco-terrorism in Afghanistan, including of the Taliban and Islamic State variety, to continue to make gains at the expense of the elected government, and worldwide communities beset by an epidemic of heroin abuse.

(FILES) In this photograph taken on April 19, 2016, an Afghan farmer harvests opium sap from a poppy field in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar province. Afghanistan saw a 43 percent jump in opium cultivation this year, a sharp rise owing to favourable weather, growing insecurity, genetically-modified Chinese seeds, and a drop in international support for counter-narcotics operations, the UN said. Credit: NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images.
Nangarhar is the province in which Islamic State is strongest. The Taliban, a more successful terrorist group in Afghanistan, is also active in Nangarhar. If Islamic State can increase its footprint in Nangarhar  it may eventually be able to challenge both the Taliban and elected government of Afghanistan in other regions. So the drug trade in Nangarhar, which is vulnerable to terrorist capture, should be a priority for eradication. This will deny its use for financing to both the Taliban and Islamic State. According to the U.N., the province had 14,344 hectares of poppy fields in 2016, an increase of 43% from the 10,016 hectares in 2015. There is evidence of continued poppy production in 2017, including two heroin factories shut down this month.
There is some uncertainty as to the quantity of revenue that the Taliban and Islamic State obtain from opium in Nangarhar. Field research and aerial imagery analysis from the European Union funded Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) in the 2015 to 2016 growing season shows that in areas of Nangarhar held by Islamic State, the terrorist organization does not depend on opium for funding, and is eradicating poppy in the province. Islamic State also closed a major drug bazaar in the province. More data is needed on these issues, and that data should be made public. The public has a right and a need to know what the Taliban and Islamic State are doing in Afghanistan, and how best to stop them. NATO should conduct and release more aerial imagery data for analysis by nonprofit groups like AREU. This especially applies in Nangarhar, which could be an outlet for Islamic State fighters that flee Mosul and Raqqa in the Middle East as those cities are retaken by Iraqi, Turkish, or Kurdish soldiers.
Non-profit analysis groups like AREU are doing much-needed longitudinal, imagery, GPS, and fieldwork analysis of agricultural and human societies in opium growing areas of Afghanistan. But they need more regular funding, and in greater quantity. They are currently seeking funds, for example, to do aerial surveillance of agricultural regions in Nangarhar Province, which will prove the extent of poppy eradication by Islamic State in the 2016 to 2017 growing season. This is critical analytical work that will help target a potential funding source of the Islamic State in Afghanistan, if it exists. Such analysis should be supported, and quickly. Compared to the cost of military operations in Afghanistan, the funding required for this analysis is miniscule.

LASHKAR GAH, AFGHANISTAN - APRIL 01: U.S. Army Col. Paul Calbos walks through an opium poppy field on April 1, 2006 near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. Colonel Calbos survived a suicide car bombing on his three-vehicle convoy outside an American base in Lashkar Gah April 7, 2006. Calbos, who was in the lead vehicle of the convoy, said that one U.S. soldier and one American DynCorp security contractor were injured when an explosives-packed car drove in between the second and third vehicles of the convoy as it approached the entrance to the base. The U.S. military and DynCorp team was training leaders of the Afghan Eradication Force charged with destroying the country's large opium poppy crop. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Current methods of manual opium poppy eradication, such as use of sticks by local officials to break the stems of poppy flowers, are a complete failure in Afghanistan. They only succeed at making the state appear to be doing something about the problem. But only about 60% of Afghanistan is under the control of the elected government. When the eradication teams venture into rural opium growing areas, the typical stronghold of the Taliban, they are vulnerable to attacks. Regardless of who controls the land, the eradication teams are vulnerable to official Afghan corruption. They lack proper performance metrics, such as measures of second and third order intended effects. Poppy eradication under centralized control, for example aerial herbicide application and land confiscation directed from the capital in Kabul, would evade the Taliban and avoid most of the province- and district-level corruption that has stymied prior poppy eradication efforts in Afghanistan.
Aerial herbicide application has had limited success elsewhere. A 10-year program of aerial spraying of herbicides on coca crops worked to decrease narcotics production by 50% in Colombia.The herbicide glyphosate is widely used in U.S. agriculture, and is seen as relatively safe if not mixed with other herbicides. Its limited use on opium poppy in Afghanistan could be justified to decrease the production of illicit opiates. Glyphosate could be used in a Nangarhar pilot program against a small percentage of poppy fields to raise the risk for poppy farmers just enough to dissuade them from future planting of poppy for the next growing season. If Islamic State is not currently growing poppy, areas of Taliban or government control could be targeted. The spraying should be announced well in advance of the planting season, and phased in slowly over time to give farmers time to choose an alternative mix of crops, and to benefit from government-provided retraining and agricultural extensions. Opium could be replaced, for example, by wheat, onion, green beans, corn, saffron, or horticultural crops. For those on desert lands unsuitable for alternative crops, for example newly-settled areas in Helmand Province under Taliban control, the government and international aid agencies should match limited aerial herbicide application with advance subsidized relocation and retraining for improved access to non-farm jobs. First focusing on Nangarhar for a pilot program will both attenuate terrorist financing from the province, and serve as an example for other provinces in the East and South of Afghanistan.

Poor farmers, and those who take full advantage of crop conversion programs, could be exempted from the threat of herbicides at first in order to avoid major humanitarian issues of previous opium bans, such as reduced food and health expenditures, sale of daughters, sale of capital assets like livestock and land, increased crime, and increased support for the insurgency. Landless laborers hired for poppy cultivation should be given land of their own to decrease the labor supply available to large-scale wealthy poppy farmers. Repayment of opium-denominated debts with family members and capital goods could be forestalled by providing funding or microloans to any farmer in this dire situation.
Only a small percentage of the poppy fields of wealthy farmers who do not pursue conversion programs should be sprayed. Selective herbicide application gradually phased in with sufficient supports would be announced far in advance, and the mere risk of such applications would be enough to incentivize many poppy farmers to convert their fields in the next season. Poppy farmers in Afghanistan are generally attuned to political changes in poppy eradication sentiment and plans. So, advance warning of aerial eradication, which has not yet been used extensively in Afghanistan, would likely lead to immediate decreases in poppy planting if farmers believe in the resolve of authorities. Increases in crime and support for the insurgency may occur, but these would be short-term effects if the government maintains or slowly increases its poppy eradication efforts each year.

An Afghan policeman watches as a cache of alcohol and drugs burns on the outskirts of Kabul on December 20, 2016. Ninety eight tons of opium, heroin, hashish and alcoholic drinks were set on fire, officials said. Credit: SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images
Another counter-narcotics strategy that should be seriously considered in Afghanistan is the confiscation of land from owners of poppy crops. This land could be redistributed to the landless laborers who work on such crops, creating a political interest group in favor of tough approaches to poppy eradication. The new owners themselves would know they would lose their land if they decided to plant poppy. This would pressure landowners who profit from illicit opium production, not just poor sharecroppers. Land confiscation actually protects poor sharecroppers and the landless by holding landowners responsible for use of their land in poppy farming, rather than imposing costs on the sharecroppers and landless.
Landowners, rather than sharecroppers, are arguably more responsible, and benefit to a greater extent, from sharecropper use of land for illicit but profitable poppy farming. In regions of Afghanistan where poppy farming is common, landowners typically increase rents on land to capture the increased profits yielded by poppy as compared to other crops. According to researchers David Mansfield and Paul Fishstein, who have done years of fieldwork in poppy regions of Afghanistan, including Nangarhar, “in areas where poppy is concentrated, the rentable value of land is inflated to such a point that farmers cultivating legal crops would not be able to meet their rent.” The high rents of poppy regions essentially forces non-owning farmers to plant poppy in order to pay the rent. The landowner, who sets these high rents, is therefore at least partially responsible for the use of his land by sharecroppers or renters for illicit poppy production, and so should bear serious legal consequences. Confiscation of land is one such consequence, and has been effective elsewhere, including against opium growers in China in the early 1900s, and against coca growers in Bolivia in the early 2000s.

In this photograph taken on October 4, 2016, poppy farmer Nehmatullah, 34, holds poppy seeds on the palm of his hand during an interview with AFP in his home in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province. Afghanistan has all the trappings of a narco-state, with opium production - the lifeblood of the Taliban insurgency - from the traditional spring harvest alone edging towards a record high. Credit: WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images.
War and illegal drugs are two major causes of mortality worldwide. Afghanistan is unfortunately a center of both, and they propel each other in symbiotic fashion, exporting negative externalities of drug dependence and terrorism that make purely positive development strategies untenable. Tougher policies against opium growing in Afghanistan would decrease Taliban and Islamic State sources and potential sources of income, and decrease the supply of global heroin. A pilot program of aerial herbicide application in Nangarhar Province, combined with land confiscation from landowners who allow their land to grow opium poppies, and land redistribution to landless laborers, will be far more effective than current manual eradication programs dependent on corrupt local officials. At the same time, large countries beset by heroin addiction, for example the U.S., Russia, China, India, and Iran, must take more effective measures to decrease their demand for opium. This includes opium user harm reduction strategies, as in Switzerland, combined with traditional law enforcement against heroin dealers. Only by targeting both global demand and Afghan supply of heroin, can we hope to bring that country’s persistent narco-terrorism to an end.