Taliban benefits as Afghans’ anti-drug efforts stall

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“Karzai was really upset about the Russians in large part because he feels it makes him look weak in talks with the Taliban and other insurgent groups. I think he’s right,” said a Western official based in Afghanistan.

“It was the Russians themselves who made a lot of it publicly, while we and the Afghans wanted their advisory role in counternarcotics stuff kept quiet,” this official said.

“We’ve been pushing the Russians to get more involved regionally, and all they seem to care about are the narcotics coming up from Afghanistan into Russia,” he added.

The senior Afghan official said the Afghan government is not opposed to joint counternarcotics operations with the Russians “as long as we are made aware in advance and these are planned together and we operate together.”

Russia has been pushing for ISAF’s mandate to be expanded to include the destruction of poppy fields.

The Russians also have been critical of a U.S. and NATO decision not to spray herbicide over poppy fields because of concerns that such action would alienate the local population. The U.S. focus in Afghanistan has shifted from eradication of poppy crops under the George W. Bush administration to interdiction under the Obama administration.

“The fact that the Americans are ignoring this problem is sending a bad signal to Afghan farmers who are growing fruits and vegetables,” the Russian veteran said.

U.S. officials refute accusations that they are not serious about dealing with the problem.

“The U.S. remains committed to counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan,” said a State Department official.

“We continue to work closely with the government of Afghanistan, our coalition partners, and other countries, like Russia, that share our commitment to addressing this transnational problem,” he added.

U.S. drug czar R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said renewed efforts to support Afghan counternarcotics operations have enabled Afghan law enforcement and military forces, along with their allied partners, to make significant drug seizures.

“The U.S.-Russian Bilateral Presidential Commission’s working group on drug trafficking established last year by Presidents Obama and [Dmitry] Medvedev supports this effort in part by increasing cooperation between DEA and [Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service] FSKN. Our partnership can help defeat transnational criminal networks and choke off the drug trade, which harms citizens of all countries,” Mr. Kerlikowske said in an e-mail.

In the past 11 months, more than 9,000 metric tons of heroin have been seized, a 600 percent increase over the previous year.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.


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