According to the data released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, some 30 million people across the world may be described as habitual drug users. These means that all of these people are not just addicted to drugs but they also require professional treatment. Due to the ever increasing volume of illegal drug trafficking, a total of 100,000 people die every year. Since 2011, Europe has witnessed a 30% increase in cocaine users, while worldwide opium production increased by 33% last year.
The continuous smuggling of drugs enriches terrorists and strengthens extremist groups that pose a real threat to the peace and security of the international community.
As it’s been noted previously, to this day Afghanistan accounts for 75% of worldwide heroin production due to the fact that two thirds of all lands illegally allocated for opium poppy cultivation are situated in this country. The province of Nangarhar in Afghanistan has become the backbone of the opium market. Local farmers are selling their poppy crops to brokers. Brokers then sell the opium to drug production operations, who run clandestine laboratories in the mountains. There, the opium is converted into morphine and heroin. Traffickers refer to the most refined heroin as “spin mal.” This high-purity, heroin delivered by injection is sold around the world, including in the United States.
The well-established drug trafficking routes run from Afghanistan to a number of countries, while passing through many transit points. Those routes allow smugglers to deliver their deadly goods to Russia and various parts of Europe through the countries of Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. As for India, it’s being supplied with heavy drugs through neighboring countries including Pakistan. It’s rarely mentioned that both Europe and America are often supplied with deadly drugs through military airports controlled by Western military forces in Afghanistan.
According to official reports, after almost two decades of continuous deployment of several thousand US and NATO servicemen in Afghanistan, the level of production and drug trafficking has increased by 1,000% compared to levels in 2001, the year Washington announced its intentions to invade Afghanistan. There’s no logical explanation American political figures can provide us for this fact, since among the stated goals of the persistent military presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan includes both fighting against terrorism and combating drug trafficking.
A short while ago, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, predicted that US servicemen will stay in Afghanistan for at least another decade. What it basically means is that the soaring level of drug production in this war-torn state will just keep rising.
Among the largest markets for Afghan heroin include Russia, China and other “strategic opponents of Washington.” So it should come as no surprise that the Pentagon shows little to no interests towards the fulfillment of its stated goals in Afghanistan. American generals are convinced that Afghan drugs play an extremely important role in plummeting demographic figures of these targeted states described as potential threats to the United States, since it triggers more deaths than any local armed conflict of recent decades ever could.
Under those circumstances, some Afghan experts are inclined to believe that NATO personnel deployed in their country are actively engaged in the production and trafficking of drugs. According to these experts, Kandahar, Helmand and Urozgan provinces have certain opium fields that are situated in areas controlled by the British and American military, who in no way interfere with the cultivation and harvesting of poppy crops. Moreover, local peasants have confined to them that military helicopters and airplanes are landing in their villages around the clock to be loaded with crops only to fly away in an unknown direction.
There are more grounds for such claims than one may think, especially against the backdrop of earlier British and Canadian investigations into Camp Bastion and Kandahar, the two main airports through which servicemen arrive and depart, regarding allegations of both being used for drug trafficking.
In addition, as reported by British media sources, their informers among Afghan drug smugglers say that British troops are a part of this deadly trade too.
Experts say that not only Afghan drug dealers, but also foreigners, especially American and other NATO servicemen receive unparalleled profits from the production and illegal trafficking of drugs in Afghanistan. If this wasn’t the case, then Afghan drugs would be nearly impossible to find on the European black market. After all, the task of transporting large shipments of drugs is beyond the capacity of any typical smuggler. So it’s only logical to assume that foreign cargo planes that cross the Afghan border regularly without any inspection or supervision by local authorities are used for routine drug trafficking.
According to the statement made by the Afghan Deputy Minister for Combating Drugs, Khalil Bakhtiyar, nearly three million people are involved in the illegal drug trade in Afghanistan. In 2017 alone, the level of Afghan drug production reached 4,800 tons.
However, recently, Afghan special services have voiced their concern that in addition to the massive production of heroin their country, Afghan territory is now being used for the production of synthetic drugs – so-called methamphetamine or meth, even in spite of the fact that such drugs are in no way associated with opium. As for the precursors that are required for their production, they must be smuggled inside the country the same way heroine is being smuggled out. Afghanistan, with its highly-developed drug infrastructure, will be able to produce tons of new types of drugs, while continuously refining the actual process of production. In the early 1990s the production of opium, and then of heroin, followed a similar scenario. The first time local security forces seized synthetic drugs in Afghanistan in 2008, the amount they managed to retrieve was minuscule. Then in 2012, they captured 458 traffickers last year smuggling some 500 pounds of synthetic drugs.
If we talk about the involvement of the United States in the illegal drug business in Afghanistan, we mustn’t forget that the estimated profits of Afghan drug trade may be approaching 100 billion dollars a year, which empowers Washington to calmly manage crises in Muslim countries, support terrorists and overthrow undesirable Islamic governments . In all likelihood, Washington will never agree to abandon such colossal revenue streams, which enable Washington to establish a lasting presence in such a dangerous region. There’s little doubt that both NATO and the US are in full control of the Afghan drug trade, or in the very least use it to reap maximum profits for themselves.
The huge financial costs of the US and NATO unhindered military presence in Afghanistan results in the continuous loss of life. At the same time, none of the stated goals of the US-NATO occupation have been fulfilled. We have seen no successful steps made in the direction of actually defeating terrorism, nor the eradication of Afghan drug trafficking, nor the establishment of peace and prosperity in this perpetually contested land. Washington has failed in every regard, which means that the flow of deadly drugs will continue ravaging lives globally for years and decades to come.
In such a situation, the only way to combat the unparalleled level of production and trafficking of Afghan drugs is to consolidate the efforts of the entire international community with the aim of monitoring and containing the activities of US and NATO servicemen in this war-torn country. There’s no other solution to this crisis.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”