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UN Drug Chief Warns of Afghanistan "Narco-State"

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #805)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Afghanistan could collapse into a "full-fledged narco-state" as the looming withdrawal of US and NATO combat forces creates a gaping hole in the center of the country's economy, Yuri Fedotov, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned Wednesday.

In an interview with Reuters, Fedotov noted that the Western forces generate about a third of all jobs and investment in Afghanistan. They are due to leave the country by the end of next year, and even the presence of a residual force of up to 10,000 fighters is increasingly in doubt as the US and Afghan haggle over a status of forces agreement that would allow them to stay.

The other major economic activity in the country is opium production, processing, and distribution, including the manufacture of heroin from raw opium, which accounts for roughly another third of the national economy. Since the US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, it has consistently been the world's leading source of illicit opium production, accounting for nearly 90% of all poppies produced worldwide.

Multi-hundred million dollar annual cash flows associated with the opium economy have benefited the Taliban insurgency, which taxes farmers in areas it controls as well as engaging in or protecting drug trafficking. They have also benefited corrupt Afghan government officials and associated warlords.

Fedotov, whose native Russia has been flooded with Afghan heroin, said Wednesday that an upcoming UNODC survey due later this month will show increases in both opium cultivation and production.

"The situation is worsening, that is clear and very disappointing," he said. "It is a very serious setback, but we need to take that as a warning shot," he added, calling for increased international assistance.

"That is also fertile ground for corruption and other forms of transnational organized crime. It is a multi-faceted challenge and we need to take that as a serious problem," Fedotov warned. "Otherwise we have a serious risk that without international support, without more meaningful assistance, this country may continue to evolve into a full-fledged narco-state," he said. "We have not been able to develop an alternative economy in Afghanistan," Fedotov said. "With all our efforts, it was very hard to move from illicit to licit."

Oh, and those Afghan farmers? When they're not producing opium, they're producing cannabis. Afghanistan is also one of the world's preeminent producers of it, according to UNODC, and production was up again last year, the group reported last month.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymouse (not verified)

What I read in this article is that the UN is upset that it's policies are creating this kind of problem.   A regulated, legal market place would create a safer world with less violence and crime... and we do not want that.  It's an almost identical message as to what the US ONDCP presents. 

In other words, we can't try something different as this has to work as well as Alcohol prohibition should have in the US if only they stuck with it long enough.

When the laws against drugs do more harm than the drugs themselves...   never mind, you cannot convince the ideologically driven by presenting them facts, logical conversation, or basic common sense.


Thu, 10/10/2013 - 6:59pm Permalink
Gart (not verified)

Fanatical prohibitionists, à la Yury Fedotov, are a very peculiar species:

If drug supply increases, WarOnDrugs is necessary; but if it decreases … WarOnDrugs is necessary, too!

If drug use increases, they call for WarOnDrugs; but if it decreases …they call for WarOnDrugs, too!

If drug violence decreases, WarOnDrugs is working; but if it increases … WarOnDrugs is working, too!.

If drug seizures increase, WarOnDrugs is a success; but if they decrease …WarOnDrugs is a success, too!

Gart Valenc

Twitter: @gartvalenc

Fri, 10/11/2013 - 1:25pm Permalink
Opiate Lover (not verified)

Another perfect example of why ending the war on drugs is so important and more than just about legalizing weed.

There is an easy way out of the mess that is the Afghan opium problem. NATO should buy the opium from the farmers and sell it to the users at cost. By cutting out the middle men it would effectively cut off a major source of government corruption and source of income for the Taliban. Farmers could earn a living wage and not live in fear of their crops being burned. On the consumption side there would be less drug war violence as drug dealers were put out of business. Users would get pure drugs at reasonable prices, and no longer criminalized their lives would improve immeasurably.


The claim that Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's heroin is suspicious. Heroin in the US comes from either Columbia (east coast) or Mexico (west coast). The Golden Triangle may not dominate world markets the way it used to but it still produces a good quantity of dope.


So unless the Americas consume only 10% of the world's heroin, Afghanistan cannot claim to account for 90% of all poppies grown worldwide (I also assume that number refers to illicit production and not licit pharmaceutical production).  I've read claims that North and South America consume half of all the world's heroin, even if that number is high that would leave about 50% of the market to Afghani heroin.

Sun, 10/13/2013 - 2:09am Permalink
kickback (not verified)

If my memory and history is correct , then Afghanistan only ramped up opium production after the USA invasion . Geraldo Rivera even interviewed military soldiers that were guarding the crops . Look it up . Where is the surprise ? I don`t see it ! . The " drug cash " helps to maintain " liquidity " amongst the International banking cartels .  Look it up . Afghanistan is flush with opium and heroin for a reason . US troops are there to guarantee its purity and distribution . Look it up . Enablers can`t deny the reality .

Sun, 10/13/2013 - 4:18am Permalink
sicntired (not verified)

I wake up sometimes and think I can actually go to the internet and order heroin from an Afghan farmer.Then I realize it was all just a dream.I don't get it.The NATO troops have been the tenders of a tenfold increase in opium production in Afghanistan.The Taliban had almost wiped the problem out.Of course they did so with violence,torture,fundamentalism and all manner of horrible practices.Noone wants that.The world is awash in very good,almost pure Afghan heroin.Even so,the addiction rates,while at record levels,are still at around 2%.That's about the same as the prison population.Also,the Taliban is being blamed for trafficking the heroin.How does that make any sense?They were the ones that tried to stop it.The prohibitionists will say and do anything to further their aims.I have no idea what their aims are but I have been witness to the growth of drug use and abuse ever since they declared war.I have also been addicted to opiates for 45 years.Every year I'm told I had better quit or it will kill me.I reach retirement in 8 days.So much for old at 25 and dead at 30.

Wed, 10/16/2013 - 6:52am Permalink

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