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August 24 2003


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Headline: US cannot curb opium output: Rumsfeld on Afghan situation -- Detail Story

WASHINGTON, Aug 15: US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said that opium production in Afghanistan has gone up since the fall of the Taliban regime and he does not know how to curb it.

Talking to US servicemen and women at a town hall meeting in Washington on Thursday, Mr Rumsfeld said the opium production was "currently up from three years ago or so."

"And you ask what we're going to do, and the answer is, I don't really know. I think it's an awfully tough problem," said the defence secretary while responding to a soldier. Mr Rumsfeld said the Afghan heroin was a bigger problem for Europe and Russia rather than the US because it's mainly smuggled to the European nations.

He said Britain has taken the lead in trying to curb the production of opium, which is used for making heroin, in Afghanistan because "they have had the greatest concern about it. The United States has offered to help the UK."

Mr Rumsfeld said he knew that the Karzai government, the US and the other coalition partners were concerned about the problem and had tried various eradication methods. They even have tried to buy crops "and to buy people out from planting crops. And what they find is that the value is high," he added.

"I wish I had a quicker, better, easier answer, because it's a vicious problem," he said.

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