Continued from page 1

Officials are worried that the increased value of opium, combined with lower wheat prices, may prove to be a tempting incentive for farmers to cultivate poppies.

A majority of the heroin produced in Afghanistan ends up in Russia.

The steady flow of narcotics has fueled frustration in Moscow with what it perceives to be a reluctance on the part of NATO and the U.S.-led coalition to eradicate the drug menace.

“The Russians are highly frustrated with NATO and U.S. counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan or the lack thereof,” said a Russian veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan who is familiar with official Russian thinking on this matter.

Like many other officials interviewed, he spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Earlier this year, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, said his country “is losing 30,000 lives a year to the Afghan drug trade, and 1 million people are addicts.”

“This is an undeclared war against our country,” Mr. Rogozin said.

The Afghan Constitution prohibits the growing of narcotics, and most Afghans do not grow poppies because it is considered haraam — forbidden — in Islam.

“The issue here is that [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai and his family presumably benefit from the drug trade, and only 7 [percent] to 10 percent of the heroin goes from Afghanistan to the U.S., so for the U.S. this is not a priority,” the Russian veteran said.

Some Western officials claim that Mr. Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the top civilian official in Kandahar, benefits from his ties to the drug trade.

Russian officials have been urging the U.S. and NATO to ramp up efforts to eradicate poppy fields in Afghanistan.

This summer they provided their U.S. counterparts with coordinates pinpointing the locations of drug lords and 175 heroin labs in Afghanistan.

The Russians also played what one State Department official later described as a “supporting role,” along with the Drug Enforcement Administration and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), in an October raid on heroin labs in Nangarhar province near the border with Pakistan.

The operation was led by the Afghan Ministry of Interior Counter-Narcotics Police (CNP-A) Sensitive Investigative Unit and National Interdiction Unit.

Russia’s public declaration of its role in the operation prompted President Karzai to angrily accuse the Russians of violating Afghan sovereignty. Afghan officials later attributed the president’s outburst to a “miscommunication.”

Story Continues →