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Drug Trade Remains A Contentious Issue For ISAF, Afghan Government

Even as new figures point to gains in the battle against Afghanistan's drug problem, the issue remains deeply contentious for the government in Kabul and NATO-led forces.

Citing UN data, Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials say fresh figures will show the drugs trade shrinking by 19 percent in terms of area cultivated and 6 percent in terms of crop yields.

No one, however, is willing to assume ultimate responsibility or to say whether Afghanistan has turned a corner. It remains unclear how much of the decline in opium poppies is a result of government action and how much is owed to weather conditions like drought or cold.

Afghan officials tend to emphasize the constraints under which they operate. The country's counternarcotics minister, Colonel General Khodaidad, complains that the drug trade is an "international problem" fueled by Western demand and that the Afghan government has insufficient resources at its disposal.

"We do not have [any] budget in Afghanistan to [fight] the narcotics [industry]," Khodaidad says. "It all belongs to the international community...[not] to me [or] to the Afghan government."

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RFE/RL correspondent Ahto Lobjakas gathered information for this report during a recent, NATO-hosted visit to Afghanistan with a small group of journalists.

Drug Trade Remains A Contentious Issue For ISAF, Afghan Government

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