Afghans want to be farmers, not fighters, says U.S.
Wed, Feb 3 2010
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Afghans would rather be farmers than fighters, the U.S. agriculture secretary said on Wednesday, highlighting a U.S. focus on farming jobs to lure people from the battlefield and curtail the opium trade.
Separate from the Afghan-led re-integration plan announced by President Hamid Karzai at a conference in London last week, Washington sees its agriculture program as a way of impeding the Taliban, said the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke.
"This is going to really hurt the Taliban, no question about it," said Holbrooke. "Unlike, say, re-integration, which they can attack, it's harder to attack this one because the country is an agricultural country."
U.S. agriculture chief Tom Vilsack visited Afghanistan last month, meeting farmers and looking at ways of reviving a sector that is the main income source for eight in 10 Afghans.
"From my discussions with regular Afghans, they would much rather be farmers than fighters," said Vilsack. "This is an economic issue." Read More
Agriculture is the foundation upon which every society has ever been built. Without a strong agricultural base, failure will soon follow. It is THE industry that provides the essentials for life. Our military leaders recognize this more than most which is why they have worked hard to teach more about agriculture in that country. And, with so many of our soldiers coming from rural America, they are uniquely qualified to help with this process. Agriculture and the military are the two things our country can’t live without.