Russian official faults US on Afghan heroin labs

AP News
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Posted: Oct 23, 2010 9:01 AM
Russian official faults US on Afghan heroin labs

The head of Russia's federal drug control agency says the U.S. has failed to dismantle heroin-processing laboratories in Afghanistan despite specific information he has given American officials about the facilities.

"For some reason they are unable to carry out any operations to destroy these laboratories, because there is a delay from the military side," Victor Ivanov told The Associated Press through an interpreter in an interview this past week.

Ivanov, who was in Washington for a meeting of a commission on drugs set up by the U.S. and Russian presidents to improve cooperation, says that months ago he provided U.S. officials in Kabul with the coordinates of 175 laboratories where heroin is processed.

He says U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials there have told him they are awaiting U.S. military approval to take down the labs.

The DEA declined to comment beyond saying it does not confirm or deny information shared by other nations.

Russia long has complained that the U.S. and NATO refusal to put in place poppy eradication programs in Afghanistan is contributing to a flood of Afghan heroin into Russia. U.S. officials have argued that destruction of poppy fields would drive Afghan farmers into the arms of the Taliban.

Russia claims that drug production in Afghanistan has increased exponentially since the U.S.-led invasion that overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. It says smugglers freely transport Afghan heroin and opium north into Central Asia and Russia and onward to Western Europe.

Ivanov has said that Russia alone has 2 million opium and heroin addicts.

NATO has urged Moscow to contribute to the war effort in Afghanistan by training more counternarcotics agents and providing helicopters to the Afghan government's air force.

Ivanov said he also has suggested going after the major landlords in Afghanistan's poppy-growing region by submitting their names to the United Nations for sanctions.

"It wouldn't be difficult to trace them," he said.

Ivanov said he discussed the issue with U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke and other officials on Thursday, then left frustrated that they provided no evidence that poppy eradication would strengthen the Taliban.

"It sounded not like constructive discussion but a manifestation of stubbornness," he said. "I cannot say they are not listening. They are listening very carefully and attentively. But unfortunately, there are no results."