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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 13:28 GMT
Aid or heroin, Afghanistan warns
Heroin manufacturer
The narco-mafia state will have the lowest indirect price tag... But it will have the highest indirect costs
Ghani Ahmadzai
Afghan Finance Minister
Afghanistan will slip back into its role as the world's premier heroin producer unless the international community hands over promised aid, the ravaged country has warned.

On Friday in Kabul, the Afghan capital, Finance Minister Ghani Ahmadzai unveiled a $2.25bn budget, of which $1.7bn was set aside to rebuild infrastructure flattened by 15 years of conflict.

But more than $1bn still has to be pledged by the countries which previously promised to support the country's rebuilding after the US-led invasion in 2001 to drive out the former Taleban government.

Without that, and money to fill the $234m gap in the $550m cost of normal government business, donors will not only cripple the country's recovery but face a resurgent drug trade at home as well, Mr Ahmadzai warned.

"We will focus on reforms," he told a donor conference in Brussels on Monday, "but we need your assistance in providing predictable finance.

"The narco-mafia state will have the lowest indirect price tag... But it will have the highest indirect costs."

Unconventional weapons

The Taleban government which took power in most of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s stamped down hard on the country's long-established heroin trade.

A US helicopter launches anti-missile flares as it comes in to land in Kabul
Kabul is still a dangerous place 16 months on from the US invasion
But with precious few other ways for Afghan farmers to make money, many of them are returning to poppy cultivation.

The Afghan government's warning of dire consequences should the rebuilding grind to a halt should figure largely in the West's strategic calculations, said Dan Plesch, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

"Shipping tonnes of heroin at Europe and the US might well be described as a form of asymmetric warfare," he told BBC News Online, using the term often applied to the use of suicide bombs and similar tactics by groups faced with apparently all-powerful military foes.

As the focus of the so-called "War on Terror" has shifted to Iraq from Afghanistan, he said, it has also switched back from looking at the nuances of non-traditional weapons to old-fashioned guns-and-bombs warfare.

"There's a concentration on high-tech armoury, and a refusal to understand the social and economic warfare that is being waged," he said.

The ongoing campaign by US and local forces against the Taleban and al-Qaeda "remnants" was getting bogged down, he warned.

Short attention span

Mr Ahmadzai's warning has particular resonance, coming just a few hours before the deadline imposed on the UN Security Council by the US, UK and Spain to back their plans to attack Iraq.

Aid agencies and former soldiers have expressed concern that the planning for what to do once the war is over is dangerously incomplete.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government, officials say, is afraid that it will be forgotten in the rush by US and other Western companies to do business with a post-Saddam Iraqi regime.

Much of the country remains in the hands of warlords who pay lip service to their alliance with the US and the government in Kabul, while running their territory effectively as a feudal fiefdom.

Afghan concern over aid
17 Mar 03 |  South Asia
Afghans seek huge aid increase
13 Mar 03 |  South Asia
Afghanistan retakes heroin crown
03 Mar 03 |  Business
Country profile: Afghanistan
28 Feb 03 |  Country profiles

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