- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hypocritical terrorists

The Taliban might be among the world’s most vicious terrorists, but they are also hypocrites, said the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

After the United States toppled the brutal regime in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden, Taliban insurgents resorted to terrorist attacks on civilians and are financing operations through the illegal opium trade, which they once denounced as against the teachings of Islam.

“The Taliban spends all of its time attempting to blame everyone but itself for its sins,” Ambassador William Wood told reporters at a recent press conference in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

“The Taliban, itself, has stated that poppy cultivation and trafficking is contrary to Islam, and the Taliban has denied they are in any way involved in poppy cultivation or trafficking. And everyone in this room and everyone in Afghanistan knows that’s a lie.”

Opium is derived from poppy flowers, and Afghanistan produces an estimated 90 percent of the world’s supply of the drug used to produce heroin. The United States has been trying to eradicate the crop, but poppies are easy to grow and account for about one-third of the Afghan economy.

Mr. Wood reminded reporters that the U.N. drug agency found that poppy growing is less common in government-controlled areas, which amount to only about 30 percent of the country. The Taliban controls about 10 percent of the country, while the rest is run by tribal councils.

“Where the Taliban is most active, poppy cultivation goes up. The Taliban uses poppy cultivation to finance its activities [and] cooperates with criminal elements who are also profiting from poppy cultivation,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Wood, reviewing the war against the Taliban, added that the insurgents “had a very bad year on the battlefield.” They have lost many leaders, including the notorious Mullah Dadullah, one of the most wanted Taliban chieftains. They are also losing local support and recruiting foreign operatives, he said.

“We are seeing many indications that the Taliban is disorganized and confused,” Mr. Wood said. “But the Taliban has not been passive in the face of this defeat. It has shifted its tactics away from the traditional tactics of insurgency and toward the tactics of terrorism.”

Fighting bird flu

The U.S. ambassador in Thailand yesterday opened a warehouse full of medical supplies to fight any new regional outbreak of the deadly bird flu that has claimed the lives of 236 people since 2003.

Ambassador Eric John presided over the dedication ceremony in Bangkok for the Regional Distribution Center (RDC) in the eastern province of Chachoengsao. The warehouse, funded by the Agency for International Development, contains 45,000 protective medical suits and 400 decontamination kits among supplies worth nearly $550,000.

“The RDC will help ensure that countries in Asia will be able to take fast action to counter avian influenza without endangering the lives of rapid-response teams,” he told reporters. “This center will help ensure that avian influenza outbreaks can be contained safely and efficiently.”

Celebrating Greece

President Bush yesterday hosted a top Greek official and the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States at the White House to celebrate Greek Independence Day.

He met with Development Minister Christos Folias and Archbishop Demetrios, who led a Greek-American delegation to the ceremony, the Greek Embassy said.

Congressional resolutions recognize March 25 as Greek Independence Day to recognize the contributions of Greek-Americans to the development of the United States.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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