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US Lawmakers Address Fear of Failed State in Afghanistan

Change in Afghanistan is not coming fast enough for many U.S. lawmakers. Frustration is growing in Congress about Afghanistan's booming opium trade, the resurgence of the Taliban and what some say is inadequate NATO support for the international peacekeeping mission. VOA's Robert Raffaele has more from a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Some Senate lawmakers say the U.S. is doing much of the heavy lifting in Afghanistan -- with little to show for it.

One big problem: the failure to eradicate Afghanistan's poppy crop -- suspected of supplying 90 percent of the world's opium trade.

Republican Senator John Warner demanded answers from Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Richard Boucher. "You know, we're a long way from reducing it," said Mr. Boucher, "but it at least seems to have peaked out this year. But there's also a diplomatic effort, underway with other governments, to go after the funding, and to get at the money that the traffickers use, move around, and sometimes supply the Taliban," he said.

Senator John Warner then added, "Well, when are we going to see -- I'm not trying to put you on report. You're a fine public servant, trying to do the best you can. But we don't see any results."

The counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan is among many topics addressed in two recent reports by U.S-based institutes.

One reports says NATO forces are not winning, but rather, stuck in a stalemate with Taliban forces.

Boucher said greater involvement by local governments is absolutely essential to making Afghanistan self-sufficient, and for weakening Taliban strongholds.

A key issue at the Senate hearing was the level of NATO participation in the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called on other NATO countries to send more troops and equipment.

"There's no use mincing words on it, they [other NATO nations] have failed, and we should put maximum pressure on them to come through with what they need to come through with," Democratic Senator Carl Levin said.

Some additional help may be coming from Germany. Reuters reports leading politicians from Germany's governing coalition will discuss replacing a parliamentary mandate that limits Germany's NATO troop level to 3,500.