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U.S. vows to help Afghanistan with narcotics problem

  |   Jan. 16, 2014 at 11:43 AM
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. efforts in Afghanistan beyond 2014 will work to ensure the country has an effective counter-narcotics policy, a U.S. drug official said.

Combat obligations for U.S. military forces and their NATO allies end this year in Afghanistan. William Brownfield, assistant secretary for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told Senate leaders that didn't mean the end of the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan.

"We will continue to ensure our counter-narcotics programs are well integrated with broader U.S. efforts, including assistance programs aimed at supporting a vibrant legal economy," he testified Wednesday.

Brownfield said Afghanistan produces more than 80 percent of the world's opium, which he said is help fund an insurgency waged by the Afghan Taliban.

"Equally worrisome is the impact of the narcotics trade on Afghanistan's democratic institutions and human development, which the United States has supported through heavy investment," he said.

John Sopko, U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told the Senate panel he was concerned about the country's post-2014 prospects.

He testified Wednesday the gains made in women's rights issues, the rule of law and other sectors in Afghanistan are at risk from the narcotics trade.

"The expanding cultivation and trafficking of drugs is one of the most significant factors putting the entire U.S. and international donor investment in the reconstruction of Afghanistan at risk," he said.

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