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Tony Jones talks to Afghan Govt spokesman Zul -

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Tony Jones talks to Afghan Govt spokesman Zulmay Azfali

Reporter: Tony Jones

Afghanistan Government spokeman Zulmay Azfali speaks with Tony Jones.


TONY JONES: Zulmay Azfali is a spokesman for the Afghan Government. I spoke to him in Kabul just a
short time ago.

Zulmay Azfali, thank you for joining us.


TONY JONES: How big is the area in Afghanistan that is now being used for opium cultivation?

ZULMAY AZFALI: Well, if you're talking about the opium cultivation, the opium cultivation is the
biggest threat to Afghanistan, it's not a biggest threat only to Afghanistan, it's a threat to the
international community. The question relates to how much big it is. I mean, it's 95 per cent of
opium from Afghanistan goes to different places all over the world. So the Government of
Afghanistan is trying, and we are a committed government and we are trying our best, trying to
remove this dangerous phenomenon from our region, but at the same time, we need help and assistance
from the international community.

The way the international community is so far assisting us so much has been helpful but we need
tremendous and more help from the international community, so that our police can be reformed, our
police can be equipped so that we can go ahead and target some big traffickers, as well as do
something with the poppy cultivation. Now, this poppy cultivation is not only - like I said before,
not only a problem to Afghanistan, it's a problem to international community.


ZULMAY AZFALI: We are asking for their tremendous help as well at this stage, but so far more than
40,000 - I should say, more than 9,000 hectares of land has been eradicated from opium all over
Afghanistan. We have some good news on that as well, and that's that especially in the northern
provinces of Afghanistan, due to some messages to suppliers that we have sent to many suppliers in
Afghanistan, we are receiving signals that there are poppy free provinces in the north -

TONY JONES: Zulmay Azfali, I'm sorry to interrupt you, we have to ask a few questions in this
interview. The latest report of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime says that 165,000 hectares were
put under cultivation for opium last year - that's 2006. That produced a record crop. It also was
up 59 per cent from the previous year. How is it growing so fast?

ZULMAY AZFALI: Well what the UN report suggested, that was about the year 2006 - and what happened
there was the 59 per cent rise in the poppy population and trafficking went up. That was because of
only one province and that was because of the insecurity and some instability problem in Helmand
Province. We are saying that the problem is from the drug traffickers. They are encouraging the
farmers to grow poppies and even threatening them. We have evidence that the Taliban and by the
help of the drug traffickers threatened the farmers to grow poppy, otherwise they will be killed.
So this is the hand of the international Mafia, that they are trying to weaken the efforts of the
Government of Afghanistan as well as the international community. But, on the other side, if you
are talking about the 59 per cent rise up in the poppy cultivation previous year, we should not say
why it happened. Remember, we are dealing at the end of the day not with a small group of Mafia,
not with one or two people, we are dealing here with international Mafia here and international
Mafia is active here and they are trying their best, try to eliminate and create problems for the
central government, as well as for the international community.

TONY JONES: More importantly, you mentioned the Taliban there and the UN report indicates the
Taliban is effectively controlling the opium trade in the south and using it to supply and arm
themselves. There could be nothing more serious than that, could there?

ZULMAY AZFALI: Well, I would not reject that. What I am saying is that the drug traffickers, they
are a part of the international Mafia, of course. They are equipping and giving them money and many
more things, to the insurgents, try to bring out more attacks in different provinces of
Afghanistan, in order for them to do their trafficking job as much easier as they can. There's no
question about that that the traffickers are involved in equipping as well as fuelling the

Please do remember that the source for the terrorism, the income for the terrorism, only and only,
trafficking and the trafficking money. And the Government of Afghanistan is trying its best and the
Government of Afghanistan is a committed government. Like I said, we are trying our best to bring
all those responsible for drug trafficking and for the income of terrorism. Afghanistan is also a
victim of terrorism.

TONY JONES: You were talking before about just how serious this - how seriously your government
needs international help and what we can't understand, looking at this from afar, is why the
international troops on the ground, the international forces, are not attacking this problem of
opium growing in Afghanistan, when it is supplying their own enemy?

ZULMAY AZFALI: First of all, if we talk about Afghanistan, Afghanistan faced 35 years - or almost
30 years of civil war and it's a war-torn country. The country has been destroyed by every meaning,
every possible meaning. Now, on the other hand, the international community is helping us but what
we do need, the Government of Afghanistan do need, is more help. That should be in the
capacity-building of police. That should be in equipping them. If you do compare our police with
some other international, Interpol or even the police from the neighbouring countries, I don't
think it's fair, because our police do not have that much technology and they are not that much
equipped. Our police are having three bullets of AK47s in their guns and wearing sandals and
stopping the face of the international Mafia at the border. They need to be equipped and completely
be impossible from - the international community needs to train them as much as they can.

When the international community is here and fighting the terrorism, they have to find out what is
the sources and what are the income for the terrorism, and the source and the income for the
terrorism is coming from the trafficking and from the international Mafia. On the one hand we have
the international community on our side, as well as our government. On the other side, we have not
one Mafia, not two or three or a group or a gang of people, but international Mafia, and they are
pushing as much as, as hard as they can to try to bring problem for us and try to weaken the
Government, try to weaken the international support for us, and they will try their best as well.
But on the other side, with the help of the international assistance and community -

TONY JONES: Sorry. Australia is talking about sending more troops now to Afghanistan. What you're
pointing out to us is perhaps the most serious problem facing foreign forces. Would you like to see
Australian troops and police focusing more on this problem of the opium trade, which is feeding the

ZULMAY AZFALI: We know the problem is - I mean, first of all, when you are solving or - let me put
it this way, if you're a doctor, first of all you have to find out what is the problem with the
patient. Now Afghanistan is a patient of this so called trafficking with Mafia. Now we know what is
the main disease in our country, so when we are asking for international help, whether it is
Australia, whether it's the United States of America, whether it's any country, the international
assistance, they should come out with a huge amount of support, whether it's in the form of troops
- there should be more troops on the ground in order to help the Government of Afghanistan in the
form of capacity-building. It should be - they should provide help not only to it's not a question
that the Australian troops would come here and will help us in doing some other things, but the
main question is the capacity, the capacity support. That is all we need at this stage. Equipment,
training and when we know that we are fighting international Mafia we need to be equipped, trained
and capaciticised (sic).

TONY JONES: Zulmay Azfali, that's where we'll have to leave you, but that message, you got through
loud and clear. We thank you very much for taking the time to come and talk to us tonight.


(c) 2007 ABC