BENGALURU: In the midst of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, there is growing concern in the international community including Iran, Central and South Asia, Russia, Europe and Canada, regarding trafficking of opium and methamphetamine from the country.
With Kabul falling to the Taliban, there are concerns that cuts in global economic aid to Afghanistan will further entrench its illicit drug economy.
While the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid promised the new government will not allow Afghanistan to turn into a narco-state, Vanda Felbab-Brown, director of The Brookings Institution’s Initiative on Non-state Armed Actors, in her recent research on ‘Drugs, Security and Counternarcotics policies in Afghanistan,’ cautioned that there is a “substantial possibility that peace in which the Taliban is the pre-dominant actor will result in donors cutting off economic aid to Afghanistan, resulting in a significantly worsened economic and humanitarian situation overall, as well as a further entrenched drug economy.”
The latest United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report has stated that “Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium and accounts for 85% of the global opium production in 2020.”
Illicit Afghan opiates are trafficked through the Balkan, northern and southern routes.
Even as there are concerns about a 37% increase in the amount of land used for illicit cultivation of opium poppy in Afghanistan during 2020, the UNODC report stated, “Afghanistan is also now becoming a major source for methamphetamine in the region. In Iran in its neighbourhood, the proportion of Afghan-origin methamphetamine seized increased from less than 10% in 2015 to around 90% in 2019.”
Serious issue, not really addressed
Although the global trade in illicit Afghan opiates has become one of the world’s biggest trans-national drug and crime threats, the US and allied nations have rarely addressed this in public