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Homeland Security

Washington File

17 June 2003

U.N. Says Afghanistan Needs More Help to End Illicit Drug Production

(Security Council discusses situation in Afghanistan) (710)
By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent 
United Nations -- Calling opium production in Afghanistan "a vicious
circle which we need to beat," the head of the U.N. drug program said
June 17 that opium cultivation appears to have spread to new areas of
the country.

In a briefing to the Security Council, Antonio Maria Costa, executive
director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said
Afghanistan remains the top illicit opium producer in the world and
requires far greater financial help from the international community
than has so far been forthcoming.
Costa said the lack of stability and security in Afghanistan is
undermining the Karzai Government's commitment to controlling the
cultivation of the opium poppy, trafficking, and drug abuse in the
country.

"Afghanistan now faces an historic challenge," Costa said. "The
establishment of an effective rule of law. The government commitment
... can be turned into real progress only if stability and security
spread throughout the country."

"The task to rid Afghanistan of the drug economy requires much greater
political, security, and financial capital than presently is available
to assist the rural areas affected by opium production and, above all,
to improve the central government's ability to implement the opium
production ban," he said.

Costa said that in 2002 poppy cultivation in Afghanistan was estimated
at 74,000 hectares yielding 3,400 tons of opium from five provinces in
the northern, eastern and southern parts of the country. According to
U.N. drug program estimates the 2003 opium cultivation "appears to
have spread to new areas while a decrease has taken place in the
traditional provinces of Helmand, Qandahar, Nangarhar and Oruzgan.
Therefore ... neither the surface under cultivation nor the volume of
output are likely to change significantly."

Opium prices have skyrocketed in recent years making the value of
Afghanistan's 20002 crop $1.2 billion -- an amount that matches the
total assistance given to the country last year by the international
community, the U.N. drug offficial pointed out.

Remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda who need a weak Afghanistan and
corruption are the main threats to effective controls, Costa said.

Drug dealers, who include Taliban and al-Qaeda members, "influence
politics, foment regional strife, nourish separatist ambitions and
armed conflicts to destabilize the government, and challenge the
national unity," he said.

The U.N. drug office has found corruption to be a common element in
all drug trafficking routes, Costa said, "the presence of corrupted
government officials, corrupted port and airport staff, and corrupted
customs employees. The old Silk Road, now turned into an opium-paved
road, is riddled with such evidence of corruption."

Costa said that national efforts are not enough. The international
community needs to develop a comprehensive approach that includes
Afghanistan and its neighbors going after stockpiles, clandestine
laboratories and precursor supplies; promoting alternative development
in opium growing areas, including micro-lending for poor farmers, and
jobs and education for women and children; turning bazaars into modern
trading places; neutralizing warlords' efforts to keep the drug trade
alive; and helping Afghanistan reform its criminal justice system.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said, "the message here is that we
should do more, and we should do it better."

"The United States is committed to helping build the Afghan
Transitional Authority's capacity to run effective counter-narcotics
programs and reduce poppy cultivation and trade through alternative
livelihood programs, and we are working with the Transitional
Authority to build a National Police Force," Negroponte said.

The ambassador outlined what the United States, the United Kingdom,
and Germany have been doing to help counter-narcotics programs and
increase security in the country.

Negroponte said that the United States has contributed more than $60
million to the counter-narcotics and police training programs and will
soon contribute $20 million to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust
Fund.

"In addition to the considerable outlay for Operation Enduring
Freedom, the United States will expend almost a billion dollars this
year on reconstruction, humanitarian relief, and for budget support in
Afghanistan," the ambassador said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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