Britain doubles funding to Afghan anti-drugs effort
* Jack Straw says narcotics drove Afghanistan’s drug economy
KABUL: Britain, leading an international drive to counter Afghanistan’s massive narcotics’ output, said on Wednesday it was doubling its funding to the effort to $100 million and launching a fund to raise another $300 million.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made the announcement after Afghan President Hamid Kazai said he was launching a comprehensive anti-narcotics plan for 2005/06 next month endorsed by Afghanistan’s foreign backers.
Straw said after talks with Karzai in Kabul that narcotics blighted the lives of too many people in Britain and Western Europe and drove Afghanistan’s drug economy. “This a joint problem, but also a joint responsibility,” he said, while hailing the targets of the anti-narcotics plan as “comprehensive and realistic”.
“As a testament of our national commitment to this plan I can now announce that we are increasing our contribution to counter narcotics efforts by 100 percent from 50 million to 100 million,” he said.
Straw said Britain was also launching an international trust fund with the aim of raising a further $300 million in the coming financial year by encouraging smaller countries to contribute.
He said $50 million, or half of the British contribution for the financial year from the April 1, would go to providing alternative livelihoods for opium farmers.
Straw said that while eradication and better law enforcement were essential, “unless you are able to provide poor farmers with alternative livelihoods, they will fall back on poppy cultivation if the only alternative is poverty”.
Karzai said Afghanistan’s drug problem was the result of 30 years of war and neglect by the international community, but there was no excuse for growing poppies.
“It has to go away. It is against Afghanistan,” he said.
“It is against our economy and I hope very much that now the eradication has begun, the international community will fully stand with Afghanistan in alternative livelihoods, in completely removing narco economics from this country.”
Britain has been a key ally of Karzai’s government since US-led forces overthrew the Taliban regime in late 2001 and is the lead nation in an international effort to cut a massive surge in opium and heroin production since then.
Afghanistan is again the world’s leading producer of opium and its derivative heroin and the United Nations has said drug exports, much of which end up in Europe, now account for more than 60 percent of the economy.
Diplomats and aid workers have reported a marked drop in poppy planting this year but say this may be due to producers hoarding stocks until prices recover following a glut. reuters