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Afghanistan and the fight against drugs

Published Date: November 29, 2015

The issue of drug is a global challenge and no country in the world is safe from the negative consequences of this ghastly phenomenon. Drug trafficking along the nuclear crisis, population crisis and the environmental crisis is the fourth major global crisis, and according to some statistics, the number of addicts is reached to more than 250 million people around the globe. Since most of the addicts are consisted of young people, which are the active force of the countries, the negative economic impacts of this phenomenon are also disastrous for humanity.

In Afghanistan, however, the exact number of addicted people with this lethal material is yet to be existed, but some statistics show that there are more than one million addicts including women in our country.

Afghanistan is considered as the world’s largest producer of drugs and the relationship between Afghanistan and opium date back to centuries; however, in the past three decades, the country has been producing a large proportion of the world’s opium.

Drug Production in Afghanistan (2001-2015)

The expansion of opium cultivation in Afghanistan is linked to multiple factors, but the most important of them are as following:

  1. The long-term war and insecurity in the country;
  2. The lack of a strong, people-backed central government;
  3. The Presence of Drug Mafia consisted of domestic, regional and international mafia;
  4. The High Demand for drugs, especially in Western Countries;
  5. The Suitable soil and climate for the growth of this plant.

Many people believes that the Afghan government lacks the will and determination to fight drugs, however, the foreign forces needed to play a more important role in this regard, but they have not done it; and questionably, their presence was effective in increase in the growth of opium.

After the arrival of foreign forces in Afghanistan, the growth of drug production was on the rise and made a record of 8200 tons in 2007.

Table A: The Ascending Growth of Drug Production


2010 onwards, the land under poppy cultivation increased, thus the foreign troops intensified strewing the destroying medicament from air. According to the statistics of the Counter-Narcotics Ministry, the opium production fell to 5800 tons in 2011. In 2012, the land under the cultivation of poppy reached to 154000 hectares; however, the opium production, then, fell to 3700 tons due to plant diseases. The decline in production was led to the rise in the price of opium in the world. Farmers to compensate for the decline in the production increased the land under the cultivation of poppy and, as a result, the opium production rose to 5500 tons in 2013, again.

In 2014, 250 thousand hectares of land went under poppy cultivation, and the cultivation of the plant in some provinces, which were declared free of the poppy cultivation before, resumed; and that caused the growth of the production to reach to 6400 tons.

Table B: Drug Production from 2011 to 2015

En-2However, the statistics published this year (2015) were promising. Despite widespread insecurity, the land under the cultivation dropped by 19 percent and the yield, due to adverse weather conditions and plant diseases, decreased by 48 percent and amounted to 3300 tons; but considering the past experience, it can be predicted that the price of opium will increase in the international market and also, we will continue to see the increase in the production by 2016, then.[1]

The Narco-Terrorism

Some US officials have urged that they should keep their forces in Afghanistan in order to prevent this country from turning into a (Narco-Sate). America and its allies, at the time were rushing to Afghanistan and claimed that “terrorism” and drugs are linked to each other. As “terrorism” is fed by the income derived from drugs in Afghanistan, so, in order to eliminate “terrorism”, the production of drug should be prevented in this country.

The main question is that with the foreign forces coming to Afghanistan for eliminating (Narco-Terrorism), so why they did not succeed in this mission? whereas, during the past fourteen years, most of the military activities of these forces were concentrated in the provinces where most of the opium was being produced.

Although, the increase in drug cultivation and trafficking in more than a decade is not confined to a particular factor; but a combination of factors and external and internal contexts are involved in it; however, the most important of them is the lack of serious international and domestic will regarding the honest struggle against drugs. One of its main reasons is the influence, power and role of individuals and elements connected to the gangs of Drug Mafia. Confessions of some of the highest government officials and also revealing reports of a number of independent foreign media provide solid evidences in this regard.

The International Community and the Afghan government have claimed that the increase in drug cultivation and trafficking has direct link with insecurity and war in the country, and based on their statistics, the insecure provinces are involved in drug cultivation and trafficking more than the rest of the provinces. Of course, this problem is effective in expansion and cultivation of drugs, but unfortunately, this claim is used for covering their failures in the process of fight against drugs. For several years after 2002, the areas where poppy was being cultivated had better security situation and the reason behind the rise in the poppy cultivation was that the gangs of drug trafficking and drug Mafia, unlike before 2001, were acting much more organized.[2] Before 2001, however, the scope of the drug trafficking gangs was limited, but, in recent years, these gangs have become connected to the international and regional Mafia networks.

Suitable Soil for Cultivation of the Plant of Death

According to the statistics of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the product of the poppy on one hectare land in Afghanistan is averagely 56kg, while each hectare land in the Golden Triangle that includes Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, in the southeastern Asia, gives 15kg opium.

According to the UNODC report, cannabis (hashish or marijuana is derived from its seed) is grown in other countries, also; but in comparison with other countries, it grows very well in Afghanistan. This plant gives 145kg/hectare in Afghanistan, while it gives just 40kg in Morocco. Therefore, Afghanistan is considered as the biggest producer of hashish in the world as well.

On the other hand, the problems that famers face when they cultivate licit crops like wheat and etc. cause them to start cultivating opium. The high prices of fertilizer, pesticides and etc. make the yield to be not so profitable; in the case, the income of a hectare of opium is several times more than of a hectare of wheat.

Income of Drugs in Afghanistan

According to UNODC, from 2001 to 2010, $70 billion worth drugs had been produced in Afghanistan, but the question is that how much of this enormous amount obtained by Afghanistan, especially by Afghan peasants?

According to this report of UNODC, only $2 billion out of the entire $70 billion went to Afghan farmers’ pockets and $66 billion went to the drug smugglers and Mafia outside Afghanistan. This organization believes that $200 million of this amount ($20 million per year) also goes to the armed opposition of the Afghan government.

The Struggle against Drugs and Corruption

According to the special inspector of America (SIGAR), during the past fourteen years, America spent $7 billion and $600 million on struggle against narcotics in Afghanistan. [3]If these statistics are accurate, so, it is clearly seen that America spent 3.5 times more than the income of farmers derived from the poppy cultivation and the result is yet to be achieved.

In countries like Afghanistan that are being tipped as “failed states”, spending money on struggle against drugs can only help corrupt government officials and the famers would not benefit from it. The US-claimed aid regarding struggle on drugs is still unclear that how this entire amount is spent? But, apparently, the farmers have also didn’t take benefited from it.

The role of consumer Western countries regarding reducing the usage of drugs in their own countries can play an important role in reducing demand and as a result decline in production in the producer countries. Struggling only in the producer country cannot have the favorite results; because the decline in production, whatever the reason would be, causes the prices to become increased in the market and it, spontaneously, is an incentive for increase in the production in next year. Therefore, a serious struggle against drug consumption should be started in consumer countries, also.

And finally, the establishment of a competent, responsible and powerful government in Afghanistan can be a solution to this problem. It is possible only in the case if peace is provided. Thereby, decline in drug production, like every other program in Afghanistan, waits for peace and until that moment, Afghanistan would remain at the top of drug-producing countries, then.

The End

[1] See online:

[2] See online:

[3] See online:

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