100 Afghan Drug Police Killed Last Year
By RAHIM FAIEZ
March 24, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Around 100 police officers on Afghanistan’s poppy eradication force were killed in the line of duty over the last year, an official said Monday.
Gen. Doud Doud, who heads the Interior Ministry’s counter-narcotics police, also said that about 90 percent of the country’s poppies are grown in dangerous regions where insurgents hold sway and the government has little reach.
“The main challenge for us is security,” Doud told a news conference.
Police poppy eradication teams — whose work brings them to remote and dangerous areas of the country — are often attacked by insurgents or farmers angered that their profitable crop is being destroyed, leading to the force’s high number of casualties.
The U.N. says that Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s illicit opium, the main ingredient in heroin. Tens of millions of dollars from the drug trade are believed to flow to Taliban fighters, who charge taxes on farmers and demand payment for safe passage through dangerous territory.
Farmers cultivated a record 477,000 acres of opium in 2007, a 14 percent increase over the previous year. Total production, spurred by unusually high rainfall, increased even further, by 34 percent, the U.N. has said.
About 820 people were arrested over the last year for drug trafficking by the counter-narcotics police force, Doud said.
He said a new battalion of Afghan army soldiers — approximately 800 troops — were about to graduate from training and would be assigned to work alongside eradication forces.
Last year, 13 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces were poppy-free. Doud said the government hopes to raise that number to 22 this year.
Many farmers in poppy-free provinces have started planting marijuana. Doud said some government leaders have promised to tackle the marijuana problem as well.