NATO strikes deal for tougher Afghan drug action

Fri Oct 10, 2008 7:57am EDT
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By David Brunnstrom and Kristin Roberts

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - NATO allies reached a deal on Friday to allow direct attacks on the Afghan drugs trade that the United States says are vital to bringing security to the country in the face of a worsening Taliban insurgency.

NATO operations commander Gen. John Craddock has asked for the alliance force in Afghanistan to be allowed to attack laboratories, trafficking networks and drug lords to stem a trade that helps fund the Taliban insurgency.

A NATO spokesman said NATO defense ministers reached an agreement that tougher action by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) could be taken based on requests by the Afghan government and U.N. Security Council resolutions under the alliance's current operations plan.

"ISAF can act in concert with the Afghans against facilities and facilitators supporting the insurgency subject to the authorization of respective nations," James Appathurai said after discussions among the ministers in Budapest.

Germany and some other NATO states including Spain, have been wary of extending the role of the NATO mission. Berlin is concerned it could worsen the violence and increase the risk to its forces, which although stationed in the quieter north patrol trafficking routes out of Afghanistan.

At the Budapest meeting, Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak fully backed Craddock's call for more robust NATO action.

Proponents say the plan is essential if NATO is to reduce violence. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday the drugs trade brought the Taliban $60-$80 million a year.


<p>Men destroy opium poppies during a poppy eradication campaign in the eastern province of Ningarhar, Afghanistan, April 9, 2007. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood</p>