US says committed to reducing Afghan drugs flow
WASHINGTON (PAN): The US on Monday said it was committed to fighting drug trafficking in Afghanistan and reducing their flow outside as a latest UN report warned opium cultivation has been increasing for a third year in a row in the war-torn country.
“The US government is committed to working closely with the Afghan government, regional partners, and the international community to reduce the flow of Afghan narcotics,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters in Washington.
The UN report released on Monday said Afghan opium production was heading for a record high this year, while showing boom in poppy cultivation in southern Afghanistan.
The US said durable reductions in poppy cultivation derived from comprehensive efforts to lift rural incomes and provide licit alternatives. "So the UN study was an early warning tool for the Afghan government and international donors,” Ventrell said.
The UN report suggested little success of whatever international efforts had been made to wean local farmers off the crop. "As we have predicted, opium will go up for a third year in a row," said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan, which prepared the report along with the Afghan Counter-narcotics Ministry. "We are looking at a record high cultivation."
Ventrell said in the light of the UN report the US was actively working with the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics, provincial governors, and other donors to deploy resources, including crop eradication, crop reduction incentives, and public information campaigns.
“We are the largest donor of counter-narcotics assistance to Afghanistan, and our work in this area will continue. But we are obviously looking at the results of this study,” Ventrell said in response to a question.
The United States, he said, has long been concerned that the Afghan narcotics trade, including the planting and harvesting of opium poppy crops, is a key source of funding to the Taliban. “That has been one of our deep concerns,” he said.
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