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Nato Forces Should Do More To Curb Drug Trade: UN

Nato Forces In Afghanistan Should Do More To Curb Drug Trade, UN Official Says

New York, Sep 12 2006 10:00AM

The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today called for a robust military action by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces to destroy the opium industry in southern Afghanistan.

Presenting details of the 2006 UNODC Annual Opium Survey at a news conference in Brussels, Antonio Maria Costa noted that the dramatic surge in opium cultivation and production had occurred mainly in the increasingly lawless southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

“In the turbulent southern region, counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics efforts must reinforce each other so as to stop the vicious circle of drugs funding terrorists and terrorists protecting drug traffickers,” the UNODC Executive Director said.

“I call on NATO forces to destroy the heroin labs, disband the open opium bazaars, attack the opium convoys and bring to justice the big traders,” he said, adding that coalition countries should give NATO the mandate and resources required to accomplish this.

Opium cultivation throughout Afghanistan surged 59 per cent to 165,000 hectares in 2006. The opium harvest was an unprecedented 6,100 tonnes, an increase of 49 per cent from 2005, making Afghanistan virtually sole supplier to the world.

Only six of the country’s 34 provinces are opium-free. Cultivation fell in eight provinces, mainly in the more stable north. Around the country, the number of people involved in opium cultivation increased by almost a third to 2.9 million, representing 12.6 per cent of the total population.

“Revenue from the harvest will be over $3 billion this year, making a handful of criminals and corrupt officials extremely rich,” Mr. Costa said. “This money is also dragging the rest of Afghanistan into a bottomless pit of destruction and despair.”

The UNODC Executive Director warned drug-consuming nations that the Afghan opium boom was likely to fuel a surge in the number of lethal drug overdoses when the new heroin starts reaching users in 2007.

“I fear that in 2007, once the new crop has reached the retail markets, Afghan opium will kill more than the 100,000 people it has killed in the recent past.”

Among the measures he called for to redress the situation was increased aid to Afghanistan. The more vigorously district and provincial leaders commit themselves to eliminate opium and curb corruption, the more aid they should receive, he said. “If we lose their support, insurgents will have an unlimited supply of foot-soldiers and no resources will be available to fight them, he warned.

“There is no magic formula to save Afghanistan. Instead, we need to insist on full implementation of the Afghan national drug control strategy, which is based on development, security, law enforcement and good governance.”

Ends

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