July 20, 2011 in News
Senators press officials on Afghan drug trafficking (Los Angeles Times):
After representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State Department and the Defense Department touted the success of U.S. counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan for more than an hour Wednesday, lawmakers aggressively questioned them about a subject that forced panelists into near silence: corruption in President Hamid Karzai’s government.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, noted that in April 2009, Karzai issued a decree to release drug traffickers who were caught with more than 260 pounds of heroin.
“True or false?” Feinstein asked.
Thomas Harrigan, chief of operations for the DEA, paused and answered: “I believe they were pardoned.”
Feinstein, apparently dissatisfied, continued: “To what extent is the Afghan government involved in drug trafficking?”
“We’re concerned with levels of corruption … but the bottom line is we don’t know what we don’t know,” Harrigan responded.
Feinstein pressed Harrigan again: “You’re the head of the whole thing. Do you believe the Afghan government is involved in drug trafficking?”
“If the evidence is there, we’ll pursue it to the very end,” Harrigan said.
Drug trade menaces Afghanistan despite progress (Reuters):
The United States has made headway in building up Afghanistan’s counternarcotics forces, but the war-torn country needs more international help to hold onto those fragile gains, U.S. officials said on Wednesday.
Top Defense Department, State Department and Drug Enforcement Administration officials told the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control that Afghanistan’s opium poppy cultivation was down, drug seizures were up and Afghan counternarcotics agents had gained capacity.
At the same time, however, a troubling nexus of the narcotics trade, Taliban insurgency and corruption continues to threaten Afghanistan, the officials said.
“Drug production and the drug trade continue to undermine all aspects of the government of Afghanistan’s ability to build political stability, economic growth, and establish security and rule of law,” said Brian Nichols, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs.
He said in prepared testimony to the caucus hearing that success in U.S. and allied efforts to curb drug production and trafficking “will help set the conditions for a successful drawdown of U.S. military assets in Afghanistan.”
In Afghanistan, which supplies about 77 percent of the world’s opium, nationwide opium poppy cultivation fell by one-third to 304,000 acres in 2009 from a peak level of 477,000 acres in 2007, Nichols told the panel.
Related Material From the Archive:
- Afghan Opium Business Thriving
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- U.S. to Hunt Down Afghan Drug Lords Tied to Taliban
- Britain’s drug fighting role in Afghanistan a ‘poisoned chalice’, say MPs
- Afghan Taliban Forming Narco-Cartels to Fund Insurgency
- UN/World Bank Afghanistan Drug Industry Report
- Latin America and the Caribbean: Illicit Drug Trafficking and U.S. Counterdrug Programs
- Mexico’s Drug Trafficking Organizations: Source and Scope of the Rising Violence