What the future holds for the US-Bangladesh border story

By JONATHAN BLEIERBY and CHRISTIAN HALL, Associated PressWASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has withdrawn the largest number of its troops from the Bangladesh border in nearly two decades, saying it had been unable to keep pace with rising demand from Pakistan for opium, which has made it an increasingly lucrative source of heroin and other illicit drugs.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a news conference Wednesday that the withdrawal of about 1,000 U.S.-trained troops from Bangladesh would continue until the United States had more information on Pakistan’s ability to stop the flow of drugs, especially in the region.

Carter also said the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia would begin withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan in the next two years.

He said the withdrawal was a continuation of the “strong cooperation” between the United State and Pakistan.

“We have continued to strengthen that cooperation, that cooperation that has been so important in the fight against the heroin trade and in combating the trafficking of drugs,” Carter said.

He noted that while the United Nations and other countries have made clear that Pakistan is a key source of drugs entering Afghanistan, he said the Pakistani government had not taken action against the traffickers.

The withdrawal of the largest U.K. and Australian troop since the end of World War II will leave about 2,000 British, Australian and New Zealand troops in the country.

Carter said that while there were “a lot of challenges” to dealing with the growing heroin traffic, it was “not something we can afford to continue to ignore.”

Carter said there was a growing demand for heroin and “many other illicit substances,” particularly in the northeast Asian nation of Pakistan.

The United States is trying to reduce the demand for drugs from Pakistan, which in 2016 exported more heroin than all other nations combined, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Pakistan is one of the main transit countries for drugs coming into Afghanistan and has struggled to curb the flow.

The country’s leaders have sought to maintain a balance between allowing Afghan opium farmers to continue growing opium while preventing it from becoming a major source of revenue for the government.