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UN Signs Deal with Afghan Government to Combat Illegal Drug Trade - 2003-08-25

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has signed an agreement with the Afghanistan government aimed at combating the illegal drug trade in the region.

The head of the UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa, signed the agreement Sunday with the Afghan Interior Ministry, establishing a new drug interdiction department.

The U.N. office says it wants help for Afghan farmers so that they can find an alternative to growing opium. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan is the world leader in opium production, accounting for 70 percent of global production.

Afghan authorities have told the world body that they want to enforce drug control measures, including the eradication of opium poppy fields and the destruction of illicit drug-processing laboratories.

"What we have done is to set up some law enforcement units in Kabul and were working towards establishing similar drug investigation units in other key provinces," said Brian Taylor, head of a newly created anti-trafficking unit, who has spent some time in Afghanistan setting up projects with the Interior Ministry. "The idea is to assist the Afghan police to develop enough trained officers and to provide them with enough equipment to be able to tackle the traffickers in a very proactive and very effective way."

Mr. Taylor says the new interdiction unit will be a task force with authority to stop vehicles and search premises for narcotics.

The United Nations is working in Afghanistan with German officials who are helping to rebuild the police force, Italians who are rebuilding the nation's legal System, and Britain, which has an international lead on counter-narcotics expertise.