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Afghan Democracy Could Be 'Taken Down' By Drugs --> A burqa-clad woman passes through poppy fields near Jalalabad (epa) September 2, 2006 -- A senior U.S. counternarcotics official says the illicit trade in opium and heroin threatens to destroy Afghanistan's fledgling democracy.

Doug Wankel, director of the U.S. counternarcotics task force in Afghanistan, says the country could be "taken down" by its drugs problem and evolve from its current narco-economy into a narco-state.

His comments come ahead of new UN opium crop data expected to show a massive increase in cultivation this year.

In other news, three people were wounded in eastern Afghanistan on September 2 when a car bomb exploded near a coalition convoy.

The wounded were a foreign soldier, an Afghan soldier, and an Afghan interpreter. The nationality of the coalition soldier was not released.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Kabul could not confirm local police reports that the attack, in the Bati Kot district of Nangahar Province, had been carried out by a suicide bomber.

In another incident, NATO says one British soldier was killed and another seriously wounded in fighting in southern Afghanistan on September 1. The statement said militants attacked British soldiers in Helmand Province, where Britain has deployed nearly 4,000 troops as part of efforts to prevent the Taliban from reasserting its presence in Afghanistan.

In the southwestern province of Nimroz, four Afghan police officers and three suspected Taliban militants were killed on September 1 when militants ambushed a convoy. A district police chief was among those killed.

(compiled from agency reports)

Opium In Afghanistan
An antidrug billboard in Kabul shows a skeleton hanging from an opium bulb (AFP)

OPIUM FARMING ON THE RISE Despite a nationwide program by the Afghan government to eradicate opium-poppy fields and offer farmers alternative crops, international experts say that the 2006 opium crop will be as much as 40 percent larger than the previous year's. Afghanistan is the largest producer of opium in the world, and the source of as much as 90 percent of Europe's heroin.(more)


Narcotics Supply Reduced, But Afghanistan Still Suffering

Saffron Could Help Wean Farmers Off Opium Poppies

Poppy-Eradication Drive Launched In Western Province

Insurgency Gains Ground As Poppy-Eradication Efforts Struggle

UN Drug Agency Promotes 'Alternative Development' For Curbing Poppy Cultivation


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