Afghan President Hamid Karzai is blaming the international community for not doing more to stop poppy production in his country. Mr. Karzai's criticism follows the release this week of a United Nations' report that cites booming opium production in Afghanistan. VOA's Robert Raffaele has more.
The U.N. report found opium production in Afghanistan has exploded to a record high -- with the country supplying 93 percent of the heroin, morphine,and other opiates on the world market.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai discussed the U.N. report at a meeting of government, tribal and religious leaders in Kabul. He said there is "not enough international cooperation" in his country's fight against drugs.
Mr. Karzai said opium production is low in areas where his government has control, but higher in areas where foreign troops are fighting Taleban insurgents.
The United States and Britain have committed more than $500 million to combat drug production and promote alternative crops in Afghanistan.
The U.N. report found some progress, but found that Taleban insurgents are playing an increasingly important role in the region's drug trade.
Elaine Shannon is a former Time (magazine) correspondent, who now works with the private Public Welfare Foundation in Washington, D.C. She says, unless defeated, the Taleban could use drug profits to endanger the entire region. "People who are inside, and I've talked with them, say, 'We don't know whether we're going to win or lose Afghanistan as part of the civilized world,' where it is going to end up being a narco-state, except for maybe Kabul and a couple of other population centers. But it is certainly a security threat to the rest of the world."
Shannon says concerned nations must convince all involved in the harvesting of poppy -- from local warlords to farmers -- that the Taleban's protection comes at a perilous price. "Okay, you did it, this is how you survived, this is how your people survived, but now it's time to build a nation. And that nation cannot be built on organized crime. Your sons will be killed, your daughters may be taken away, you will have no recourse -- you need an orderly society, because that is the way for your family's future"
Shannon says the absence of a legitimate legal system in Afghanistan is also a major hindrance to the anti-drug effort. "Right now in most villages -- it's village law. And no major traffickers have been arrested. They have got to have a system for amassing evidence. Right now, there really isn't one much."
The director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, urged the Afghan government to actively seek out and destroy more opium fields.
He also called for international forces to step up direct attacks on the illegal drug trade.