Call to control drug export from Afghanistan

UNITED NATIONS, March 22: The United Nations drug Czar said on Wednesday that corruption must be stamped out and borders strengthened to run emerging Afghan drug cartels out of business, particularly in the new ‘Golden Triangle’ of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

“All of the Afghan opium obviously is exported,” UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa told a news briefing at UN Headquarters. “Most of it is exported either to Iran or Pakistan,” he noted, calling for strengthened relations among the three countries to stem illicit drug trafficking.

Furthermore, corruption was a key player, or “major lubricant”, in facilitating both the cultivation and trafficking of opium. “There are too many people in the Governments, in the Parliaments, in regional administrations, which benefit from it,” he said. “I believe the Security Council recognises the importance of going beyond, strictly speaking, counter-narcotics, to address issues which are facilitators of the drug economy.”

Responding to whether opium production was out-of-control in Afghanistan, Mr Costa noted that the situation was indeed, “out-of-control” in the southern part of Afghanistan.

However, he was unable to provide a quantitative estimate on cultivation this year — or whether that number would be higher than last year’s. As for statistics, opium cultivation did total 166,000 hectares last year.

On the topic of Government and military control over cultivation, Mr Costa said that the Government had lost control of the region and even the military forces — the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) – were unable to control all of them. As such, insurgency was actively promoting cultivation.

Replying to a question on limiting the movements of drug traffickers, Mr Costa said he had asked the Security Council in December to apply the same rules of identification and control of movement that were applied to Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, to major traffickers.

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