Afghanistan: spring season is open
28/04/2006, Oleg Sidorov
At least two drug smugglers have been arrested this month in Kazakhstan.
1. The customs office of Pavlodar region prevented the smuggling of 9 kilograms of drugs by a citizen of Kyrgyzstan. According to preliminary information, the value of the smuggled drugs amounts to 20 million KZT.
2. Officers of the Almaty Interior Department for Combating Extremism, Separatism, and Terrorism confiscated more than 12 кг kilograms of heroin from a man.
These weights signify not only a rich harvest 2005, but also a growing activity of gangs, whose main business is drug trade.
Everybody understands that these drugs are coming from Afghanistan. It has become an ordinary fact that smugglers are trafficking drugs originating from Afghanistan through entire Central Asia to Russia and further to Europe.
Many view the presence of coalition forces in Afghanistan as a source for the growth of drug traffic. Therefore, after the beginning of the "counterterrorist operation" on the territory of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the collapse of the Taliban regime that followed it, this country again became a leader in the production of opium derivate drugs, heroin in the first place.
The history of the issue
So what happened before 2001? The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until October 2001 and it managed to control the Afghan drug industry. And if 1999 4,000 tonnes of raw opium were gathered, in 2001 - only 185 tonnes.
Moreover, there were real presuppositions in Afghanistan for reduction of the opium cultivation in such huge proportions so that the country could stop playing such important role on the international markets.
But since 7 October, 2001, when the US-British "antiterrorist" operation began on the territory of Afghanistan, the heroin production in this country was resumed at a previous scale.
Even after the murder of the "Lion of Pandjshir" - the military leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, the agreements on limitation of drug traffic through the Tajik border lost their value and as a result today the biggest part of the drug corridors fro Afghanistan to Europe are in Tajikistan and neighbouring republics.
Currently the biggest part of the drug caravans follow the following routes:
Badakhshan, Afghanistan - Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan - Osh, Kyrgyzstan - Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan - Almaty, Kazakhstan - Samara, Russia - Moscow - Western Europe - USA;
Badakhshan, Afghanistan - Gorno-Badakhshan, Tajikistan - Osh, Kyrgyzstan - Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan - Almaty, Kazakhstan - Yekaterinburg, Russia - Moscow - Western Europe;
Mazari-Sharif, Afghanistan - Termez, Uzbekistan - Shali, Russia - Nakhichevan, Azerbaijan - Turkey;
Mazari-Sharif, Afghanistan - Termez, Uzbekistan - Samarkand, Uzbekistan - Gandja, Dagestan - Shali, Russia - Moscow - Western Europe;
Faizabad, Afghanistan - Kulyab, Tajikistan - Dushanbe, Tajikistan - Osh, Kyrgyzstan - Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan - Almaty, Kazakhstan - Samara, Russia - Moscow - Western Europe - USA.
More heroin than ever is produced in Afghanistan today.
All attempts of the world community to resolve this problem don't bring a positive effect. Given the absence of any real power in the hands of Kabul, the money allocated by international organisations for replacement of poppies by other cultures are used for opposed purposes.
And if in 2004 the Karzai government offered 1,250 USD for each hectare of opium plants destroyed, the drug traffickers offer in average 16,000 USD for the harvest from one hectare.
As a result, the majority of peasants participate in the poppy cultivation and profits from it correspondingly. As long as the cultivation of poppies is the only means for the survival of the Afghan people the Afghan authorities do not take active measures to destroy the poppy plantations in order to avoid upheavals in the country.
Therefore the number of poppy fields has started to grow increasingly. It is enough to say that already in 2002 the growth of opium production and consequently that of heroin reached 1,400%, thus the volume of the mid-1990-s, when around 70% of the world poppy fields were concentrated in Afghanistan.
Here it should be observed that 185 tonnes of raw opium were gathered in 2001, 1,900-2,700 tonnes were gathered in 2002, more than 7,000 tonnes (87% of the worldwide consupmtion) were produced in 2003, 12,000 tonnes in 2004 - (only in 2004 opium was sown at 225,000 hectares of land on which previously traditional agricultural crops had been cultivated, such as wheat, corn, rice, barley, potato), while in 2005 the production volume reached already 15,000 tonnes.
Currently the cultivation of poppies and the extraction of opium is taking place all around Afghanistan, moreover, in several provinces a complete industrial cycle was introduced that consists of the following stages:
Cultivation of poppies;
Extraction of raw opium;
Processing of raw opium into morphine;
Production of the final product - heroin hydrochloride;
Storage of the deadly weight;
Big wholesale operations on the heroin markets.
Besides, it should be observed that currently there is a tendency towards a growth of field labs with the complete cycle. Drug dealers spend a lot of money to equip these labs. Taking into consideration the fact that 2-3 harvests can be gathered from each plantation each year, the workload of these labs can only be imagined.
Among the provinces with the operating complete cycle labs the following can be mentioend:
At the same time the development of drug business formed on the territorial basis in Afghanistan brings about appearance of influential groupings, which creates favourable conditions for the maintenance of tension in the Central Asian community in connection with the socioeconomic crisis.
Thus, it can be suggested that a significant growth of the sown poppies that became the main culture in Afghanistan during the antiterrorist operation will cause a growing flow of drug traffic to Europe through Central Asia.
Simultaneously a part of them will remain in the republics of the region, negatively influencing both the society (a growth of addicts) and the state (a growth of criminal groups.)
All republics of the region recognise the dangers (of drug expansion in the first turn) that comes from Afghanistan. At the same time Afghanistan today is the most vulnerable country in the context of regional security.
Moreover, political processes taking place in this state, influence the stability in Central Asia directly or indirectly.
Undoubtedly the theme of drug trade and drug traffic from Afghanistan to Central Asia and Western Europe will always remain relevant, but a reasonable question arises - are there any ways for resolving this problem and a political will of the states capable of minimising the risk of growing inflows and rampant crime in Central Asia provoking instability in the region?
Or else we will continue only to hear the international commitments adopted with regard to Afghanistan that significantly influence the regional stability?