Britain has failed in Afghan drugs war - papers

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KABUL, Oct 22 (Reuters) Britain, in charge of efforts in Afghanistan to stamp out narcotics, has not only failed to reduce drug production but has been unable to stop an increase in production, Afghan newspapers said today.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is on a four-day state visit to Britain.

Afghanistan produced 93 per cent of the world's opium in 2007 and the industry also funds a growing Taliban insurgency, which British and other Western troops are struggling to contain.

Karzai, whose writ does not extend much beyond major cities, is under growing pressure to tackle narcotics, but several Afghan papers, including a state-controlled daily, said Britain was responsible for the failure to stop drugs.

''Britain leads international efforts against drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan. There has been large investment by this country for the annihilation and destruction of drugs,'' Daily Afghanistan said in an editorial.

''But unfortunately ... not only has there has been no reduction, but it has gone up year after year,'' it said.

Afghanistan's allies and major aid donors have taken on responsibility for different sectors since US-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

Britain is overseeing efforts against drugs although the United States also directs a lot of its help to efforts to eradicate opium, the raw material for heroin.

Official corruption and terrorism were closely linked to drugs, the newspaper said, adding that the failure to address the problems had pushed Afghanistan to the brink of a ''political and social crisis''.

The government newspaper, the daily Anis, said Afghanistan and neighbouring countries had turned into ''permanent nests of international terrorists'' and drugs, which had an impact on all countries.

The newspaper called for a revision of the overall coordination between the Afghan government, aid-donor countries and foreign forces.

It also called for the merger of the 50,000 Western troops in Afghanistan under one command.

The US military leads one force fighting militants while a separate NATO-led force operates under a different mandate.

Anis said foreign militaries and civilians worked more in the interests of their respective countries than for the long-term interests of the Afghan people.

REUTERS SG BD1504

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