Germany is doing too little to fight drugs in Afghanistan. At least that’s what the country’s counter-narcotics minister thinks. General Khodaidad wants more money and support from German troops to shut down drug labs and get rid of convoys.
Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of opium
At first, the minister was full of praise for the German soldiers in Afghanistan. They are generally doing a wonderful job, he said, but there was one sore point -- counter-narcotics.
“We need and expect more support from the European countries,” he said, adding that the fight against drugs should not be left to Afghanistan alone. The heroin made with Afghan poppies was landing directly on the streets of Europe, he pointed out.
Furthermore, poppies and opium are directly linked to terrorism which puts everybody in Afghanistan in danger, including foreign troops, he explained.
“The poppy is fuelling the terrorists. The illegal money is for the terrorists’ arms, ammunition for killing the innocent soldiers, innocent people, elderly people of Afghanistan and for burning the schools and poisoning girls going to school..“
Germany’s non-action for fear of making things worse
So far, Germany’s principle of leaving the fight against drugs to Afghanistan was not helping matters at all, he added.
The justification behind the non-action of German troops, whose tanks usually roll past poppy fields without harming one plant, is that troops will be less endangered if criminals, drugs barons and smugglers are not angered into wanting to hit back.
But Khodaidad said this was short-term thinking and explained that the same networks were working hand-in-hand. “German soldiers, German PRTs (Provincial Reconstruction Teams) and NATO forces must target that area. They should not avoid this task. They must work with the government of Afghanistan to destroy the labs and eliminate the convoys of the drug dealers.”
World’s leading producer of opium
Afghanistan is the world’s most important producer of opium, which in turn is used to make heroin. There are more drugs coming out of Helmand Province alone than out of the whole of Colombia.
The minister has a map of Afghanistan in his office. Most drug production goes on in the unsecure southern parts of the country and this is where the most work needs to be done.
Despite his disappointment in Germany’s non-action, the minister is upbeat, saying that there has been progress and there are more and more drug-free provinces in Afghanistan.
“For the last five or six years, we have had tremendous successes. From three provinces in 2005, to 18 now and another three or four that are starting. It means that the counter-narcotics strategy and tactics are going in the right direction.”
However, for counter-narcotics to stay in this direction, a great deal of money is needed. Farmers are compensated if they decide not to cultivate poppy. Each drug-free province in Afghanistan gets a reward of one million US dollars.