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Washington Times

Embassy Row: Kabul-Bogota front
By James Morrison

Published August 9, 2006

The Afghan ambassador is on a weeklong visit to Colombia to consult with the South American government on its efforts to help combat a narco-terrorist threat that has revived the illegal drug trade in his South Asian nation.

"I am pleased that our relations with Colombia are steadily growing," Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad said before leaving Washington on Monday.

Mr. Jawad, who is also Afghanistan's ambassador to Colombia, is holding meetings in Bogota with Foreign Minister Maria Consuelo Araujo, Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and Gen. Jorge Alirio Baron of the Counter-Narcotics Police on Colombia's successful efforts to encourage peasant farmers to grow alternative crops instead of the traditional cultivation of the poppy plant, the base ingredient of cocaine.

Colombia last month sent a contingent of four top police officers to the Afghan capital, Kabul, to advise on raiding the drug laboratories of Afghan warlords processing opium into heroin, collecting intelligence on the link between drug smugglers and terrorists, instructing Afghan authorities in the use of helicopters to mount anti-drug missions and preserving crime scenes to gather evidence for prosecution.

"We're grateful to the Colombia government for sending a technical delegation to Afghanistan to share their expertise with our National Interdiction Unit forces," Mr. Jawad said.

"We look forward to the continued exchange of bilateral relations in a common effort to fight and eliminate narcotics in Afghanistan and Colombia. In doing so, our two countries need increased international cooperation to combat this transnational threat of drugs to our security and to the security of everyone in the world."

The opium trade in Afghanistan has skyrocketed since 2001 when U.S.-led forces liberated the country from the grip of the brutal Taliban regime that sheltered Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network. The poppy crop expanded from 30,000 acres under the Taliban to 250,000 last year. That number, however, was down from the peak of 350,000 in 2004.

Colombia, once synonymous with narco-terrorism, has drastically cut the drug trade by 22 percent since 2000.

Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican and chairman of the House International Relations Committee, encouraged the cooperation between the two countries.

"If we don't defeat the drug commerce in Afghanistan, we might as well leave the country," he told Rowan Scarborough, Pentagon correspondent for The Washington Times, last month.

"The quantity of heroin that is exported is staggering, and [drug kingpins] can bring any culture to its knees if they get too prolific."

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.
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