Taliban turning Afghanistan into narco-terrorist state

It looks like you’re using an ad blocker.
To enjoy our content, please include The Japan Times on your ad-blocker’s list of approved sites.
Thank you for supporting our journalism.

Project Syndicate
The strategic folly of U.S. President Joe Biden’s Afghan policy has been laid bare in recent weeks.
First, the country came back under the control of the Pakistan-reared Taliban. The recent announcement of the interim government’s composition then dashed any remaining (naive) hope that this Taliban regime would be different from the one the United States and its allies ousted in 2001. Beyond the Cabinet, including a who’s who of international terrorism, narcotics kingpins occupy senior positions.

Afghanistan accounts for 85% of the global acreage under opium cultivation, making the Taliban the world’s largest drug cartel. It controls and taxes opioid production, oversees exports, and shields smuggling networks. This is essential to their survival. According to a recent report by the United Nations Security Council monitoring team, the production and trafficking of poppy-based and synthetic drugs remain “the Taliban’s largest single source of income.” So reliant are the Taliban on narcotics trafficking that their leaders have at times fought among themselves over revenue-sharing.
The Taliban are hoping to expand their drug income as much as possible. Since their takeover, prices of opium in Afghanistan have more than tripled. In India — which is situated between the world’s two main opium-producing centers, the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran “Golden Crescent” and the Myanmar-Thailand-Laos “Golden Triangle” — seizures of Afghan-origin heroin have increased. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime warns, the economic crisis Afghanistan currently faces will only increase the appeal of illicit crop cultivation for local farmers.
The problem extends beyond opioids. In recent years, Afghanistan has drastically expanded its production of methamphetamine. The appeal lies in the fact that meth offers producers a higher profit margin than heroin, owing to lower overhead costs and inexpensive ingredients, especially now that its chemical precursor, pseudoephedrine — a common ingredient in cold medications — is being produced locally.
Last year, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction warned that Afghanistan’s meth industry could soon be as large as its heroin industry. While the Taliban were not yet in control of Kabul at the time, they controlled the majority of Afghanistan’s small, clandestine meth labs.
The Taliban uses several smuggling routes to move opiates. It moves output to Western Europe via the Caucasus and the Balkans, and from there all the way to North America. With the help of the Tajikistan-based terrorist group Jamaat Ansarullah, it also uses a northern route to Russia. The southeastern route, which snakes through Pakistan, is enabled by Pakistani security officials, who cooperate with the Taliban and smuggling syndicates, known locally as “tanzeems,” in exchange for bribes.
In 2008, a Taliban drug trafficker was recorded boasting that most of his product ended up abroad. “Good,” he gloated. “May God turn all the infidels into dead corpses. Whether it is by opium or by shooting, this is our common goal.” With the Taliban channeling profits from drug sales directly into their terror machine, the connection between Islamist violence and drug trafficking could not be starker.
This is not exclusive to the Taliban; Islamist groups like Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaida are also linked to drug trafficking. But not all terrorist groups are on board with this approach. As a 2020 U.N. Security Council report points out, the Islamic State-Khorasan — ISIS’s Afghan arm — opposes the drug trade.
This is one reason why the outfit is an enemy of the Taliban, despite the two groups’ longstanding personal relationships, common history of struggle, and shared belief in violent Islamism. In fact, when ISIS-K had control of the Afghan border province of Nangarhar, it blocked the Taliban’s trafficking routes into Pakistan. The link was restored only when the U.S. and Afghan government forces smashed the ISIS-K stronghold there.
This highlights the failure of the U.S. — and the West more broadly — to recognize the complex but clear links between drug trafficking and Islamist terrorism. Had the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan been followed by a U.S. campaign to arrest and prosecute Taliban leaders for their narcotics-trafficking activities in American courts, the group’s appeal among fundamentalist Muslims might have been severely diminished.
Such a plan was proposed in 2012. In a 240-page memo, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and several Justice Department officials recommended prosecuting 26 senior Taliban leaders and allied drug lords for criminal conspiracy. A similar approach worked in Colombia, and helped to force the narcotics-funded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to make peace with the Colombian government in 2016, after 52 years of guerrilla war.
But successive U.S. presidents refused to use this strategy against the Taliban, which was a strategic mistake with costs that are only beginning to be revealed. By allowing the Taliban to enrich and sustain themselves with drug profits during the 20-year war in Afghanistan, the U.S. contributed to its own humiliating defeat at the hands of a narco-terrorist organization.
It is not too late for the U.S. to start targeting the Taliban as a drug cartel through its federal courts. After all, Afghan-origin opioids have resulted in high rates of drug addiction and deaths around the world, from the U.S. and Europe to Africa and Asia. And, given Afghanistan’s economic woes, the Taliban has a strong incentive to ramp up production and trafficking.
By highlighting the nexus between Islamist terrorism and the global narcotics trade, U.S. indictments of the Taliban’s drug kingpins would help to build multilateral cooperation to crush the group’s primary source of income, such as by blocking shipments and seizing illicit profits, often parked in banks and real-estate investments abroad.
If the U.S. does not lead an international effort to tackle Afghanistan’s opioid and meth production, the Taliban’s power — and ability to commit atrocities — will only grow, and their narco-state will serve as a haven for al-Qaida and other violent jihadist groups. As matters stand, the world can expect a major surge in international terrorism and drug overdoses in the months and years ahead.
Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Center for Policy Research and fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, is the author of several books, including “Asian Juggernaut, Water: Asia’s New Battleground,” and “Water, Peace, and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis.” © Project Syndicate, 2021
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.
With your current subscription plan you can comment on stories. However, before writing your first comment, please create a display name in the Profile section of your subscriber account page.
Your subscription plan doesn’t allow commenting. To learn more see our FAQ
The superheroes from House of Slay are here to stay
Peng Shuai case is the latest glimpse into the machinery of Beijing’s control
Biden’s bet on oil reserves highlights complicated relations with China
Terunofuji stays perfect, takes sole lead as Takakeisho beaten
China sets sights on corporate backers of Taiwan’s independence
Episode 106: What did Japan bring to the COP26 climate summit?
In search of Japan’s lost wolves
Is this enigmatic beast — said to be extinct since 1905 — still out there? In a five-part series, we track an enduring mystery that has captivated the imaginations of many.
Sponsored contents planned and edited by JT Media Enterprise Division.
Read more
The Japan Times LTD. All rights reserved.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  ⁄  three  =  two

Next Post

News24.com | Crime intelligence officer accused of raping woman at Eastern Cape police headquarters

Thu Nov 25 , 2021
Thursday, 25 November24 NovA 51-year-old Eastern Cape crime intelligence police officer was set to appear in the Zwelitsha Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday for allegedly drugging and raping a 21-year old woman at the local police headquarters at the weekend.The Warrant Officer was brought to court, but his case was not […]