US lifts ban on Afghanistan's Kam Air

Moscow, Feb 5 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The US has lifted a ban on Afghanistan's biggest private airline Kam Air after the Afghan government pledged an investigation into US claims of opium smuggling by the carrier, the NATO-led ISAF said.

Last month, the US military barred Kam Air from its list of potential contractors after accusing it of smuggling large amounts of opium, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The US military claimed Kam Air ferried bulk quantities of opium - the key ingredient in heroin - on civilian flights into Tajikistan, a major regional drug transit route.

"The Afghan government has agreed to conduct a full investigation of Kam Air and, if warranted, to take further action," the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF) said in a statement Tuesday.

The US "will support the Afghan government's investigation by providing evidence and documents as required", ISAF said.

Both the airline and the Afghan authorities denied the accusations last month, asking the US military to provide evidence.

The issue was further discussed at the Afghan foreign ministry between senior officials from the Afghan government and US Forces.

The ban against the airline highlights growing concern on the part of the US and its allies over the thriving heroin trade in Afghanistan, as they prepare to draw down their counter-insurgency operations there.

The UN estimates Afghanistan supplies some 90 percent of the world's illegal opiates and that, in 2009, it supplied 84 percent of the heroin consumed worldwide.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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