US and NATO's efforts strengthen Afghan drug industry – lecturer

Russia's drugs control chief has urged NATO to step up its fight against narcotics production in Afghanistan. Top officials and anti-drug experts have met in Brussels to discuss jointly tackling the growing problem.

Earlier the US military has said it is using a new approach to fight drug production in Afghanistan, but Julian Mercille, lecturer at University College, Dublin, believes both they and NATO have in fact been supporting the industry.

The bulk of the income from drugs is captured by other players like traffickers and the police and people in the government. So the problem is that the US and NATO have empowered a lot of people who are involved in drugs in government and the police forces,” says Mercille. “That is one reason why the US and NATO have directly caused the drastic increases in drug production in Afghanistan.”

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The US military’s decision to stop the eradication of opium poppy fields in Afghanistan has recently come under fire, particularly from Russia, which is losing some 30,000 lives a year to the Afghan drug trade. The military has explained the shift in the policy by claiming that impoverishing the poppy farmers only leads to the swelling of the insurgency.

Armen Oganesyan, editor-in-chief of the International Affairs magazine, says the explanation is merely a “pretext for being idle.”

“It is not an excuse,” says Oganesyan. “I think that radical measures should be taken…..All the income coming from the drug sale is coming back to those who are fighting Europeans and Americans in Afghanistan.”

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