For IMMEDIATE Release
August 9, 2007
Lynne Weil/Melissa Silverman (Lantos) 202-225-5021
Sam Stratman/Lee Cohen (Ros-Lehtinen) 202-226-7875
(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the Chairman and Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commented on the revised counter-narcotics strategy for Afghanistan announced today. An estimated 93 percent of the world’s opium is now produced in Afghanistan, much of it refined into heroin and sent to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The heroin trade is a major source of funding for the Taliban and other terrorists operating in Afghanistan. In June, the House approved H.R. 2446, the Afghanistan Freedom Security Support Act authored by Lantos and Ros-Lehtinen, which requires the appointment of a high-level inter-departmental coordinator to develop and implement a comprehensive action plan to curb the drug trade in Afghanistan.
The joint statement of Lantos and Ros-Lehtinen:
Today’s announcement represents a welcomed recognition of the need for a comprehensive long-term strategy to fight the growing cancer of opium and heroin production in Afghanistan. We welcome greater use of financial incentives to deter poppy production and appropriate penalties for those who continue to engage in illicit drug trafficking. Improving coordination of the anti-planting message, particularly with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, is also a welcome step.
What the plan lacks is the recognition that Afghanistan is approaching a crisis point, and that immediate action is required to eliminate the threat of drug kingpins and cartels allied with terrorists so we can reverse the country’s steady slide into a potential failed narco-state.
In June, the House overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation that requires the appointment of a coordinator for Afghanistan and paves the way for greater assistance for counter-narcotics programs by the U.S. and our allies including the elite Colombian National Police anti-drug unit.
We urge the Senate to adopt legislation that will put in place an effective counter-narcotics strategy in Afghanistan.