Russian Drug Tsar Criticizes US Afghan Strategy

By Zac Curtis 11/22/11

Cracks are showing in joint Russian-American efforts to stem the flow of heroin leaving Afghanistan.

Afghan poppy fields are concentrated in the
more lawless South and East.
Photo via

The director of Russia’s Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics, Viktor Ivanov, has described America’s change of drug war strategy in Afghanistan as "unsatisfactory"—agreeing with the assessment of US Senators Dianne Feinstein and Charles Grassley, among others. In 2009, the US began to phase out its poppy eradication efforts, targeting resources instead toward the drug labs that convert poppy into heroin, the transporters who move the product, and the drug lords who oversee this illegal economy. Russian officials have called the change a "mistake." Joint Russian-American forces seized a ton of Afghan heroin in October 2010, and four more joint raids took place, but efforts have waned this year. "We think the most efficient and effective measure is to destroy the product, the drug plantations and the drug laboratories," says Ivanov. Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose 7% to 1,300 Km2 this year, according to the UN. Ivanov proposes the creation of a digital map to identify poppy plantations, showing where eradication is working—and where it isn't. Russia is the world’s leading per-capita consumer of heroin and Afghanistan is the top opium producer; 25% of Afghanistan's opium crosses into former Soviet states. The USSR left Afghanistan in 1989 after nine years of occupation, while US forces have been there since October 2001. President Obama has pledged to return the responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014.

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