AFP, January 2, 2008
Drugs boom, continued violence in Afghanistan for 2008: NATO
"I expect to see yet another year of explosive growth in poppy and I think that will again complicate the security sector"
KABUL — Afghanistan's opium production was likely to boom in 2008, the top NATO commander said Wednesday, and predicted continued Taliban-led violence, which he linked to the illicit drug trade.
The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government – the government that our soldiers are fighting and dying to protect.
The Mail, July 21, 2007
Afghanistan, where NATO has deployed more than 40,000 troops to fight the rebels, produced more than 8,200 tonnes of opium in 2007, making the war-torn nation the world's largest illicit drug producer.
"I expect to see yet another year of explosive growth in poppy and I think that will again complicate the security sector," NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander US General Dan McNeill said.
"Does it concern me? Yes, greatly. It concerns me greatly," he told a news conference in Kabul.
He added that the multi-billion-dollar drug trade was fuelling the insurgency against the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, NATO and other Western forces.
"When I see a poppy field, I see it turning into money and then into IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and Kalashnikovs," McNeill said. "It poisons the youth of Afghanistan."
The war-torn nation also experienced its bloodiest year since the Taliban was toppled in late 2001 in a US-led attack.
More than 6,000 people were killed in 2007. Although many of them were rebels, about 1,000 Afghan civilians and a further 1,000 members of Afghan security personnel died, along with nearly 220 foreign soldiers.
McNeill said the Taliban were likely to continue their insurgency, mainly using roadside bombs and suicide bombings after carrying out more than 140 such attacks in 2007.
While attention focuses on fighting in southern Afghanistan, there are parts of the north where the law is made not by Kabul, but by militia commanders who use violence and intimidation to maintain their hold over the civilian population.
Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi/IWPR, Sep.13, 2007
"What do I expect to see the insurgent do (in 2008)? I think he'll stay on the IED piece, I think he'll try to increase the number of suicide bombers," he added.
McNeill admitted the multi-national force he is commanding was "under-resourced" but said with increased Afghan national security forces and "smart tactics" he would keep up the fight against the Taliban in 2008.
He added:: "I don't expect the members of the alliance can offer up a great number more than what they are presently offering. And from that prospective I don't see that it'll be dramatically changed in terms of numbers."
But "if we're smart about how we're using our tactics, and I think we were this year (2007), we can still do a fairly creditable job", he added.
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