US-Built Bridge Supports Afghan Drug Trade

$37M project facilitates opium smuggling into Tajikistan
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2009 4:39 PM CDT
People walk along a bridge unveiled at the Tajik-Afghan border in Nizhny Pyandzh, Tajikistan, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – A US-built bridge linking Afghanistan and Tajikistan that cost taxpayers $37 million has greatly benefited exporters of Afghan opium, McClatchy reports. The bridge over the Panj river was supposed to facilitate commerce between the two nations, but the surging flow of opium across Afghanistan’s northern border threatens to turn Tajikistan—still weakened from 5 years of civil war in the 1990s—into a narco-state.

"It's an issue of money," one Afghan trucker said of his colleagues. "If you give them money, you can do whatever you want." The UN estimates that 4 metric tons of opium—which can produce 12 million doses of street heroin—crossed the northern Afghan border every day last year. The US knows of the problem, but fears pressuring the Tajik regime because it needs the country’s support to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan.
(Read more Afghanistan stories.)