May 1st, 2006 18:04 EST
Rumsfeld: U.S. stands firm on fight in Afghan drug trafficking problem
Nearly two weeks ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing that money from the narcotics trade is a risk to Afghanistan and said that the United States has stood by the work of Afghanistan's government and its allies to fight drug trafficking.
Throughout its history, Afghanistan has been known mainly as a regional agricultural center. But now, it has become a front for the drug business. According to the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, Afghanistan has been responsible for creating 90 percent of the world's opium, which most has been used to manufacture heroin and several illegal narcotics.
During the country's 30-year civil conflict, drug trafficking has been the main source of income to other militant factions. It has also been a major security challenge for Afghan President Hamid Karazi's democratically-elected government.
According to Rumsfeld, Afghanistan is still poor and drug trafficking could have a very important effect democracy there.
Under the Bonn Statement-- the blueprint for recreating Afghanistan after power was taken from the Taliban -- the United Kingdom leads the way to aid Afghan governments in the war against drugs.
Rumsfeld also said that several U.S government agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Agency, the State Department and the Defense Department are standing by whatever it takes to eradicate this ongoing problem.
INL Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas A. Schweich said that last year's opium harvest was at $2.7 billion, in which 80 percent of the profits going straight to drug trafficking networks without benefiting local Afghan governments.
The U.S. agrees with the Afghan government's anti-drug efforts with public information campaigns, incentives for local residents to grow alternate crops, technical help with eradicating opium and holding narcotics, as well as programs to aid the government with increasing police capabilities and promoting the rule of law.
Schweich's testimony states that Afghan authorities seized almost 43 metric tons of opium and over five metric tons of heroin last year.
"[Drug trafficking] is a serious problem that they're attending to, and we need to assist them in attending to it," he said.
Source: Washington File
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