Afghanistan; Drug cultivation and trafficking


of June is tagged as the world Drug day, where in Afghanistan ( 26th June- 2nd July) has been named under the title of the Counter Narcotics Week, and this year the Afghan government has been named this week, under the name of the National Counter Narcotics Week Has launched. The goal of this program is to find a solution to the effective struggle in this sector.

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.

The situation of poppy cultivation and drug production in Afghanistan, the failure factors of the Afghan government’s struggle with this phenomenon and the impact of a common regional strategy for a coordinated struggle against narcotics are issues that have been discussed in this analysis.

The history of drugs in Afghanistan

The cultivation of narcotics in Afghanistan has a long history. People in this country cultivated poppy both before and during the Cold War; however, the exact statistics of the drug productions at that time is not in hand. Nevertheless, in the post-cold war era, Afghanistan was one of the countries in the world that produced the most amount of drugs. In 1997, Afghanistan produced 2804 tons of poppy while in 1999 this amount increased to 4565 tons. Nonetheless, in 2001, after the Taliban Leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar banned the cultivation of narcotics issuing a decree, the poppy production of the country reduced from 3276 tons to 185 tons only.

Based on the statistics of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), in 2001, the last year of the Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan, 8000 hectares of land was under poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. However, after the collapse of the Taliban regime, the graph of the poppy cultivation and production in Afghanistan has been ascending.

In 2007, 193000 hectares of land was under poppy cultivation which produced 8200 tons of yields. However, in 2008 and 2010, the cultivation of poppy decreased. In 2012, the poppy productions decreased to 3700 tons, but in 2013 and 2014, the production of poppy rose to 5500 tons and 6400 tons. In 2014, 224000 hectares of land was under poppy in Afghanistan.

In 2016, 201000 hectares of land was under poppy cultivation in the country which marked an increase compared to 2015. The production of poppy in 2016 was 4800 tons. It should also be noted that the 19% decrease in poppy production in 2015 was due to the unsuitable condition of weather and plant pests. In 2015, 183000 hectares of land was under poppy cultivation which produced 3300 tons of poppy.

In 2007, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached 193,000 hectares and opium production reached 8200 tons. Although in the solar year 2008 to 2010 poppy cultivation declined, in the year 2012 productions dropped to 3700 tons, but in 2013 and 2014 the productions again increased to 5500 and 6400 tons. In the year 2014 cultivation of poppies reached 224,000 hectares.

The joint report of the Afghan government and the UN shows that in 2016 the cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan has increased by 10% and its production has augmented by 43%. The cultivation of narcotics has also increased in 2017 compared to 2016. Authorities in the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics believe the ongoing insecurities to be behind the increase.

Drug smuggling is the fourth global crisis. Based on some statistics there are 250 million drug addicts around the world. Nevertheless, Afghanistan is one of the countries that suffer great losses due to the cultivation of narcotics. This phenomenon, on the one hand, has affected the

Chart-1: opium cultivation in Afghanistan (2001-2018) (hectares)


prestige of Afghanistan and, on the other hand, 3.5 million Afghans, somehow, use drugs, the

condition of 1.5 million of which is presumed concerning. Some statistics suggest that 30% of these addicts are children and 7% are women.

After the collapse of the Taliban regime, the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics was established in the Bonne Conference. In 1393, the then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the fight against drugs to be one of the priorities of the state and banned the cultivation and production of narcotics.

In the past one and half decades, there were many institutions that worked in areas of fighting poppy cultivation and production in Afghanistan, and after all these efforts still, Afghanistan produces 90% of drugs in the world. UNODC, the Afghan deputy Ministry of Counter Narcotics in the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Agriculture are institutions that are involved in the fight against drugs. However, the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics is responsible for leading and coordinating the relevant activities.

Chart-2: Opium production in Afghanistan (2001-2018) (tons)


A strategy that increased the cultivation, production and trafficking of narcotics

Based on the report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction (SIGAR), until 2014, the US has spent $600m in the fight against narcotics in Afghanistan. Despite all these expenses, the Afghan government has failed in all aspects of the fight against drugs including preventing the cultivation, production, and smuggling of drugs as well as addiction to drugs and curing drug addicts, something that the Afghan authorities accept too. In June this year, the Second Afghan Vice President Sarwar Danish said the Afghan government’s efforts to fight narcotics had not produced desirable outcomes.

Moreover, the failure of the counter-narcotics efforts and the presence of drug mafia in the country have resulted in the increase in crime incidents, particularly the organized crimes.

Why the fight against drugs is not successful?

While entering Afghanistan, the US and its allies claimed that “terrorism” and narcotics were in interrelation with each other and that in order to eliminate “terrorism” it was necessary to prevent the cultivation of poppy in this country. The question that remains unanswered is why the cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan is ascending since 2001?

One cannot mention one single factor to be behind the increase in the cultivation and smuggling of poppy in the past one and half decade, but there are a bunch of internal and external factors behind it, the most important of them being lack of firm international and internal will in the fight against drugs.

Influence, power and the role of the elements with links to the internal, regional and international gangs and mafias as well as the high level of corruption in the administrations of the country are the main factors behind the failure or counter-narcotics efforts.

Insecurity and war in the country, with 40% of the Afghan territory under the control of the armed opposition of the government, lack of a strong government that has the support of its people, encouragement of poppy cultivation by the armed opposition of the government in insecure provinces, high demands for these substances in foreign countries particularly in Western countries are factors that have challenged the fight against drugs in Afghanistan.

A good source for funding the war 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.

Figure. 3: The amount of money from poppy cultivation reaches the farmers (2008- 2018)

Counter Narcotics in the Regional Level

Drug trade comes third after oil and weapons’ trade in the world in importance and profit. Based on the statistics of UNODC, Afghan farmers gain only $2bn out of $70bn income produced by their poppy productions, and the remaining $66bn goes into the pockets of drug-smugglers and international mafia out of Afghanistan.

The poppy cultivated in Afghanistan makes its way to Europe and other countries in the region through Afghanistan’s neighboring countries. That is why the neighboring countries always criticize Afghanistan for its failure in the counter-narcotics fight. However, it should also be noted that these substances would not make their way to European and other countries if the leaders of the neighboring countries did not assist drug smugglers and mafia in their respective countries. Therefore, the presences of drug mafia and the open transit way have, somehow, provided the way for the cultivation of narcotics in Afghanistan. Moreover, the decrease in the demands for drugs in regional and international markets can play a decisive role in the success of counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan.

If the neighboring and regional countries froze the bank accounts of drug smugglers and prevented the sales of substances that are needed to process heroin, the fight against narcotics would to some extent succeed.

Although there are many challenges on the way of the fight against drugs, in this regard, the recent initiative to prepare a joint strategy is one of the solutions, and if there exist strong will and determination to fight against this phenomenon, these efforts will succeed.

Leave a Reply

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