The Afghan government has made progress in the last year in fighting drugs trafficking and cultivation, although the "gains remain fragile," a US State Department report said Thursday.
"The overall counternarcotics effort this year was positive" in Afghanistan, which grows about 90 percent of the world's opium, according to the March 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy report.
It said the government has shown signs of greater "political will" and improved institutions to fight the scourge, while "eradication efforts increased significantly" in key provinces.
It said "there was demonstrable success" in encouraging farmers to stop growing opium poppies and plant other crops in Helmand province, which accounts for around half of Afghanistan's poppy.
The report, which is published annually, attributed much of the success to increased security and to "an impressive display of political will" by the governor of Helmand province.
"These gains remain fragile, however, as cultivation and trafficking levels are closely connected to broader economic opportunity, security," and the government's "ability to project the rule of law," it said.
It said the counter-narcotics burden will increasingly fall on the Afghan soldiers and police that will replace US and NATO forces, which are due to be largely withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.
The report called for "continued robust international assistance" to the Afghan government to ensure key ministries can fight illegal drug cultivation and trafficking.
The Afghan government's "willingness to pursue politically-connected major traffickers and cultivators is also crucial to Afghanistan?s future narcotics control efforts," the report said.
The report signalled the improvement even as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan had increased seven percent, and opium production had increased 61 percent from 2010 to 2011.
The US government, however, said poppy cultivation had dropped by three percent during the same period, while potential opium production rose by 38 percent.
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