Coalition Helping Afghans Confront Narcotics Threat
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 17, 2005 Narcotics is one of the most significant challenges facing Afghanistan today, and the coalition is increasing its support to the Afghan government to counter this threat, according to Army Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, who heads Combined Forces Command Afghanistan.
"We have a fulltime counternarcotics intelligence cell that is now working in our headquarters helping to provide information on the structure of the various narcotics networks across the country," Barno told reporters during an April 16 press conference in Kabul.
In addition to intelligence support, coalition forces are also providing planning and airlift support to help Afghan interdiction forces strike targets throughout the country, the general said.
The coalition is providing emergency medical evacuation and reinforcing capabilities to help Afghan interdiction forces as they target labs and bazaars where stockpiles of narcotics are being assembled, Barno said.
"Finally," he said, "we here in the coalition have begun a dialog to enhance regional security in this part of the world, recognizing that the threats of narcotics, terrorism, (and) border security are all transnational issues (that) require us to be engaged with the different nations' military and security forces throughout this region."
Barno said he discussed border security and narcotics issues with officials in Tajikistan while there April 15 and will travel to Pakistan this week for similar discussions.
The coalition remains committed to helping Afghanistan become "a safe place in the world" that offers no refuge to narcotics traffickers or terrorists and is able to continue its progress toward democracy, he said.
Last year "was a significant turning point in the country's history as (it) moved from a period of warfare and violence to a period of great political growth," Barno said. "There are great successes to be proud of here over the last year plus, but there also many new and emerging and changing challenges that we face in the future."