U.S. faults friends, foes in
March 1, 2007,
WASHINGTON - The United
States said Thursday that top anti-terror allies
Colombia had fallen short in the war on drugs despite
enhanced counter-narcotics efforts and it criticized
perennial foes, Iran,
North Korea and Venezuela for
The State Department also
noted backsliding in some key Latin American nations like
Bolivia and Peru while it praised improved performances by
traditional transshipment countries in Asia, notably China
and Thailand, but slammed neighboring Myanmar for illicit
In its annual global survey
of the drug war, the department said massive opium poppy
production in Afghanistan, long the world's top producer of
the main ingredient for heroin, continued to pose a major
threat due to its links with groups such as the Taliban.
"Afghanistan's huge drug
trade undercuts efforts to rebuild the economy and develop a
strong democratic government based on the rule of law," the
department said in the 2007 International Narcotic Control
"There is strong evidence
that narcotics trafficking is linked to the Taliban
insurgency. These links between drug traffickers and
anti-government forces threaten regional stability," the
It added that endemic
"corruption" and prevailing "dangerous security conditions"
were seriously hindering efforts to combat poppy production
that shot up 26 percent to 5,644 tons from 2005 to 2006 and
accounted for a third of Afghanistan's gross domestic
The report, released after
experts concluded the country's opium trade was worth more
than $3 billion in 2006, stressed, though that Afghan
President Hamid Karzai and his government remained committed
to reducing the harvest through cooperation, particularly
with the U.S. and Britain.
Across the border in Pakistan
exists a major transit point for opiates and hashish, where
Taliban and Al-Qaida operatives are also believed to
operate, the State Department said. It said it believed the
government there had launched several promising new
In addition to reducing its
opium production by 39 between 2001 and last year, Pakistani
authorities reported seizing 2.7 tons of heroin, 32.7 tons
of morphine base and eight tons of opium in 2006.
But the report raid rampant
corruption, especially by underpaid lower-level law
enforcement and local officials, had hurt Pakistan's efforts
and "is likely to be associated with the movement of large
quantities of narcotics and precursor chemicals."
Iran, a member of
President Bush's "axis of evil,"
is attempting to deal with a domestic drug consumption surge
but has yet to enact or enforce laws to decrease demand that
has resulted in what the report said "can only be called an
epidemic of opiate abuse."
It also noted indications
that domestic opium production is on the rise in the Islamic
In the Western Hemisphere,
Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia were identified once again
as major suppliers of illegal drugs, mainly cocaine, to the
U.S., Europe and Asia.
Ahead of Bush's trip to Latin
America next week that will include Colombia, only Bogota,
however, was singled out for positive efforts in the drug
war fight with the report pointing out that President Alvaro
Uribe's government is "completely committed to fighting the
production and trade in illicit drugs."
It pointed out that Colombia
has extradited 417 drug suspects to the U.S since 2002, 102
of them last year alone and that Colombian efforts, aided by
American funds, had led to significant increases in the
spraying and destruction of coca crops.
This was not the case in
either Venezuela and Bolivia, both of which are led by anti-U.S.
leftists, where the report said hostile governments had
either refused to cooperate or were lagging in the
Under President Hugo Chavez,
Venezuela was cited by the U.S. in both 2005 and 2006 as
having "failed demonstrably" to comply with its
international anti-drug commitments, a situation that
remains constant, the department said.
Because of this, it said,
"organized crime is flourishing and (drug) seizures and
arrests are limited to low-level actors."
The government of Bolivian
President Evo Morales, a backer and still the leader of a
major coca growers union who has campaigned for some legal
use of coca, also came in for criticism in the report for
failing to deal with increased production.
"This year (2006) represented
the lowest level of eradication in more than 10 years," it
In Asia, Myanmar, also known
as Burma, opium production continued to fall but its
military rulers still failed to meet international standards
and the nation remained the world's second-largest producer,
the report said.
Burmese rebel groups,
meanwhile, continued to be a major source of methamphetimine,
The report praised China and
Thailand, both of which border Myanmar and have been major
conduits for illegal drugs produced there, for their efforts
in stemming the trade.
Little data exists for North
Korea, another member of Bush's "axis of evil," but the
report said the State Department continues to believe that
the isolated Stalinist state is involved in numerous
criminal enterprises, including the narcotics trade.
"The department is of the
view, but not certain, that the North Korean government has
sponsored criminal activities in the past, including
narcotics production and trafficking," it said, while noting
no confirmed cases of this in 2006.