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Afghan lawmakers ask Russia for help ahead of US exit

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow: A group of Afghan lawmakers has urged Russia and other countries to step up efforts to maintain stability and tackle drug production in the war-torn country, warning of disaster after the US troops pullout by the end of 2014.

“Drug production is a very big threat to the entire international community, and it’s a shame for us,” Ishaq Gilani, a lawmaker from Afghanistan’s southeastern Paktia province, said in Moscow following a meeting with Russian lawmakers earlier this week.

The Afghan government, he said, “does not have an opportunity” to defeat drug trafficking on its own.

“We ask Russia and other countries to provide economic aid to help fight this evil,” he said.

Nadir Khan Katawazai, a lawmaker from the southeastern Afghan province of Paktika, where the level of opium poppy cultivation is among the highest in the country, suggested that the Russian authorities “take at least one province” where opium poppy is being cultivated “under their protection.”

“I believe such an experiment would be very effective,” he said.

Up to 80 tonnes of heroin – some 20 percent of the world’s consumption – flow into Russia from Afghanistan every year via former Soviet Central Asian republics, according to UN estimates.

The cultivation of opium poppy, from which heroin is made, is a major source of income for many Afghan peasants, as well as for Taliban guerillas.