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Afghan insurgency threatens to derail US anti-drug program

Yahoo News, November 16, 2006

WASHINGTON (AFP) -

Afghanistan's worsening security situation threatens to derail a US anti-drug program, a congressional study said, predicting at least a decade to stem the scourge.

The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a US congressional watchdog agency, said "the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan threatens the success of the US counternarcotics goal of significantly reducing illicit drug cultivation, production, and trafficking."

There was "limited progress" in a US counternarcotics strategy devised for Afghanistan by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department, it said.

They received 532 million dollars in fiscal year 2005 funds and initiated a number of projects under the strategy, but the opium poppy crop in 2006 grew by over 50 percent, reaching a record amount, the GAO noted.

Afghanistan is the world's largest opium supplier, and the drug trade is reportedly fueling the insurgency that began weeks after the 2001 toppling of the Taliban-led government by a US-led invasion.

The insurgency peaked this year with NATO sending soldiers to quell the violence.

"The worsening security situation," particularly because of the insurgency led by the Taliban militia, "threatens to derail US efforts by slowing or stopping projects," GAO said.

Drug eradicators were attacked several times and alternative livelihood project personnel were killed, the report said.

"Given the difficulties of working in Afghanistan, sustainable progress toward the US counternarcotics goal will likely take a decade or more of committed US resources and efforts," it said.

The report said the pace of US anti-drug efforts was further slowed by the country's persistent developmental challenges, including inadequate access to roads and limited government institutions.