NATO's Refusal to Destroy Opium Criticized

Federal Drug Control Agency chief Viktor Ivanov lashed out Thursday at NATO for refusing to destroy opium poppy fields in Afghanistan because this would increase poverty in the war-ravaged country.

"Such a humane approach is surprising at the very least," Ivanov said, Itar-Tass reported.

"If NATO is going to continue to show such care, then — with the price for opium falling from $90 to $60 per kilogram — perhaps it should double the number of [Afghan] fields," he said.

NATO on Wednesday rejected Russian calls for it to eradicate opium poppy fields in Afghanistan, saying the best way for Moscow to help control the drug would be to give more assistance against the insurgency.

Earlier this week, Ivanov met NATO ambassadors in Brussels and proposed that NATO troops be given a UN mandate and an obligation to eradicate Afghan opium crops, which Russia says are killing 30,000 Russians a year. 

But NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the drug problem had to be handled carefully to avoid alienating local people. He said the alliance was continuing efforts to target drug lords and drug labs, but added at a news briefing: 
"We cannot be in a situation where we remove the only source of income of people who live in the second poorest country in the world without being able to provide them with an alternative." 

Appathurai said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had asked Russia for increased support in Afghanistan, including in training counter-narcotics officials and helicopters for the overall counter-insurgency effort. 
"We are still waiting for an answer, but we know the Russian Federation is working on it," he said. 

(Reuters, MT)

See also:

Russia, Tajikistan Start Large-Scale Military Exercises On Afghan Border

Russia May Be 'Flexible' on Easing of U.N. Sanctions Against Taliban - Report

Russian Foreign Ministry Slams U.S. Over Kunduz Hospital Attack

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