20090327 afghan opium farmer 85616739 18
A young opium farmer works his parents' fields as U.S. Marines stop by on patrol near Bakwa in southwestern Afghanistan -- March 26, 2009 - 


Renita Jablonski: China and Russia are getting a head start today on a discussion about heroin trade. The U.N. will meet about this next week. The issue is heroin production in Afghanistan. It's helping fund Taliban insurgents fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Marketplace's Dan Grech has more.

Dan Grech: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, was created in 2001 as an alternative to NATO. It's made up of Russia, China and four countries in Central Asia. The SCO is meeting today to map its own strategy for what to do in Afghanistan.

Svante Cornell: The West is being criticized for its lack of handling of the drug trade. But I'm not sure what alternative policies the SCO is able to put up in order to deal with that problem.

That's Svante Cornell. He's a Central Asia expert at Johns Hopkins University. The SCO will discuss ways to stem heroin smuggling through the region. But Cornell says the group may not be able to tackle the root of the problem: poverty.

Cornell: These are not countries that can move in and try to improve the situation in Afghanistan for farmers or provide alternative livelihoods to drug producers. It is countries that have a track record of using only repressive methods, rather, to handle the drug trade.

And repressive methods, as Russia learned in its failed war there, don't work in Afghanistan.

I'm Dan Grech for Marketplace.