US and NATO not interested in eradicating opium plague in Afghanistan

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Opium production business in Afghanistan has risen by nearly 50 percent in the last year and amassed about 68 billion US dollars globally, according to a recent United Nations report. However, the United States authorities don’t seem really interested in eradicating the drug plague, a journalist, Cladio Gallo, said.

Although the West has pumped about 100 billion dollars into the economy of Afghanistan, there are still no signs of any significant improvement. While in the 1970s, Afghan people used to grow all their own crops, today huge amount of food has to be imported from abroad to feed the 32-million population. And as the Anglo-Pakistani writer Ahmed Rashid noted: “This year more Afghans are dependent on income from heroin rather than wheat.”

Claudio Gallo, a journalist and an editor at La Stampa, deems that the United States and NATO are notinterested in eradicating opium cultivations in Afghanistan. Although Washington has spent more than 6 billion dollars to curb opium production since 2001, the number of areas targeted for poppy eradication was gradually decreasing. At the same time the land under poppy cultivation rose by 36 percent. The US officials believe that Taliban drug cartels do not pose any significant threat to the United States. And now, when the American troops are going to withdraw from Afghanistan, no one in the US is bothered by the fact that Afghan heroin will continue spreading in Russia, Europe and Canada.

“The security agenda and short-term ideas of success didn’t go well with the ideas of counter-narcotics work”, writes the journalist, citing Jean-Luc Lemahieu, outgoing head of the UN office on drugs and crime in Afghanistan.

According to Claudio Gallo the American approach is very far from the one suggested by Viktor Ivanov, who once said: “We know every farmer, every lab – just give us international laws, and we will destroy their stocks. We must kill the dragon in his cave.”

But the American counterparts of Mr. Ivanov were not eager to cooperate. Moreover, the US has recently put Ivanov on the list of Russian personalities affected by US sanctions for Crimea, and thus froze the collaboration with Russia on anti-drug programs.

Gallo quotes Pino Arlacchi, European MP for the Italian Democratic Party and former UN Executive Director of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, who said:

“It is unbelievable, completely irrational, not even George W. Bush Administration was so rough. The situation is desperate because here in the West no one seems to care. Europe has given Afghanistan 1 billion euros every year in civilian help since 2009. One small part of this money is enough to solve the problem of opium cultivation and trade in the country. Five years ago, as a member of the European Parliament, I made (together with Ivanov) a detailed plan that was never implemented. Europe discussed the plan with Russia (Moscow was ready to pay half the expenses) but the project remained on the table. The truth is that the West is completely indifferent to the problem.”

Today, when Afghanistan is on the verge of taking upon itself, the situation in this sphere is going to get even worse, believes the journalist.

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