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Homeland Security

03 February 2003

Afghanistan Improves Performance in International Anti-Drug Cooperation

(Karzai administration showing cooperation and courage in drug fight)
By Charlene Porter
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington - Afghanistan improved its cooperation with international
counternarcotics agreements in 2002, according to the annual narcotics
certification process unveiled January 31 by the Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) of the Department of
In the assessment released last year, Afghanistan was designated a
nation that had "failed demonstrably" to make substantial efforts to
cooperate in the international drug effort. That report examined the
government's action throughout 2001 when the Taliban was in power.
Now, with the Taliban deposed and a new transitional authority in
place, Afghanistan remains a concern as a drug producing and
drug-transiting nation, but the government's efforts to address those
problems in partnership with the international community have improved
significantly, the report said.
"The new government has been very cooperative in the anti-drug
effort," said Acting Assistant Secretary of State Paul Simons at a
January 31 briefing on the narcotics certification process. He listed
the government's actions to attack the drug problem: a ban on opium
poppy cultivation, production, sale and transport.
Even with a cooperative government in power in Kabul, and tangible
actions under way to change Afghanistan's longstanding reputation as a
major drug producer, poppy cultivation has increased. That didn't
surprise authorities, however, Simons said. In a country devastated by
war and drought, impoverished farmers have a persistent economic
incentive to grow opium poppies. Poppies are well adapted to the
climate, and they yield a profit exceeding that of any other crop.
Attempting to steer farmers toward alternative crops is one of the key
goals of the anti-drug strategy, Simons said. The United States has
already invested $17 million in programs to pursue that end, working
with the British, another partner in the multinational coalition
helping Afghanistan recover.
President Hamid Karzai took "some very politically courageous steps"
to support a poppy crop eradication program last year, Simons said. At
the same time, Karzai is working to establish new institutions that
will support a counter-narcotics strategy. Simons said that strategy
rests on several pillars: alternative cropping, strengthening law
enforcement institutions, eradication and interdiction.
Simons said Karzai has been "very active" in working to develop these
institutions, a national drug policy, and a staff to enforce it.
"His commitment is there," Simons said, but "as with everything in
Afghanistan ... the low-base level of initial institutions to work
with implies that it will be a long-term effort."
Simon's assessment of the Afghan government's anti-narcotics efforts
contrasts sharply with the assessment offered just a year ago when INL
issued the narcotics certification results for 2001. Then-Assistant
Secretary Rand Beers said, "The Taliban, as you know, did institute a
poppy ban, but they certainly did nothing to diminish or discourage
drug trafficking within Afghanistan, and they assumed that the
existence of large stockpiles would continue the cash flow necessary
to keep that government alive."
While officials find a marked contrast between the anti-drug policies
of the Taliban and the Afghan Transitional Authority, the actual
situation on the ground is still serious. Briefing the Security
Council January 31, U. N. Special Representative for Afghanistan
Lakhdar Brahimi described drug production and trafficking as a
"critical concern." The potential for massive and illicit profits in
drug trafficking is still great -- profits used in the past to fuel a
war economy. According to a U.N. report on the briefing, Brahimi said
it is "crucial, during the transitional period, that such an economy
not be allowed to regain its former proportions."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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