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U.S. Supporting Afghan Counterdrug Efforts

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2004 – The United States is backing Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai's efforts to eradicate the production of narcotics in that country, a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan spokesman said today.

Karzai has made stopping illegal-drug production a top priority for the Afghan government. And U.S. officials today announced a major assistance program to support counternarcotics operations in Afghanistan.

During a news conference in the Afghan capital of Kabul, a military spokesman said the United States is devoting $780 million to help the Afghan government increase public outreach, judicial reform, interdiction, alternative livelihoods, and eradication.

"President Karzai's counternarcotics initiatives will go a long way in growing a legitimate economy to sustain the country and will, ultimately, lead to prosperity for all people," the spokesman said. "The United States government and coalition forces stand ready to support the government of Afghanistan in this effort in concrete ways."

Those efforts include sharing intelligence; providing logistics support, to include helicopter-lift support to transport counternarcotics forces to and from operations; and supporting counternarcotics forces on the ground, the spokesman said.

Though they are not directly involved in ridding the country of narcotics, coalition forces are assisting counternarcotics efforts in other ways, the spokesman said.

"Coalition forces have not been and are not involved in any poppy-eradication efforts," the spokesman said, but added, "If coalition forces do come across processed narcotics during the course of routine operations, we are permitted to confiscate narcotics and turn them over to the appropriate authorities for destruction."

Over the past week, coalition forces have discovered narcotics at an increasing pace, the spokesman said.

Coalition forces in Afghanistan reported that during searches of three different weapons caches, 54 kilograms of opium were found; two separate caches in Uruzgan contained 39 kilograms, and another 15 kilograms were discovered in the Kunar province.

Also, three Afghan citizens were arrested for possession of narcotics after an exchange of fire between coalition forces and anti-coalition militia in Uruzgan province.

The spokesman said the coalition agrees that reversing the increase in poppy cultivation and drug production is an "important step" as part of the overall process to continue the progress of peace and stability in Afghanistan.

He also said the U.S.-led coalition will continue to provide support as long as it does not interfere with the primary missions of defeating terrorists and facilitating reconstruction and development of the country.

In other news from Afghanistan, coalition officials there reported that the continued increase in size and capabilities of Afghan security forces has led to the need for additional facilities.

The coalition is getting contract support from Western and Afghan agencies as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build new base camps in Gardez, Mazar-e Sharif, Kandahar, and Heart for Afghan National Army forces.

"These camps will be able to accommodate more than 4,000 soldiers with the ability to expand in the future," the spokesman said. "These efforts are yet more affirmation of the United States' commitment to assisting the Afghan government and the people of Afghanistan build a more secure and prosperous future."

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