NATO to Hit Drug Trade in Afghanistan

BUDAPEST, Hungary — NATO defense ministers authorized attacks on Afghanistan’s drug trade, after the United States reached a compromise with its other 25 allies in a major shift in strategy for the alliance.

The United States had been pushing for NATO’s 50,000 troops to take on a counter-narcotics role to hit back at the Taliban, whose increasing attacks have cast doubt on the prospects of a Western military victory in Afghanistan.

However, Germany, Spain and others were wary and their doubts led to NATO imposing conditions on the anti-drug mandate for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Afghanistan produces about 90 percent of the heroin on world markets.

NATO’s troops, particularly those in the south of Afghanistan, have come under such sustained attack from the insurgents over the past few months. NATO defense ministers will review the success of the mission when they next meet February in Poland.

Until now, responsibility for dealing with the problem has lain with the Afghan police, but NATO commanders believe the fledgling force cannot cope with the problem. They say the time has come for NATO to move against the drug barons.