- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 4, 2007

‘False god of drugs’

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan is warning farmers, smugglers and corrupt officials that the Bush administration and the Afghan national government plan to cripple opium production and punish those who resist the crackdown.

Ambassador William Wood expressed U.S. frustration and attempted to shame provincial governments by publicly denouncing them in a speech that coincided with the release of a U.N. report last week.

The United Nations described Afghanistan as the world’s largest producer of illegal drugs, seven years after the United States liberated the South Asian nation from extremist Islamic rule under the Taliban regime.

Mr. Wood noted that Afghanistan also is developing an internal drug problem, especially among those who grow poppies and refine the crop into opium.

Afghan and international authorities have linked drug production to Taliban terrorists, who use profits from the drug trade to finance their rebel insurgency.

“Drugs threaten the truth of Islam. … Drugs threaten Afghanistan’s relations with the world,” the ambassador said in a speech last week.

Afghanistan, he added, is threatened by the “false god of drugs.”

As he listed the massive increase in drug production in several provinces by name, Mr. Wood focused on Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Kandahar increased opium production by 330 tons, despite a determined effort by the provincial government, which destroyed about 20,000 acres of poppy fields, he said.

“This is deeply disappointing and demonstrates that the drug trade may be even more resistant to the rule of law than the insurgency,” Mr. Wood said. “Kandahar is one of the richest provinces in the country and … has received more than $250 million in U.S. assistance since 2002. Kandahar has no excuse.”

Helmand province alone “produced more than half of the opium crop in Afghanistan and produced almost half of the heroin in the world — 49 percent or 4,850 tons,” he said.

“Helmand grows opium because the criminal drug traffickers and their insurgent partners, the Taliban, want to use those profits, one for a life of power and luxury and the other for a mission of destruction and dominance,” he said. “Shame on you, Helmand.”

Mr. Wood said the Bush administration plans to double its funding, personnel and programs for the eradication of the poppy business. He stated his personal goal of destroying 124,000 acres of poppy fields, which would equal about 25 percent of the current crop.

“Eradication will increase,” he promised. “Not just voluntary eradication [but] effective, forced eradication aimed at the rich growers, the fellow travelers of the insurgents and the corrupt leaders.”

Not good enough

Six European embassies warned that the latest revision of U.S. visa laws still leaves some of the strongest U.S. allies “subject to artificial barriers” that could disrupt travel to the United States.

The embassies of the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia said the revisions announced last month were a “step forward.” But “the legislation does not fully meet our expectations,” according to a statement posted on the Romanian Embassy Web site (www.roembus.org).

“As a result, some of America’s closest allies will still be subject to artificial barriers that do not reflect their deep level of commitment and engagement in enhancing trans-Atlantic and global security,” they said.

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

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