War on drugs getting nowhere


About The Author

""Dr. Shanthie Mariet D’Souza is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. She has Expertise in US Policy towards Afghanistan, Terrorism, Indo-US relations, Indo-Afghan Relations.

Dr. Shanthie is also an visiting Fulbright Scholar at South Asia Studies, The Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC (2005-2006). Her Research experience includes Research Associate at Database & Documentation Centre of the Institute for Conflict Management, Guwahati, Assam (2004-05); and Editorial Assistant at the United Service Institution of India, New Delhi, 2001. She has also Participated in International Exchange Programmes like Indo-Canada Youth Exchange Programme (1994-95), and the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies Summer Workshop on "Defence Technology and Co-operative Security in South Asia" at Lahore, Pakistan, (February-March 2005). Dr. Shanthie has visited and conducted field studies in the United States, Canada, Pakistan Afghanistan and India’s North East.

Dr. Shanthie has also represented Karnataka & Goa Directorate as the Senior Wing Best Cadet at the National Cadet Corps (NCC) Republic Day Camp (RDC) and the Prime Minister?s Rally, New Delhi from 05 -29 January 1994 and was adjudged the Third Best Cadet (Bronze Medallist) at All India Best Cadet Competition, RDC, 1994, New Delhi. Seventh position in the B.A. Examinations, 1995, School of Social Work, Roshini Nilaya Mangalore University. 

""On June 17, 2007, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a bus in Kabul, killing dozens of people, puncturing the hollow claims of "normalcy" in barricaded and garrisoned cities like Kabul. Interviews with the local people in Kabul and the provinces of Afghanistan, revealed that such claims had very little meaning in an environment of pervasive fear and insecurity, the large presence of the international security forces notwithstanding.

Any analysis of the escalating violence in Afghanistan caused by the resurgent Taliban and sources of funding for such insurgency boils down to narcotic-trafficking. The huge array of Taliban affiliated groups ? warlords, narcotic traffickers, organised criminals, involved in the drug trade form an "arc of regional conflict formation" with cross border networks enabling easy flow of drugs from Afghanistan into Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan, China and even India.

Narcotic hub

While around 92 per cent of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) sources indicate that in 2006, Afghanistan produced an equivalent of 6,100 tonnes of opium, contributing to about 92 percent of the world total. The production levels rose to almost 60 per cent to reach a record harvest of 165,000 hectares. And if preliminary survey in February 2007 is any indication, the current year does not portend too well for the country.

While the drug menace looms large in Afghanistan, the counter-productive narcotic policies of the US and its NATO allies are deepening fissures and reinforcing instability in the southern provinces.

The insurgency wracked southern provinces of Afghanistan. For instance, Helmand, today has emerged as a significant centre for heroin processing and trafficking, and is becoming the world’s biggest drug supplier.

In an interview with this author, minister of counter narcotics, Eng Habibullah Qaderi (who has since resigned) emphasised on the need for a unified and well-coordinated strategy with help from the international community as a way out of this quandary.

It might be easier said than done. Opium trade in Afghanistan is worth about $3.1 billion, contributes to about a third of Afghanistan’s total economy. Some of the biggest drug barons are members of the national and provincial governments. The law enforcement arm of the Afghan government is involved at various levels to facilitate the lucrative trade.

Ambitious plan

Hamid Karzai government’s ambitious plan for fighting the opium trade, based on "eight pillars," including poppy eradication, building the justice system, and funding alternative development programmes, has not taken off. While the Americans are trying to push rigid eradication efforts like aerial spraying, the Europeans are clearly opposed to forceful eradication for fear of losing the "hearts and mind" campaign.

In Helmand province, rural communities, in addition to turning anti-government, look towards the insurgents offer for "protection" of poppy crops. Travel around Nangarhar province, highlighted the absence of alternative development projects. Thus, a string of broken promises have generated alienation and contempt within rural communities, particularly in the south, further weakening the link with the Karzai government.

While the international community seems to be floundering in evolving effective counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan, the sources of funding the insurgent movement continues to remain intact with cross border support. Small incremental steps involving a judicious mix of eradication, development, and building on a sustainable economic and agricultural base might provide a way out of the imbroglio. However, these measures require building of a stable Afghan government backed by strong international commitment.

[This article was previously published on Deccan Herald]

Author: Dr. Shanthie Mariet DSouza- New Delhi