Russia and NATO will try to work out a joint position on fighting drug trafficking in Afghanistan during a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council at the ambassador level, which will take place in Brussels on March 24, Russia's special envoy to NATO has said.
Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with RIA Novosti fighting the Afghan drug mafia was a major task for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force operating in the war-ravaged Central Asian country, adding it was same important as "fighting terrorists, extremists."
However, the Russian diplomat said, "in real practice, we see that NATO troops view it [the fight against the drug mafia] as a secondary task", citing such measures as destroying opium fields should not be applied as they would force Afghan peasants, whose main incomes are derived from growing opium poppy, to join Taliban.
"We know that the U.S. carries out suppressive policy against the cocaine mafia in Colombia very actively, including by carrying out special operations in the territory of the foreign state, just by destroying these plantations," Rogozin said.
In Afghanistan, however, "they behave more liberal, probably, because this is not so much a problem for NATO, as for Afghanistan's neighbor states, where heroin flows," he said.
Rogozin added there has so far been no strong international cooperation in fighting "heroin aggression."
Afghan drug production increased dramatically after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in 2001, and Russia has been one of the most affected countries, with heroin consumption rising steeply.
According to official statistics, there are 30,000-40,000 drug-related deaths in Russia every year. Worldwide, more than 100,000 people died from Afghan heroin in 2009 according to UN estimates.
BRUSSELS, March 19 (RIA Novosti)