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U.S. Report Warns of Afghan Drug State

By Arshad Mohammed
Saturday, March 5, 2005; Page A14

Heroin production in Afghanistan represents "an enormous threat to world stability," and the country is "on the verge of becoming a narcotics state," the State Department said in a report released yesterday.

Despite steps by the Afghan government and foreign donors, the U.S. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report said that the Afghan "narcotics situation continues to worsen" more than three years after U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government.

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The report said Colombia has made "impressive progress" against the drug trade but remains a major producer, and that traffickers continue to move drugs through Peru -- the second-largest cocaine producer, after Colombia.

The most dramatic conclusions in the report, an annual survey of the world drug trade, were about Afghanistan, where it praised President Hamid Karzai's efforts but said Afghan poppy cultivation more than tripled last year. "Afghanistan's illicit opium/heroin production can be viewed, for all practical purposes, as the rough equivalent of world illicit heroin production, and it represents an enormous threat to world stability," it said.

The area devoted to poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose to 510,756 acres last year from 150,731 acres in 2003. Citing International Monetary Fund estimates that drugs account for 40 percent to 60 percent of the Afghan economy, the report added: "Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a narcotics state."

The report said Afghan political conditions improved last year, but "criminal financiers and narcotics traffickers in and outside of Afghanistan take advantage of the ongoing instability."

The report provides the backdrop against which the U.S. government in September will decide which countries belong on the U.S. list of "major" drug-trafficking and drug-producing states.

The Bush administration will also then decide which nations "failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts" during the previous year to respect international agreements and U.S. legal requirements on counter-narcotics, leaving them vulnerable to losing some U.S. aid.

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