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11/2/02 - NARCOTICS IN AFGHANISTAN - 2002-11-07

The U.S.-led coalition continues to hunt down and destroy terrorist cells inside Afghanistan. The U.S. is committed to preventing the reintroduction of terrorist activity and continues to train the new Afghan national army.

The U.S. is also working with several hundred nongovernmental organizations inside Afghanistan. Almost six-hundred-thousand metric tons of food and humanitarian assistance have been delivered to the Afghan people. Thousands of mines and unexploded ordnance have been removed. More than one-hundred-forty-thousand civilians have been treated in coalition-supported hospitals. And more than two-million refugees have returned to their homes in Afghanistan.

But more needs to be done. As General Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. Central Command said, Afghanistan remains a “very, very dangerous environment. . . . We see senses of security and stability in some parts of Afghanistan, and we see ethnic and tribal issues in other parts.”

One major area of concern is the growing of poppies used in the production of heroin. This is not a new problem. As General Franks said, “We have generations worth of Afghans who have made their living either by...growing this product, or by processing it, or by transporting it and selling it.”

According to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, more than thirty-thousand hectares of poppy were cultivated in Afghanistan this year. This compares to over sixty-thousand cultivated during the peak year of 2000, and an estimated sixteen-hundred hectares cultivated in 2001, the year the former Taleban regime instituted a poppy ban.

“Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is a serious problem,” said John Walters, the White House Drug Control Office’s director. “Drug cultivation and trafficking undermine the rule of law and the ability of the Afghan people to rebuild their country.”

That is why it is in the interest of all nations to help the government of President Hamid Karzai combat illicit drug cultivation. As White House Drug Control Office director Walters said, “We have an unprecedented opportunity in Afghanistan to reduce international opium production, but we must act together, and we must act now.”