30 November 2013, 17:26

Afghanistan after ISAF withdrawal: New antidrug coalition format

Afghanistan after ISAF withdrawal: New antidrug coalition format

What will the situation be like in Central Asia when the main force of the NATO-led international security assistance mission, ISAF, pulls out of Afghanistan in 2014? The delegations of 12 countries have met in Tajikistan to take up ways to counter the Afghan drug threat as part of an informal meeting of antidrug coalition nations. The Voice of Russia correspondent in Dushanbe Galim Faskhutdinov has sent in this dispatch.

The heads of antidrug agencies of the 12 countries are bracing themselves for the worst possible scenario that events in Afghanistan and Central Asia may follow. The ISAF withdrawal is most likely to spur drug production in Afghanistan. According to the deputy director of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service, Oleg Safonov, international drug cartels may expand the Afghan opiate market, once they are left uncontrolled.

"I believe that the situation will in no way improve in terms of drug production following the planned withdrawal of the peacekeeping coalition force from Afghanistan, Oleg Safonov says. More than 200 drug laboratories are known to have been set up in northern Afghanistan. This year, Afghanistan opium harvest has reached a record high, exceeding even the huge harvest of 2007. The drug situation is therefore due to deteriorate."

The amount of drugs in Afghanistan has doubled over the past decade. According to official statistics, this year’s raw opium harvest in the region made up 5,500 tons, an amount that will sell for over one billion dollars. In short, huge amounts of narcotics have been stockpiled in Afghanistan. Oleg Safonov believes it will take international drug cartels decades to market these stockpiles.

"The organized crime that controls the blood money will only seek to destabilize the situation both in the north of Afghanistan and, unfortunately, in the neighbouring regional countries," Oleg Safonov says.

The drug police officers that attended the Dushanbe forum pointed out that any isolation of Afghanistan would fail to yield positive results, but would, conversely, serve to exacerbate the problem. The only way to settle the issue of drug production in Afghanistan is to boost the national economy and improve the social situation. Afghan farmers grow opium instead of wheat because of poverty. One kilo of raw opium sells for up to 145 dollars, or several times more than a kilo of wheat. The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Jan Kubiš, says that this kind of international meeting helps agreeing specific joint moves to ward off the Afghan drug threat.

"This kind of dialogue is very important, Jan Kubiš says. The more so, since the entire world community are bracing themselves for the situation that will take shape following the withdrawal of the ISAF international coalition from Afghanistan in 2014. This will prove an altogether different situation, which is why the forum that is currently being held in Dushanbe on Tajikistan’s initiative is important."

The world community must draw up an effective programme to contribute to Afghanistan development; otherwise the world will start drowning in Afghan-made heroin. According to estimates by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, today drug police officers in Central Asia, Russia, Pakistan and Iran seize no more than a quarter of the opiates en route from Afghanistan to other countries.

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