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Afghanistan produces 75% of the world's heroine. Smuggling is big business in the region. In part, because of a greater drug enforcement effort in Iran and Pakistan, more of the heroin now goes north through the desperately poor Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. In Central Asia, authorities assert that drugs are supplied and smuggled by the same Islamic extremists groups that have been targeted by the US in the war against terrorism. Experts in the region assert that fighting terrorism without fighting drugs is a lost war. Terrorism, organized crime and the illegal drug trade are one inter-related problem, since terrorist groups and drugs are exported from the same source. Sharing a porous, mountainous border with Afghanistan, Tajikistan is an easy target in the drug trade. Four years ago, the country came out of a ravaging civil war. The heroine that travels through Tajikistan on it way to Russian and European markets takes a devastating toll on the local population. The heroine trade is releasing a local epidemic of corruption, addiction, crime and Aids. For many Tajiks, narcotics are their only steady source of income. UN estimates that nearly a third of Tajikistan's GDP come from the heroin industry. For carrying a load of heroin or raw opium to the capital from the Afghan border, typically a 600-kilometer drive, border residents can earn $10 or more. A fair amount of money in a country where 65 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and the average per capita income is $3 per month. Officers on the Tajikistan Drug Control Agency are on the UN payroll and better trained and equipped than neighboring local police. In the week ending December 6th, the agency posted 23 drug busts. In the first 9 months of 2001, 7000 kilos of heroine and opium were seized in Tajikistan. In the months following September 11th, the quantity of drugs exported by Afghanistan via Tajikistan has remained constant. The only significant difference is the in (KEYSTONE/NOOR/© francesco zizola)
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