Hill & Knowlton will head "a complex $3.8M PR effort" for the U.S. State Department, "targeting Afghan citizens and stakeholder groups to dissuade Afghan farmers from cultivating poppies and boosting global drug trade." Poppy production has soared since the 2001 U.S. invasion. Afghanistan provided 86 percent of the world's heroin in 2005, and "planting has significantly increased in 2006," according to a State Department official. Hill & Knowlton will "deploy communications through seven Afghan provinces" and "build capability" within the Agriculture, Interior and Counter-narcotics Ministries, by providing "communications professionals" and developing each ministry's own communications office. "Foreign and domestic media will be brought along" on poppy eradication missions, and "alternative livelihood efforts" will be promoted in the PR campaign. Current messages include, "Growing poppies is against Islam and harmful for the reputation of Afghanistan." Previous U.S.-funded PR work, by the Rendon Group and others, has been called costly and ineffective by Afghan officials.
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