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22 Oct, 2010 08:02

“150,000 troops eliminate mere 0.2 per cent of drug production in Afghanistan”

Afghans are practically left to deal with drug problem on their own, says Russia’s drug control chief, Viktor Ivanov.

RT caught up with the head of the Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics, Viktor Ivanov, for more insight into current developments of international dialogue over fighting the Afghanistan drug production problem.

RT: They [the United States] refuse to take the step suggested by Russia which is perfectly logical – to eliminate the poppy fields. Why is this so, do you think?

Viktor Ivanov:You see, in fact the United States are analyzing the connection between the illicit drug production and terrorism in Afghanistan. In August 2009, the US Congress Foreign Relations Committee released a report titled Drugs, Insurgency, and Terrorism. And in this report, the US Congress made an assessment of the volumes of illicit drug production by Taliban, the major insurgency movement, at $150 million.

Yet, it should be noted that the entire volume of illicit drug production in Afghanistan is estimated at $65 billion. So we can see that the Taliban's share in the entire output is only 0.2 per cent. Thus obviously it’s not the main producer. However, the international security forces say that they will eliminate only those drug production sites and facilities which are related to the Taliban. In other words, all the 150,000 military personnel will be employed in eliminating a mere 0.2 per cent of the total illicit drug production. And it's suggested that the remaining 99.8 per cent is to be taken care of by the Afghan authorities.

RT: Which they are not going to do?

VI: Which they cannot do, of course. Revenues from drug production are $65 billion, and the Afghan government’s annual budget is $12 billion, and 90 per cent of this amount comes from financial aid.

RT: What do Americans say to this idea? Because it makes perfect sense.

VI:We have not heard any definitive answer. NATO's Secretary General Mr. Rasmussen, for example, Deputy Secretary General Claudio Bisogniero, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee Admiral Di Paola all said that if the UN Security Council makes that decision, we will do this.

RT: Why wouldn't the Security Council make that decision? It has decided that it is a threat to global security.

VI: The UN Security Council's decisions are made when all member states agree on something. We need all members to vote in favor of considering drug production in Afghanistan a threat to international peace and security.

RT: But they wouldn't do that… America wouldn't do that, any other countries?

VI: On October 13th the Security Council passed Resolution 1943, but it recognized this not as a threat to international peace and security, but as a threat to international peace and stability. But such phrasing is not legally binding. Only the "threat to international peace and security" is legally binding. So we are also dealing with legal juggling here.

RT: They’ve been in Afghanistan for nine years trying to establish democracy, but drug trafficking interferes a lot with it. My question is: do they understand that it undermines their goals in Afghanistan and makes them a failure?

VI: Of course they understand. But nonetheless, they refuse to eliminate plants containing drugs, especially considering the fact that European countries participating in this campaign do not share their views on this issue. Under pressure from the electorate they are in favor of ending the military campaign in this country.

RT: Can you say more about that? Russia thinks that it’s a big threat to global security.

VI: It’s no longer a threat for Russia. It’s a factor which has been influencing the situation for a long time, and which leads to the elimination of the young population mostly aged up to 35 years old. It’s the group of people who suffer the most from drug addiction to Afghan opiates. This age group is leading in terms of the death toll, as it is reaching 40,000 deaths annually. Losses are immense. But we also estimate it as a threat to the rest of the world. The drug production issue in Afghanistan crossed the borders of this country long ago. The amount of drug trafficking is huge; it’s about 150 billion doses and injections. Drugs are brought outside the country’s borders, which creates trans-national global traffic routes. The three main routes are: the first is along the Balkan route towards the EU countries, the North route which is called the Northern Silk Route – since the times when the merchant Afanasyev was making a route to India – and the Southern Route across Pakistan to India and China and then via seas and oceans all around the world. Going across the territory of different states drug trafficking has its impact on the political life of the countries making the political, military, law enforcement and business elites corrupt and causes organized crime. If traffic routes are operating for a long time, they consolidate organized crime, which slowly arranges it into cartels which start fighting for control over these flows and tries to penetrate into politics to find a protector. That’s how terrorist manifestations and terrorism emerge.

RT: What’s the way to easily eliminate the fields with drug containing plants? Supposing the Security Council made a decision and NATO started acting.

VI: The thing is that the disease is at an advanced stage already. If we compare this case to oncology, it’s the fourth stage. And yet, this issue can be resolved.

It requires a comprehensive approach which would include both the elimination of drug fields and encouraging agricultural cultivation of other plants and crops, as well as continued effort in restoring Afghanistan's economy. The existing framework of the country's economy today consists of the 142 business units which were established with the help of our country. Aside from those, all that Afghanistan has is humanitarian aid and illicit drug production. And of course the approach must include the peaceful settlement process. This is the key, because today we can see that a consolidation process is under way in the opposition, resulting in growing armed resistance both to the local government and authorities and to what the Afghans call the occupying forces.

RT: Thank you very much.

VI: You are welcome.

For more on the story read "Afghans abandoned to fight drugs on their own – Russia’s drug control chief"