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May 27, 2017

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Russia urges NATO to fight Afghan drug trade

SINGAPORE -- Russia urged NATO forces in Afghanistan on Sunday to crack down harder on drug production and smuggling, and offered to help put a security ring around the country.

The international community should classify Afghan drugs as a threat to peace and security because they have become an important source of funds for the Taliban and other insurgent groups, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said in a speech.

Insurgents and international mafia groups are earning billions of dollars "from smuggling the drugs — which we call 'white death' — to Europe, Asia and America," Ivanov told an Asia-Pacific security summit hosted by the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies think tank.

Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world's opium, the main ingredient of heroin, and is also the leading global supplier of hashish. According to the United Nations, the Taliban earn about US$300 million a year from the opium trade.

"We are not happy with what the world community is doing in the anti-drug war" in Afghanistan, Ivanov said. He said the international community, especially "those who took responsibility for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan," should make a strong commitment to fight the threat.

Russia is ready to "make several counter-drugs rings around Afghanistan to intercept drugs," he said, without elaborating.

The United States says it carrying on a major war against drugs in Afghanistan. Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the commanding general in charge of U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, said recently that U.S. forces dealt a blow to the Taliban's opium business by securing deals with poppy farmers to plant legal crops.

During the spring harvest, more than 17,300 acres (7,000 hectares) of poppies were swapped for legal crops around the farming community of Marjah, according to the Marine Corps.

Last year, opium seizures in Afghanistan soared 924 percent because of better cooperation between Afghan and international forces.

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