The US has called on its Nato allies meeting in Budapest to provide the mandate for an attack on Afghanistan’s drug trade. Washington claims the Taliban’s trafficking networks bring in almost 60 million euros a year – helping finance a worsening insurgency. However, several Nato members say the move could be counter-productive, increasing violence in the country and turning ordinary Afghans against the foreign forces.
But, US defence secretary Robert Gates said the plan would reduce long-term violence. ‘‘I don’t think anybody in the alliance is interested in eradicating crops or doing things that would involve individual farmers, but if we have the opportunity to go after drug lords and drug laboratories and try and interrupt this flow of cash to the Taliban, this seems to me like a legitimate security endeavour,’‘ said Gates.
Defence ministers are struggling to increase spending on the conflict and boost troop levels – particularly in light of the global credit crunch. The alliance is also seeking to plug shortfalls in military equipment, especially helicopters. The war with the Taliban has become increasingly violent in the last two years, despite a big increase in the Nato led mission.