Pajhwok Afghan News, September 27, 2007

Senior officials linked to drug smuggling: Afghan VP

In addition to their complicity in the illegal trade, Masood pointed to increasing corruption in almost all government departments.

Reported by Zubair Babakarkhel - Translated & edited by S. Mudassir Ali Shah

KABUL: The burgeoning drug commerce would be hard to rein in if high-ranking government officials involved in narcotics smuggling were not prosecuted, a senior official warned on Thursday.

In 2007, Afghanistan cultivated 193,000 hectares of opium poppies, an increase of 17% over last year. The amount of Afghan land used for opium is now larger than the corresponding total for coca cultivation in Latin America (Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined). Favourable weather conditions produced opium yields (42.5 kg per hectare) higher than last year (37.0 kg/ha). As a result, in 2007 Afghanistan produced anextraordinary 8,200 tons of opium (34% more than in 2006) becoming practically the exclusive supplier of the world's deadliest drug (93% of the global opiates market)
Council on Foreign Relations, September 19, 2007

First Vice-President Ahmad Zia Masood, addressing a ceremony that marked the opening of a Counter-Narcotics Police complex, said: We should admit that some top-ranking government officials are unfortunately linked to the smuggling of drugs.

In addition to their complicity in the illegal trade, Masood pointed to increasing corruption in almost all government departments. Together, he reasoned, the twin problems led to an unprecedented rise in opium production in Afghanistan this year.

The government should take stringent measures against those involved in drug smuggling, stressed the vice-president, who alleged some district chiefs - supported by governors and other powerful quarters - were hand in glove with poppy farmers.

Masood opined support to the Afghan government from the international community in combating the drugs scourge had failed to produce the desired results. On our part, it is self-deceptive and illogical to arm 200-300 policemen with sticks and task them with eradicating poppy fields.

The complex, constructed at the cost of $18 million provided by the US and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), is spread over 22.5 acres in Qasbi area of Kabul. France too has contributed to the centre constructed in two years.

Speaking on the occasion, Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) chief Karen P. Tandy observed Afghanistans war on narcotic smugglers and poppy farmers began from the newly-built complex.

This police force will combat elements intent upon destroying peace in Afghanistan and posing a threat to the whole world, she remarked, describing drug smuggling and terrorist as intertwined issues.

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