Colombia and Afghanistan are becoming counterdrug allies.
Colombia has begun exporting counternarcotics know-how to Afghanistan in a bid to stem that country’s record heroin production, which, in turn, bankrolls al Qaeda.
Much of the emphasis will be on Colombia’s teaching the Afghans how to find and attack drug labs. Bogota yesterday re-established diplomatic ties with Kabul.
The two countries were brought together in the drug wars by House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican. He sent a letter in February to the chief of Colombia’s national police, announcing the arrival of congressional staffers in Bogota to start planning an Afghan-Colombian alliance.
“We warmly welcome the restoration of formal relations between Afghanistan and Colombia and especially the joint efforts of Colombia and its elite national police to help Afghanistan tackle the enormous problem of heroin production, which also fuels terrorism,” Mr. Hyde said yesterday.
Colombia has a long history of battling drug cartels and the left-wing terror group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by its acronym FARC. Heroin and cocaine traffickers have threatened the country’s democratically elected government with years of deadly terror attacks and kidnappings.
Afghanistan now finds itself in a similar fix. It has become the world’s No. 1 producer of poppy, the plant from which heroin derives, as peasants cultivate the one crop they know will put food on the table. Defeating drug lords has become second only to defeating Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists in importance for Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Colombia’s counternarcotics police, aided by the U.S., has been able to reduce heroin exports by 67 percent in the past five years, said Mr. Hyde, making it the perfect ally for Afghanistan’s anti-drug campaign.
“The Colombians are the world’s experts on establishing sovereignty and security over ungoverned space, especially when fighting narcotics-funded terrorists,” said Andre Hollis, a top Pentagon counterdrug official in President Bush’s first term.
“It’s a credit to the Colombian people that they are willing and able to help their colleagues in Afghanistan. Many countries with ungoverned space could learn from Colombia.”
The two countries’ relationship took root earlier this year when Colombia’s top anti-drug police official met in Vienna, Austria, with his counterpart from Kabul.
“Afghanistan and Colombia are suffering from the same problem, and we look forward to working together with sustainable international support to eliminate drug production and trafficking in the two countries,” Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Washington, said yesterday in Bogota. He was in Colombia to formally re-establish diplomatic relations.
Habibullah Qaderi, Afghanistan’s minister of counternarcotics, was in Bogota last month to win commitments from Colombia’s police force to begin training Afghan forces.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents have spent time studying Colombia’s countertrafficking operations and will take the expertise to Afghanistan, as will Colombia national police agents.
“Colombia … has a lot to share and help our Afghan partners with in the global struggle against drugs and terror,” Mr. Hyde said.