Dushanbe, Tajikistan Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Monday that a flourishing drug trade in Afghanistan may be helping fuel a Taliban resurgence, potentially undermining the young Afghan democracy.
"I do worry that the funds that come from the sale of those products could conceivably end up adversely affecting the democratic process in the country," he said on an overnight flight from Washington. "I also think anytime there is that much money floating around and you have people like the Taliban that it gives them an opportunity to fund their efforts in various ways."
U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to oust the radical Taliban regime, and although the country now has a democratically elected government the Taliban have made been making a comeback.
At a news conference after Rumsfeld met with President Emomali Rakhmonov and other government officials, Foreign Minister Talbak Nazarov told reporters that the Taliban is trying to "turn Afghanistan back to its past." He expressed confidence the fundamentalist movement would fail.
Rumsfeld said U.S. intelligence information indicates that the Taliban have taken a share of drug profits in exchange for providing protection. He did not offer specifics.
The defense secretary also said the bulk of the demand for heroin and other drugs supplied by Afghanistan is largely in Europe and Russia, and he called on the Europeans to do more to help fight the problem.