WASHINGTON – President Bush said Monday that Afghanistan "failed demonstrably" in 2001 to cooperate in anti-narcotics efforts but that the country nonetheless is entitled to receive U.S. assistance because of vital American interests.
Bush made the announcement in a brief statement in which he evaluated the performance of 23 countries involved in drug trafficking as producers, transit points or both.
For years, Afghanistan had been disqualified from U.S. assistance because it did not fully comply with international drug control standards.
The period of the administration's review ended at about the time the Taliban militia was forced from office in December and replaced by a pro-Western interim government.
Countries that fail to cooperate in the international anti-drug effort can be the target of U.S. economic sanctions.
But well before Monday's announcement, the administration had been providing the interim government in Kabul with assistance. Bush did not make clear in his brief statement what the legal justification was for providing the assistance since the government took office two months ago.
Of the 23 nations reviewed, all were found to be meeting international anti-narcotics standards except Afghanistan, Myanmar and Haiti.
Bush ruled that Haiti also is entitled to a national-interest waiver, meaning it is eligible for U.S. assistance.
There was no national-interest waiver for Myanmar, also known as Burma. That means Myanmar will remain ineligible for assistance, as it has been for years.
The 23 countries reviewed: Afghanistan, Myanmar, Haiti, Mexico, Colombia, Nigeria, Paraguay, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Jamaica, Laos, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam.