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Afghan president condemns US-Russia drugs operation

Afghan President Hamid Karzai Saturday demanded an explanation from NATO’s command in Afghanistan for a drugs raid carried out by the United States and Russia without his government’s permission.

“No organisation or institution has the right to carry out such military operations inside the territory of our country without permission and agreement from the Islamic Government of Afghanistan,” a statement from his office said.

“Afghanistan condemns this act by NATO and announces that such unilateral operations are a clear violation of Afghan sovereignty as well as international law, and any repetition will be met by the required reaction from our side.”

The statement said Karzai had ordered an investigation by the ministries of defence and interior, to report back to him by Saturday night.

Moscow’s senior drugs control official said on Friday that Russia and the United States had destroyed four drug laboratories in their first joint anti-drug operation in Afghanistan.

The raid netted more than a tonne of heroin and morphine worth 250 million dollars, as well as equipment, Viktor Ivanov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

The report said Afghan interior ministry officials were involved in the operation.

Russia frequently criticises what it describes as the inadequate anti-drug policies of United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan, leading to an increased flow of drugs into Russia through Central Asia.

Ivanov travelled to Washington last week to discuss co-operation in fighting drug trafficking and accused the United States of failing to destroy heroin laboratories and crack down on poppy-growing landowners.

Russian drug control authorities have estimated that 30,000 Russians died in 2009 from using Afghan heroin, and that a million have died in the past decade.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen is due to visit Russia next week for talks on deepening Russian cooperation on Afghanistan, his spokesman said.

Rasmussen plans to meet President Dmitry Medvedev on November 5 to see if the two sides can “move forward” on a NATO request for Moscow to provide around 20 helicopters to Afghan forces, said spokesman James Appathurai.

Russia already assists in the training of counter-narcotics officials outside Moscow to combat the Afghan heroin trade.

“There will be work to see if we can enhance our cooperation in training counter-narcotics officials,” Appathurai added.

Afghanistan produces and supplies about 90 percent of the world’s opium in an industry estimated to be worth almost three billion dollars a year, which helps fund the Taliban-led insurgency.

Afghanistan produced an estimated 3,600 tonnes of opium this year, almost 50 percent of the 2009 output, the UN said in a recent report, but added that the value of the opium rose by 38 percent at the farm gate.

A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime put the value of opium output at five percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) this year, and said this was more than six times the value of the country’s wheat crop.

The Taliban, who have been waging war for almost nine years, are believed to get much of their funding from Afghanistan’s drug production.

Their presence in parts of the south — particularly the central Helmand valley where much of Afghanistan’s poppy is grown — is directly linked to cultivation and distribution of opium and heroin.