Afghan Drugs Flow to Russian Markets - Afghanistan Blames Russia, US Refuses to Act

By DmTryp · Jan 22, 2013 ·
  1. DmTryp
    KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Russia isn't doing enough to help Afghanistan stop the burgeoning production of narcotics in the country, a Kabul anti-drug official says.

    Ibrahim Azhar, Afghanistan's deputy counter-narcotics minister, told local media Sunday that while Kremlin leaders pay lip service to working to halt the flow of drugs from his country into Russia, they have little to actually show for it, RIA Novosti reported.

    "They make these loud statements to maintain their image and confidence in them ... These statements have been made before but have not resulted in any success," Azhar said.

    The comments seemed aimed at Russian drug control chief Viktor Ivanov, who last week hailed the seizure of 106 tons of illegal drugs in 2012, up 70 percent from the previous year.

    "We are building up our efforts," he said.

    But Azhar said surging demand for drugs in Russia is a key part of the problem that Moscow has done little to address.

    "The demand for Afghan-made drugs in Russia is extremely large but Russians have not done any fundamental work to counter this threat," Azhar said.

    Although the countries are working together to mount operations to destroy drug labs and exchange intelligence on traffickers, the Afghan official contended that's insufficient to address the magnitude of the problem.

    "The long war years and economic difficulties have forced some residents of Afghanistan to grow and produce drugs," Azhar said. "In the wake of this, radical and urgent measures are required to expand and implement the projects of countering drugs production but Russia has failed to succeed in this area."

    Ivanov has repeatedly pointed the finger at NATO for a lack of resolve in fighting poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, saying that although it poses a grave risk to the European Union, little has been done to end it.

    He has blamed the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force for failing to halt the spread of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan during its 12 years of fighting Taliban extremists.

    Heroin production in Afghanistan has increased 40y-fold in the past decade, Moscow's Federal Drug Control Service says, contributing to the epidemic of narcotics addiction in Russia.

    In November, Ivanov said Russia wants to work with NATO but is being rebuffed, with the alliance refusing to accredit a representative of the Russian drug enforcement service to its headquarters in Brussels, RT Television reported.

    The Kremlin has called for NATO-led coalition forces to spray chemical defoliants on Afghan poppy fields, much as the United States has done in Colombia to eradicate coca fields.

    But NATO, the United States and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have rejected that option, contending it would drive desperate Afghan farmers into the arms of Taliban militants.

    "On the surface, I would say yes, it is a very quick way of eradicating the opium," Timothy Jones, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency attache to ISAF, told RT. "Even though we can use chemicals that attack a specific type of plant, the people on the ground may think that you are attacking everything, destroying their livelihood."

    Instead, the United States under the administration of President Barack Obama and other coalition leaders have opted for a strategy of backing alternative crops and livelihoods and have paid provincial governors to use Afghan forces to eradicate opium fields, The New York Times reported.

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    From Russian Times news:

    According to the Federal Drug Service, 106 tons of illegal drugs were seized in Russia last year. Moscow is continuing efforts to halt heroin shipments from Afghanistan, where US-led forces are preparing for withdrawal.

    "We seized 106 tons of drugs last year, which was 70% more than the year before,” the service head Viktor Ivanov told reporters on Tuesday. “We are building up our efforts."

    Ivanov provided a glimpse of the haul, reporting that 5.7 tons of opiates, including 2.2 tons of heroin, and almost 30 tons of cannabis were confiscated.

    There has also been an increase in the use of synthetic drugs, he added.

    meanwhile, Russia has expressed its concern over the US announcement that it would begin pulling out troops from Afghanistan, the embattled Central Asian country where so much drug trafficking is occurring, in 2014.
    President Vladimir Putin said in August that the international coalition should remain in Afghanistan until their job is finished.

    "It is regrettable that many participants in this operation are thinking about how to pull out of there," the Russian leader remarked. "They took up this burden and should carry it to the end."

    US and NATO forces opened a military offensive in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    Although Russian and US officials have cooperated in the effort to battle terrorism – evident by Moscow’s approval of an air-corridor over Russian territory for NATO non-military supplies into Central Asia – they have not always agreed on the best way of handling Afghanistan’s cash crop, which is the opium poppy, the raw material for making heroin.

    Moscow is concerned by the dramatic increase in opium exports and has requested NATO takes extra steps in the fight against Afghan farmers who cultivate poppy, possibly by the use of defoliants sprayed by aircraft to kill the deadly harvest.

    US officials, however, argue that any effort to deprive the Afghan people of their cash crop would only force them into terrorism.

    US Drug Enforcement Attaché Timothy Jones has said that the US was against the use of spraying defoliants against poppy fields over fears it might spark some sort of a backlash from the local population.

    “On the surface, I would say yes, it is a very quick way of eradicating the opium,” Jones commented. “Even though we can use chemicals that attack a specific type of plant, the people on the ground may think that you are attacking everything, destroying their livelihood.”

    Jones argued that an “educational process would need to take place before we just started spraying chemicals,” and that chemicals from aerial spraying could penetrate the soil and water supply, possibly harming children and livestock.

    Nevertheless, given the high rates of heroin addiction reported across Europe and Russia, there seems to be little time for Moscow and Washington to find the best preventive measures against this regional scourge.

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