The head of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency has praised Pakistan as a model for eradicating drug production. But, she says more cooperation is needed from neighboring Afghanistan where record-high poppy production is funding insurgents and threatening regional stability. Daniel Schearf reports from Islamabad.
The U.S. DEA chief is calling Pakistan a success story in the global war on drugs. Speaking in Islamabad Friday, Karen Tandy said Pakistan was once a heroin supplying country, but is now almost poppy-free.
She credited Pakistan's Anti-Narcotics Force and Frontier Corps with catching drug traffickers, and said the DEA would continue offering them training and other support.
But, in stark contrast to Pakistan, Tandy called Afghanistan's fast-growing opium trade a "monster." She said cooperation is needed to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a "narco-state," fueling volatility and terrorism in the region.
Tandy said insurgents in Afghanistan are funding their increasing attacks on security forces with drug money. Afghanistan's southern provinces are leaders in both poppy cultivation and insurgent violence.
Earlier in the week, she visited Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, and told journalists the DEA would work to strengthen intelligence sharing between counter-narcotics and counter-insurgency forces, including NATO's International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF (I-SAF).
"These traffickers provide a lifeline for the insurgents. And, that is funding. It is for that reason that, on the enforcement side, the counter-narcotics police need the Afghan national army. And, in our supporting roles, DEA and ISAF [I-SAF] need to be together on this as well," she said.
Tandy says the DEA has provided more than a dozen alerts that have directly averted deadly attacks against Afghan, U.S. and ISAF (I-SAF) personnel. She says DEA intelligence-sharing has also helped capture several major drug traffickers with links to terrorism and the Taleban.
Afghanistan's opium production was significantly reduced during the Taleban's hard-line Islamic rule. But, since the U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taleban government in 2001, poppy production has soared to record highs, and the Taleban have gone from being drug eradicators to drug dealers.
A U.N. report released in August says land under poppy cultivation rose to 193,000 hectares in 2007, up from 165,000 in 2006.
Tandy says Pakistan and Afghanistan should set aside historical differences and work together to stop the drug trade.
Afghanistan now produces more than 90 percent of the world's heroin, most of it from provinces bordering Pakistan's volatile tribal areas where the Taleban have strong support and corrupt officials benefit from the trade.