Voices from Russia

Saturday, 17 May 2008

How and when did Afghanistan Turn into a Drug Centre?

Filed under: politics,Russian,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00

Peasant harvesting in a poppy field in Afghanistan

When meeting in Yekaterinburg in the Urals recently, the Russian, Indian, and Chinese Foreign Ministers agreed to form a security belt of sorts around Afghanistan. It would stand to reason to expect that the European nations and the United States would hail the decision by Moscow, New Delhi, and Beijing, since Afghanistan has long been known as the world’s number one drug producer. According to the United Nations, today, Afghanistan accounts for 93 percent of world opium production and produces 90 percent of the heroin in the world. From Afghanistan, the drugs are channelled via Central Asia to Russia and the European countries, whence, they spread further still.

Unfortunately, none of the western capitals seems to have appreciated the decision of Russia, India, and China. But, some western news media came up with what one could call some specific comment, to use an understatement. The Reuters news agency and NBC News alleged, for instance, that the Afghan economy was destroyed by the 30-year-long Soviet occupation and civil war, so, Afghan peasants have to continually increase their opium poppy plantations to survive.

Something must have happened to the memory and the vaunted impartial coverage of my western colleagues, but, the hard facts are as follows. Soviet troops entered Afghanistan in December 1979. They began their withdrawal in 1986, and left Afghanistan in February 1989. Incidentally, over 120,000 Soviet civil and military experts and construction workers worked in Afghanistan to build schools, plants, bridges, and roads.

It is likewise an open secret that once the United States and NATO launched their anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled the Taliban regime, the production of drugs in the country shot up four or five times. Another hard fact is that the Afghan economy collapsed during the US and NATO operation, with more than 40 percent of the Afghan population now living below the poverty line. This is, of course, no reason for gloating over the impotence of the anti-terrorist coalition; although, of course, one should remember that Afghanistan has received only 15 billion US dollars (355.74 billion roubles. 9.675 billion euros. 7.665 billion UK pounds) of the 25 US billion dollars (594.035 billion roubles. 16.025 billion euros. 12.775 billion UK pounds) that have been pledged as financial assistance to the country. 40 percent of that amount, or 6 US billion dollars (142.566 billion roubles. 3.846 billion euros. 3.066 billion UK pounds), have been paid off to the donor nations for consulting services.

Unfortunately, this proves the inability of the US and NATO to bring Afghanistan back to normalcy and curb drug production in the country. It is certainly quite unpleasant to admit the fact. So, that must be the reason why some western news media are trying to put the blame on Russia, despite the fact that Russia heavily contributed to the coalition’s efforts in Afghanistan. Whether this is decent or not is for Voice of Russia listeners to judge.

17 May 2008

Viktor Yenikeyev



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