KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded on Saturday that NATO forces explain why they had carried out a joint counter-narcotics operation with Russian forces inside Afghanistan, calling it a violation of sovereignty.
Moscow said on Friday Russian and U.S. agents, supported by helicopters and Afghan police, destroyed four drug laboratories and nearly one ton of heroin in a raid this week seen as a measure to improve strained ties between Washington and Moscow.
“No institution is allowed to carry out such an operation in Afghan territory without the government’s prior consent,” Karzai’s office said in a statement.
“Such uncoordinated operations clearly violate sovereignty. Afghanistan will respond seriously to any repetition of such actions,” it said.
The counter-narcotics raid, which was also announced by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, came as U.S. and NATO are calling for Russia to play a more supportive role in their war against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
The Afghan Ministry of Interior counter-narcotics police led the operation with DEA, NATO and Russian personnel playing a supporting role, the U.S, embassy said in a statement, referring requests for details to the Afghan government.
It was unclear how Afghan officials would have taken part in an international counter-narcotics operation in Afghanistan without the central government knowledge or consent.
Russian involvement in Afghanistan is still a sensitive issue since the end of the Soviet occupation of the country. Soviet troops fought mujahideen insurgents for 10 years before pulling out of the country in 1989.
Afghanistan produces around 90 percent of the world’s opium, the raw material to manufacture heroin, and trafficking from there is fuelling a major drug problem in nearby Russia.
The drug raid came as NATO’s secretary general plans to hold talks next month in Moscow on expanding supply routes to its troops in Afghanistan via Russia and call for more Russian helicopters and pilot training for Afghan forces.
More than 150,000 foreign troops are now backing Afghan forces in a NATO-led war against the Taliban. Casualties are at their highest since the conflict began when U.S.-backed Afghan forces ousted the Islamist Taliban government in 2001.
Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Paul Tait