Narcotics Threat, Dithering Societies and Institutions

Posted in Other | 27-May-06 | Author: Muhammad Aslam Khan

Afghan police destroying poppy crops
Afghan police destroying poppy crops

Poppy plant is beautiful with fresh green leaves and delicate petals in pink, red and purple hues. It is a marvelous addition as if God had leisure as well as pleasure to clip such an ornament to our beautiful planet. The landscape laden with breezy poppy crop rustling in the bright dewy morning struck human heart as any ‘wild beauty’ would, in some otherwise desolate and deserted regions when a tinkering cold blue water stream meandered nearby. A shepherd sat on the top of a boulder and inspired to sing while peace and tranquility prevailed. He thus created a melody that was conjoined by an orchestra laid by the nature. His ‘sandarra1’ surprisingly added to the depth of nature’s frivolity in enticing human soul. That was the romantic scene of yesteryears which, driven by greed and grandeur seeking ventures, particularly after the second half of the 20th Century degenerated into an instrument of social destability, crime and violence that threaten the societies as well as the sovereign states.

Drugs Trade in Perspective

The history of drugs trade dates back to 1 st Century BC2. In Asia it occurred usually along the ‘Silk Road.’ Some historians are of the view that poppy, also called ‘Papaver Somniferum L’ is most likely a European plant that spread through Asia as a commodity along with Arabs conquests of Central and South Asian Regions in 7th Century AD, reaching as far as China. However it is established that European traders effectively traded in opium in exchange for spices and tea in South Asia as well as China. In 16th Century Portuguese and Dutch were seen active in drugs trade while British appeared on the scene in 17th Century. They carried opium to China when ‘Moguls’ ruled Indian Subcontinent. Consequent to the Treaty of Nangjin that gave Hong Kong to Britain in 1842, it became first heroin hub. From China, as a result of escape-from-repression and trade incentives after World War II, opium trade spread to Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand, Laos and Burma that shaped what later became to be known as ‘Golden Triangle.’ The expansion of drug mafia kept exploring lucrative regions for drug trade where poverty, destability and ideal access routes to the drug markets emerged as the merits of such hubs. No wonders, a strategic region even surpassing the Golden Triangle’s merits lay on the southern fringes of Central Asia. Being predominantly Muslim’s region, a parallel to the Golden Triangle was drawn to call it as ‘Golden Crescent’. It overlaps the territories of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

One of many victims
One of many victims

Besides the opium, ‘cannabis’ had also been used as psychoactive drug. It grows wild and incidentally Kazakhstan is the largest producer of wild cannabis in the world. By dawn of 20th Century, almost whole Asia and Turkey were trading in drugs. Prohibition clamped by the Persian Govt in 1955 forced the opium production shift to Pakistan and Afghanistan at a larger scale. In the meantime Turkey allowing poppy cultivation legally got locked in long struggle with USA in early 60s and within a decade, it succumbed to US pressure. The war on drugs was symbolized by ‘US Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961’ since opium products; much more lethal in effect, now flooded the international market. ‘Shanghai Convention of 1909’ had to be refurbished. Richard Nixon formally declared war on drugs in 1971.Turkey’s compliance in 1972 had wide repercussions on other opium growing areas of Golden Triangle as well as Golden Crescent. Interestingly the anti communist groups in Burma, Laos and later in Afghanistan had been operating with total impunity, some say with connivance of CIA. Thus Cold War enabled the economies based on illicit drugs trade thrive in Asia3. However at the international forum, several agreements and conventions were concluded at intervals which proved that the threat had been in focus for long time because it has been surfacing with changed apparitions4. The dawn of new millennium has witnessed a clear spurt in the efforts to curtail the drug barons’ impunity to flood the markets with illicit drugs by holding several rounds of consultations under the provision of Paris Pact. Experts Round Table was hosted by Russia in 2004, Pakistan in March 2005, Iran in September 2005 and Turkey in October 2005 that reveals international resolve to combat the menace.

Golden Crescent Spews Opium

BrigGen (ret) Muhammad Aslam Khan Niazi: "The problem needs visionaries to formulate counter narcotics strategy"
BrigGen (ret) Muhammad Aslam Khan Niazi: "The problem needs visionaries to formulate counter narcotics strategy"
It emerged predominantly as opium producing region in 70s as did ‘Golden Triangle in 50s. When the world witnessed the dilution of Cold War, Russian strategic phantasmagoria5 in 1991 emerged as the unique phenomenon. Afghanistan’s strategic location with its borders adjoining South Asia (Pakistan) to the east, Middle East (Iran) to the south/southwest and newly independent Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to the north and northwest turned out to be a dream world for the drug barons. Drug routes were no longer confined to the west or southwest (Iran) or to the south and south east (Pakistan) but also the lucrative ones were now available to the north and northwest of Afghanistan. Three maps6 below indicate the northern, the southern/eastern and the western routes that generally traverse the rugged and unfrequented terrain. The extent of northern routes proves how drugs trade finds access through Central Asia to locations as far away as Russia, China and threaten Eastern as well as Western Europe. It however does not mean that the drug mafia has discarded

Map-Northern Routes

the southern and eastern routes through Pakistan, leading to Pakistan’s coastal exit points, to India and southeastern Iran which ultimately lead further west to Turkey and the Middle East (map below). In fact the mafia diligently continues to assess the impregnability of counter narcotics mechanism placed by the countries through which they have to traverse. The routes offering the least resistance remain the most favorable ones. Though Pakistan and Iran are making ‘carriers’ task arduous in drug trafficking by deploying efficient anti-narcotics task forces, the routes nevertheless persist as the baron’s stakes are high and worth taking the calculated risks.

Map-Southern and Eastern Routes

The third map below gives the alignment of the western routes from Afghanistan as well as Pakistan that facilitate narcotics exit through Caucasus and Turkey subsequently.

Map-Western Routes

Perhaps the tragedy of the consequences is that all routes either chart their way through states yearning for stability and good governance or active insurgency areas of varying intensity. South Caucasus, North Caucasus, whole of Central Asia including Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Xingjian and Iranian as well as Pakistani Balochistan and Turkish Kurdistan are in the limelight. Though opium production in Afghanistan is not a new phenomenon, Afghanistan nevertheless, for the manifold incentives available on the collapse of Soviets ‘iron curtain’ in 1991 and specter of transition still haunting Central Asia as well as Caucasus,

emerged as bumper crop area, becoming primary opium producer with a yield of 1782 metric tons (mt) in 1991(see table below). Afghanistan also achieved peak production of 4600 mt of opium in 1999 that slumped to 3300 mt in year 2000. Some Western analysts recognize Taliban singular distinction of bringing opium production to barely 185 mt mark in 2001. In term of cultivated area, they enforced reduction by 97 percent. "Turning first to drug control, I had expected to concentrate my remarks on the implications of the Taliban's ban on opium poppy cultivation in areas under their control... We now have the results of our annual ground survey of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. This year's production [2001] is around 185 tons. This is down from the 3300 tons last year [2000], a decrease of over 94 per cent. Compared to the record harvest of 4700 tons two years ago, the decrease is well over 97 per cent. Any decrease in illicit cultivation is welcomed, especially in cases like this when no displacement, locally or in other countries, took place to weaken the achievement.7 "

Table Showing Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan and the Yields8

Year Cultivation in hectares Production (tons)
1994 71,470 3,400
1995 53,759 2,300
1996 56,824 2,200
1997 58,416 2,800
1998 63,674 2,700
1999 90,983 4,600
2000 82,172 3,300
2001 7,606 185
2002 74 000 3400
2003 80 000 3600

According to Robert Charles, “We could be on a path for a significant surge. Some observers indicate perhaps as much as 50 percent to 100 percent growth in 2004 crop over the already troubling figures of the last year9.” He also clearly highlighted the dimension of the threat by asserting that cutting of supplies of opium and hence billion of dollars to extremists and the war lords were central to US policy of war on terrorism. Robert Charles’ resolve and intentions may even meet the Bible’s merit but the irony of fate would remain that drugs and terror are now close relatives. Some powerful drug barons are also war lords on the US coalition side till such time expediency meets their objective. It will not be too surprising that same good old friends US nurtured over decades would ditch US efforts by changing sides to the opposing forces, particularly in Afghanistan at an opportune moment. We have precedence, not too far in the past. Since the mid-1990s, Hamid Karzai, a consultant and lobbyist for UNOCAL once remained in negotiations with the Taliban."Karzai has been a Central Intelligence Agency covert operator since the 1980s. He collaborated with the CIA in funnelling U.S. aid to the Taliban as of 1994 when the Americans had secretly and through the Pakistanis [specifically the ISI] supported the Taliban's assumption of power10." Who else would better justify the opium growth in Afghanistan than Mr. Abdullah Abdullah, an active war lord11, “Let us not forget that Afghanistan’s historical misfortunes and troubled politics over the past two decades gave birth to a poppy-driven agriculture in large areas of our country. We did not face this problem 25 years ago. The root causes of increased reliance on poppy cultivation are directly linked to invasions, massive exodus of people and skills, drought, war and poverty. Afghanistan was agriculturally self-sufficient prior to the 1978 coup d’état, but as internal conditions worsened over time, narcotics became a means of livelihood for many inside the country but also a very profitable business venture for producers, smugglers and criminal circles in our region and beyond12.”

Diverse Views

Some credible analysts link the recent history of Golden Crescent drug trade convincingly to CIA’s covert operations in the region since the Soviet-Afghan’s War. Prior to this, Afghan opium found access to regional market only in natural form as the indigenous capability to synthesize opium to its much purer versions had yet not been developed. CIA as a part of its strategy to dismantle Soviets empire as it did against communists in Laos and Burma, crafted a drug trade design to sustain Afghan resistance, notably through then the most powerful war lord, Gulbadin Hykmat Yar. In other words Afghan opiates were made to generate funds to pay for the weapons CIA funneled to ‘mujahideen’ at virtually zero expense to US exchequer. “Because the US wanted to supply the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan with stinger missiles and other military hardware it needed the full cooperation of Pakistan. By the mid 1980s, the CIA operation in Islamabad was one of the largest US intelligence stations in the World. If BCCI is such an embarrassment to the US that forthright investigations are not being pursued it has a lot to do with the blind eye the US turned to the heroin trafficking in Pakistan', said a US intelligence officer13”. The segment of Afghanistan society that has become hostage to the interests of drug barons as well as the coalition efforts through zero tolerance of the poppy crop cultivation is the hardest hit. They are the common people of Afghanistan being churned through the upheavals of over three decades of war and state terror with little choice to decide between the devil and the deep blue sea. Alfred McCoy discusses very elaborately wherein he proves CIA’s forty years complicity in the narcotics trade14. In Afghan ‘jihad’ against the Soviets when ‘mujahideen’ were termed as ‘holy warriors’ even by some eminent scholars in the West, the CIA covert operation remained at full swing. "CIA assets again controlled this heroin trade. As the Mujahideen guerrillas seized territory inside Afghanistan, they ordered peasants to plant opium as a revolutionary tax. Across the border in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates under the protection of Pakistan Intelligence operated hundreds of heroin laboratories. During this decade of wide-open drug-dealing, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad failed to instigate major seizures or arrests…In 1995, the former CIA director of the Afghan operation, Charles Cogan, admitted the CIA had indeed sacrificed the drug war to fight the Cold War. 'Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets. We didn't really have the resources or the time to devote to an investigation of the drug trade,' I don't think that we need to apologize for this. Every situation has its fallout. There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.15” It leaves little doubt how meticulous treatment drug trafficking design must have received through its evolution and widespread propagation with complete monopoly over the stocks in Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent remaining in the hands of CIA. One is quite confident that none in the Western world ever perceived the lethality of ‘blow backs’ on conclusion of Afghan jihad, who only after a decade and half were reducing WTC and the Pentagon to rubbles. Drug patronage was only a shade of doling out favours to the future ‘blow backs’ and hence the genie remained out of the bottle for a long time, now flexing muscles on the globe. On withdrawal of the Soviets, US packed up its magic kit and withdrew behind Atlantic, leaving decade long miseries for the Afghans to lick their wounds. In about a decade and a half, Atlantic insularity crumbled to pieces on 9/11: courtesy the ‘holy warriors’. In March 2006, there could not have been better official confession coming through these words, “The Department is focused on three national security priorities: preventing terrorists attacks within the United States; reducing America’s vulnerability to terrorism; and minimising the damage and facilitating the recovery from attacks that do occur.16

Immensity of Narcotics Threat

Narcotics illicit trade can strike at the roots of social fabrics, states political and social milieu, prompt crime and violence to the scale that govts law enforcement capability may reduce to shreds. In the context of Golden Crescent, how does the hydra headed menace afflict the societies and the world scene?

  • The threat has achieved immense economic potency because it has grown just next to oil and arms trade. The drug trafficking constitutes the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and arms17. It may therefore be worthwhile to accord higher level of authenticity to the researchers like Alfred McCoy, talking of states complicity because control over these narco-riches would necessitate domination of narcotics producing regions and drug trafficking routes precisely in a manner analogous to ensuring guaranteed supply of oil when it is not only the oil wells control but also of the pipelines that are so critical to sustain the booming economies. It is therefore not a simple sporting event being played on the backs of the carriers, donkeys and the horses in rugged terrain of Afghanistan and Iran as well as Pakistan border areas but like oil the business has assumed strategic connotations. UN estimates place the world annual turn over value of the narcotics between $400-500 billion and Golden Crescent has large share in it. Similarly IMF studies suggest that worldwide money laundering in a year could be placed at $590 billion to $1.5 trillion that constitutes 2-5 percent of the global GDP18 when narcotics trade is the main driver of money laundering to such a staggering scale.
  • Michel Chossudovsky is of the opinion that recycling of drug money was used to finance the post-Cold War insurgencies in Central Asia and the Balkans including Al Qaeda19. The remarks by the scholar may appear harsh but it does point out that insurgencies the world over are being abetted by powers interests to the varying degree and the drug money is the safest to launder in kind or cash to sustain the freedom fighters or the terrorists in the arena. Like Alfred McCoy, Chossudovsky appears inclined to suggest extensive collusion by CIA in drug business. However Ahmed Rashid maintains different view, pointing out that CIA top brass may have ignored the drug trafficking to achieve their major objective of defeating the Soviets during Afghan jihad but they never were the patron or the custodian of the drug laboratories and the routes. “The US Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) had 17 full time officers in Pakistan during the 1980s, who identified 40 major heroin syndicates, including some headed by top government officials. Not a single syndicate was broken up during the decade. There was clearly conflict of interest between the CIA which wanted no embarrassing disclosure about drug links between the ‘heroic’ Mujahideen and Pakistani officials and the traffickers and the DEA. Several DEA officials asked to be relocated and at least one resigned, because the CIA refused to allow them to carry out their duties20.” The critics of CIA can still find cogent reasons to suggest that it was unusually sensitive covert operation to which certain junior echelons of CIA were excluded. To say the least, even ignoring the build up of a threat by CIA, for whatever reasons, amounts to criminal neglect.
  • Threat to Europe is likely to multiply further when Afghan heroine is making easy access to Eastern European countries along the northern routes that are being integrated in EU. In other words intensity of the heroin onslaught would build up and erstwhile European insularity through their effective counter narcotic barriers of different kind and the buffer zone afforded by the Soviets Empire that stretched to the river "Amu Darya" is likely to be penetrated by the powerful drug mafia.
  • Because the trade interests of all illicit drug traders coincide; gradually they appear to have struck larger collaborative mechanism, irrespective of the fact that a drug baron belonged to the Golden Crescent, Golden Triangle or Latin America, particularly when none would be hindered by the ethnic divide and religion or nationality clichés. The prerequisite they need to thrive upon i.e. poverty, absence of rule of law and prevailing chaos and violence already abounds in several world regions with still a faster drift to anarchy. Whole of Central Asia, Southern as well as Northern Caucasus and the border areas of Iran, Pakistan and Turkey are their heavens one could draw a red line around. These regions have emerged unwittingly as the laboratories of democratic values (as the Western scientists would perceive) or the vet stone for the virtues and vices (as the Muslim scientists would interpret) to reckon their corresponding vulnerability to narco-terror in direct proportion to the degree of prevailing justice, rule of law and respect for the popularism in these states. Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Xingjian, South and North Caucasus need to observe red alert. Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, China and Russia could be placed at the ‘yellow’ mark of the narcotics threat magnitude. Rest of the world needs to stay at blinking ‘yellow’ to remind them of threat occurrence or recurrence. US do not have to be at any alert level consideration because it has already declared war on narco-terror after seeing a very complex nexus between the narcotics and terrorism.
  • The studies indicate that out of total Afghan heroin produced in 2002 (3400mt), sizeable quantity was smuggled to UK as Afghan heroin share was 90 percent of total heroin consumed in UK. The statistics support the preceding lines of argument that Europe remains vulnerable as a lucrative market to pay the drug traffickers.
  • Through restraining efforts in Afghanistan, reduction by 21 percent was achieved in 2005 but it virtually became redundant in effect because of favourable climate that increased average yield manifold, from 7 kg per ha to 39 kg per ha. Thus in 2005 Afghanistan remained the largest source of illicit opium, producing 87 % of the world total with its production mark at 4100 mt. In term of dollars value, it stood at $ 2.7 billion that makes 52 % of the country’s licit economy. Out of this bonanza, major share of $ 2.14 billion was bagged by the drug traffickers while a fraction went to the poor farmers21.
  • In Central Asia, opiates penetrate along the northern routes from Afghanistan, domestic consumption profits are no more than $ 30 million as compared to illicit export profits to Russia and Europe that fetch the drug lords staggering amount of $ 2.2 billion. The ratio is likely to tilt marginally towards domestic profits when spill over of the drug transit in Central Asia would result in increased domestic consumption, particularly if Russia and Europe manage to choke the dents. Such a scenario shall regrettably be the repeat play of the two decades old phenomenon when addicts’ figures in Pakistan sky-rocketed to 1.5 (one point five) million as a consequence when Pakistan choked the southern drug routes leading to Iran as well as to its coastal exit points. Similarly north-western routes through Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and Georgia have seen surge in drug addicts to 1700 and 275,000 respectively. Georgia is threatened the most because 80 % increase in drug addicts was registered in 2004 over 200322.
  • US are more constrained basically by the drug threat directly emanating from its close quarters. Yet indirect but lethal dimensions of the threat posed to US interests are colossal while it wages an all out war on terrorism. US perception about the drug production implication in Afghanistan has been amply highlighted in its National Drug Control Strategy of February 2006 when it sees terrorism and drug trafficking virtually the two sides of the same coin. It reads, “The strategy for attacking the economic basis of the drug trade in Afghanistan reinforces other priorities in the US Global War on Terror. We are committed to a counter narcotic strategy that aims to enhance stability in this fledgling democracy by attacking a source of financial and political support for terrorist organizations that threaten the United States and our allies23.”
  • The ever fledgling drug trade invariably hits at the roots of the nascent democracies that strive to resort to the ‘rule of law’ option. This option is precisely unacceptable to the drug mafia because law enforces ‘justice’ that cuts across the symmetry (rather asymmetry) of crimes all and sundry. Their priorities thus cater for corrupting the government institutions. In worst case scenario, a drug baron penetrates to secure an effective slot as a government functionary for manipulating the legislation process on one hand and keeping the government writ floundering in the maze of petty issues on the other. Thus level playing fields remain clear for his fellow drug barons to operate brazenly. Talking in the context of ‘Silk Road’ countries, Vladimir Fenopetov says, “Drug trafficking usually flourishes where state capacity is weakened…. The result is the growth of corruption, which undermines the public’s trust in government and breeds a loss of faith in democracy and the national economy. Drug trafficking can also hinder progress to democracy by providing justification for the maintenance of authoritarian forms of government, as a means to provide security….Uncontrolled profits from drug crime create a new segment of newly-rich citizens who combine ostentatious wealth with undue power. They are becoming so powerful that they can undermine state authority and legitimacy24.”
  • Experts on counter terrorism and counter narcotics philosophy are converging on their perception about the long and lethal arm of the emerging nexus between the two. In fact expressions like terrorism have come to appear in the same breath about, what they term it as ‘narco-terrorism’. In other words it makes abundantly clear that the hydra headed monster is still growing. Hoping that the ‘justice’ has to prevail ultimately, perhaps one my not shudder on their collusion. What sends the jitters across the board is the unfortunate threat of emergence of (drug) crime-state nexus when state(s) would stand subdued by the monster and become willingly pliant. That would mean a horrendous specter.

Narcotics-A Necessary Evil

It is a strange paradox that people die with narcotics (use) and people also die without narcotics (based medicines).Thus there has to be a necessity to regulate the opiates supply in the market as the life saving drugs. In 20th Century, morphine and codeine consumption increased because of their properties as pain reliever, cough suppressant, treating diarrhea and cancer related pains that are also derivatives of opium raw material25. The two versions are the major alkaloids contained in the opium and hence remain on the WHO model list of ‘essential drugs’. For the licit drug trade, Australia, France, India, Spain and Turkey lead the world board. In 1999, India exported 580 mt of opium to US, Japan, UK, Hungry and France26. The core material of the licit drug trade is also opium because its capsule, secretions as well as straw make the base of the drugs. Licit drug production had been merely 8 % of the total drug production. In other words drug traffickers perhaps were in very comfortable illicit business climate to supply 92% of the world requirement. The Graph-127 below gives the total world production and consumption of licit drugs between years 1987 to 2001.

It may also be prudent to focus on the licit cultivation and production of drugs of the main producers that would make a supporting logic for the argument while evaluating options later about Afghanistan’s total poppy eradication or need to adopt some pragmatic strategies. Graph 2 and 3 below28 show licit drug cultivation and production. Turkey topped the world till 1999, harvesting over 80,000 ha and nose dived to barely about 20,000 ha by year 2000. Interestingly Australia, despite being third on the harvesting board, leads in production while India, France Turkey and Spain follow in that order.

These statistics show that the whole cacophony in the drugs international arena is exacerbated by 63 % of illicit cultivation and 92 % of illicit production of the world total.

Way- Out Strategy (WOS)

The drug menace is stupendous, which originates from the concave or convex of a crescent (Afghanistan) that beams in all directions. The northern routes through Central Asia are particularly threatening. Though some sizeable seizers have been made in recent years but that constitute only a fraction of the 75 % of the total drugs produced in Afghanistan which transits through Central Asia. The problem is not only complex but also needs visionaries to formulate counter narcotics strategy who have already focused on it elaborately. The spurt of deliberations in 2005 underscores the international community concern to chalk out WOS. The proceedings amply indicate that if one compiled the plethora of recommendations on conclusion of their conferences, the values and merit-packed volumes could safely be graded next to Holy Scriptures which the drugs mafia has increasingly turned redundant. To put it briefly, these can be epitomized in five domains e.g.

  • Legal and administrative measures needed to be clamped by individual states as state functions.
  • Increased cooperation among the target states to choke the flow of illicit drugs.
  • Timely intelligence exchanges about the hard core operators of the illicit drug gangs.
  • Evaluating the pacts and treaties on regulating the legal drug uses.
  • Modifying the regional and extra-regional bodies’ charter already available to develop a sustainable response to the fledgling threat of narcotics through stringent measures, directed inwardly on the devious people and outwardly on the cross borders crime and terror networks.

In the whole conundrum, the center of gravity of the issue is certainly Afghanistan. If its illicit opium production capacity is neutralized, not through brute force but through persuasion strategies and prevented effectively from shifting to its neighbors, the world shall heave a sigh of relief. Three options are available that would need a separate volume to cover the detailed modalities, only high profiles are mentioned below:

  • Option-1. Ruthlessly execute the zero tolerance of the opium crop, reducing the cultivation area to ‘nil’ ha and thus production to ‘nil’ mt. The whole brunt of the option shall be borne by the poor farmers only. Afghanistan’s farmers miseries are compounded when the country’s limited agriculture land and harsh climate, unlike India and Australia, does not afford flexibility for worthwhile substitute crop(s).
  • Option-II. Put whole of the Afghan’s illicit opium production under licit category of the production, akin to the status being enjoyed at the moment by Australia, France Turkey, India and Spain. Make sure at the same time that rationalized value of the opium capsule and the poppy straw, proportionate to the international market price of the opiate products is paid to the poor Afghan farmers directly to eliminate the middle men abuses. Raw opium production must not be permitted as is the practice in vogue from the capsule’s secretions. When the farmers, on elimination of middle men start receiving better income, persuade them gradually to reduce their harvest area through quota fixation. Simultaneously build up their capacity to look for other possible substitute occupations where they are better paid off. At the international level the second prong of the strategy should be working in unison to cut addicts figures in target countries to slash ever increasing illicit drugs demand. However the licit drug production that is barely 8% of the world total production be kept in tact. It is likely that consistent and pragmatic implementation of WOS for two to three decades shall enable cutting down huge harvest area and hence the production also because the demand would have dropped down manifold.
  • Option-III. Maintain status quo and keep frittering away resources and the effort of the donors under the label of containment policy. The option only serves the interests of war lords, inflating their Swiss Bank accounts as some of them are unfortunately the friends of coalition forces that are compelled under the circumstances to keep them on their inventory.


Option-II is recommended because the foe (narcotics) would stand struck at its center of gravity and crippled.

The author, with about 32 years of military career, is a defense analyst and PhD Research Scholar since 2002. Brig Gen (ret) Muhammad Aslam Khan Niazi from Pakistan is also a member of the WSN International Advisory Board.(

End Notes

1. Meaning ‘Pashto’ song, hypothesized here about a possible Badakhshani landscape in Afghanistan.
2. Lavinson D Christensen, Ed: Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, Vol 2, 2002. pp303-308
3. For Afghanistan, Gulbadin Hykmat Yar is named while Hamongs and Gumindongs were named for Laos and Burma respectively.
4. The International Opium Conventions of 1912; and 1925; the Agreement concerning the Control of Opium Smoking of 1931; Protocol Amending the Agreements, Conventions and Protocols on Narcotic Drugs of 1946; Protocol bringing under International Control Drugs Outside of the Scope of the 1931 Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotics Drugs of 1948; and the Protocol for Limiting and Regulating the Cultivation of the Poppy Plant, the Production of, International and Wholesale Trade in, and Use of Opium of 1953 had been some major regulatory instruments at international levels.
5. Zbigniew Brzezinski: The Grand Chess Board: American Primacy and its Geo-strategic Imperatives, ( Basic Books, New York 1997) p.96
6. Maps accessed at WWW.GEOPIUM.ORG, on 7 May 2006
7. Remarks by UNODC Executive Director at the UN General Assembly, October 2001, )
8. See for example: UNDCP, Afghanistan, Opium Poppy Survey, 2001, UNOCD, Opium Poppy Survey, 2002. See also Press Release:
9. Robert Charles, US Assistant Secretary of State’s statement during Congressional Hearing, 1 April 2004.
10. Karen Talbot, “U.S. Energy Giant Unocal Appoints Interim Government in Kabul”, Global Outlook, No. 1, Spring 2002. p. 69-70. (quoting a Saudi paper).
11. In Afghanistan, ‘war lord’ and ‘drug lord’ may be interchangeable titles.
12. Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan ex Foreign Minister’s speech at the Paris International Conference, “Drug Routes from Central Asia to Europe”, 22 May 2003.
13. "The Dirtiest Bank of All," Time, 29 July 1991, p. 22.
14. See for example, Alfred McCoy: The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, (Brooklyn, New York 1991).
15. Alfred McCoy, Drug Fallout: the CIA's Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997.
16. The National Security Strategy; of The United States of America, March 2006
17. The Independent, 29 February 2004.
18. Asian Banker, 15 August 2003
19. Michel Chossudovsky, “War and Globalization, The Truth Behind September 11”, Global Outlook, 2002, )
20. Ahmed Rashid: Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia; ( Yale University Press, New Haven, London, 2000) p. 121
21. United Nations Study, “The Opium Economy in Afghanistan”, January 2003. pp. 62-68. Also see the subsequent UN studies of 2004-2005.
22. Vladimir Fenopetov, “The Drug Crime Threat to Countries Located on the ‘Silk Road”, The China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, Vol 4, No. 1, February 2006, pp.5-8
23. (US) National Drug Control Strategy; The White House, February 2006, p.38
24. Fenopetov, op cit, p.10.
25. David Mansfield, “ An Analysis of Licit Opium Poppy Cultivation: India and Turkey” Commonwealth Office of the Govt of UK, April 2001(
26. International Narcotics Control Board; Report-1999; United Nations, New York.
27. Mansfield, op cit, p. 5
28. Ibid, p.6