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Commander Says NATO Should Fight Afghan Drug Trade

10 October 2007

The top NATO commander says the alliance should do more to fight the drug trade in Afghanistan, where it has had primary responsibility for security issues for nearly a year. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon, where General Bantz Craddock spoke on Wednesday.

General Craddock called for NATO to do more to fight Afghanistan's drug industry, while acknowledging that the alliance continues to have trouble getting its members to provide forces and equipment for its security and training missions.

"While this is not a primary role or responsibility for NATO and its forces, we must find ways to impact all of the pillars that support this narco-terrorism problem," he said.

The general says NATO already helps the Afghan authorities fight drug traffickers by sharing intelligence and providing logistical support and emergency rapid response forces when needed. But he says the focus must move from eradicating the poppy crop, which he says mainly hurts poor farmers, to attacking the trafficking networks, and NATO should play a larger role.

"For long-term success, we must address all the areas that contribute to this complex problem," he said. "And that's not only the eradication, but it's the laboratories that process it, it's the traffickers that move it and it's the kingpins, if you will, the leadership of those cells and operational linkages that benefit the most from the money that's being made."

At the same time, General Craddock called on NATO countries to fulfill commitments to provide trainers for the Afghan army and urgently needed capabilities, including airlift. He says his top priority in Afghanistan is training the army, which he says has made significant improvements and must become the "face" of the security effort.

The general says this means sustaining NATO's commitment to Afghanistan and convincing the Afghan people that the Taleban will never return to power. He says NATO must also continue to work with Pakistan to reduce the insurgents' access to safe havens across the border.

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