- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration yesterday told a House committee that Afghanistan’s stability “rises and falls with the drug trade,” and its production of 92 percent of the world’s heroin supply has driven ongoing violence and lawlessness.

But DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy said her agency is making “great progress” in targeting the drug warlords and the Afghan criminal organizations who control the heroin supply.

“The challenges we face fighting the drug trade in Afghanistan are tough, with conducting law-enforcement operations in a war zone often controlled by powerful heroin warlords in a country where the drug trade and culture is deeply entrenched with an undeveloped infrastructure and fledgling Afghan law-enforcement organizations,” Mrs. Tandy told the House Armed Services Committee.

“But these challenges are not insurmountable,” she said. “In the past year alone, we’ve made great progress. Afghanistan has promulgated new narcotics laws. They have conducted their first arrest and search warrants under those laws. They have ordered the first extradition of a major drug trafficker connected to the Taliban.”

Mrs. Tandy said a newly created central tribunal court and recently appointed prosecutors, which the country did not have under the Taliban, successfully have prosecuted more than 100 drug traffickers, including Misri Khan, the longtime head of a major Afghan heroin ring and two of his key lieutenants who were convicted and each sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Over the past six months, the DEA’s Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Teams, or FAST teams, have seized more than 38 tons of opium — a 700 percent increase over the prior six months, she said.

Earlier this month, the DEA received $9.2 million to combat Afghan drug warlords as part of the $94.5 billion House-passed emergency spending bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The money will allow the agency to continue to disrupt drug operations in Afghanistan, especially those that use the drug trade to finance terrorist organizations and attacks on coalition forces.

Despite the ongoing conflict in that country, Afghanistan has emerged as the world’s largest producer of opium and its refined form, heroin. Last year, Afghanistan’s opium output was about 5,000 tons, and the DEA has called opium production in that country a significant threat to its future and the region’s stability.

Mrs. Tandy said the Afghan drug trade has the capability of financing terrorists and those who support them, noting that the Taliban’s association with the opium- and heroin-smuggling trade continues today. She said the Taliban continues to use the proceeds from the sale of drugs, which it taxes and protects, as a source of revenue for the anti-coalition activities.

“We are strengthening Afghanistan’s institutions of justice and policing capabilities, and we are helping to protect the U.S. and coalition troops from deadly attacks that are funded in part by drug traffickers,” she said.

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