December 4th, 2009
09:48 AM ET

Russia wants U.S. surge on Afghan drugs

Some say the vast poppy fields are the real killers from Afghanistan. U.S. forces patrol some of them, but these days the fields are rarely destroyed - it's seen as counterproductive, driving farmers into the arms of the Taliban.

But to many, the carnage caused by the heroin from these crops - which has increased dramatically since the Taliban were overthrown - is far worse than any roadside bomb.

And one country feels it's bearing the brunt - Russia.

There, addiction to Afghan heroin has become epidemic – it's estimated to have between one and a half and 6 million addicts, mostly fuelled by a flood of narcotics from the Afghan war zone.

And it's deadly - medical officials say overdoses kill 80 people in Russia every day, and users are fuelling the spread of HIV.

Now Russian authorities are calling on the United States to use its new surge of forces in Afghanistan to tackle growing drug production there.

"In my opinion, international community and international forces, once they take on the responsibility of creating future for Afghanistan, must understand that without terminating its drug industry, it will be difficult to create a working, democratic society in Afghanistan," says Viktor Ivanov of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service.

Ivanov suggests the poppy fields be defoliated with herbicides. U.S. officials say they've tried eradication, but that targeting drug labs and encouraging farmers to grow alternative crops is more effective.

The burgeoning Afghan drug trade has fuelled even more serious tensions between Moscow and Washington, with Russia accusing the United States and its NATO allies of doing "next to nothing" in Afghanistan to curb it.  With significantly more troops on the ground, Russian officials say they hope the U.S. will soon start making a difference.

For the moment, Russia is struggling to stem the flow of drugs through its southern borders - destroying what heroin is seized. But officials say the drug routes through Central Asia are too vast to secure, and that it's the source of the heroin - in Afghanistan - that has to be destroyed.

MORE: CNN's Diana Magnay talks to filmmaker Mehran Bozorgnia, who captured dramatic footage of the Afghan heroin trade.

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