Asian governments’ concern about the trafficking of Afghan narcotics—and the crime and terrorism it supports—was underscored at two major multinational meetings last week.
The first, ‘Drug Production in Afghanistan: A Challenge for the International Community,’ took place in Moscow on June 9-10 and was sponsored by Russian news agency RIA Novosti, with support from the Russian State Anti-Narcotics Committee, independent Russian think tank Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, and the Institute for Demography, Migration and Regional Development.
The second event, the annual leadership summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, took place on June 10-11 in Tashkent, where Chinese President Hu Jintao joined the leaders of Russia and other Central Asian governments in making clear Beijing’s own alarm over the Afghan drug problem. About 90 percent of the world’s opium supply originates in Afghanistan, and although the flow of illicit Afghan drugs to Russia and European countries is well reported, much of Afghanistan’s narcotics exports also flow eastward to Asian countries.
The heroin-producing zone known as the ‘Golden Crescent’ comprises the mountain valleys of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, with Iran having one of the highest proportions of adults addicted to Afghan opium and heroin in the world. The Iranian government has spent $1 billion to fortify its porous 1,000-kilometre border with Afghanistan, and its 600-kilometre frontier with Pakistan, against drug traffickers. It has also deployed tens of thousands of counter-narcotic police and border guards to man the barrier and the head of Iran’s drug control agency confirmed last week that thousands of Iranian counternarcotics personnel have been killed or wounded in combat with Afghan drug dealers and their foreign partners.
Pakistan and Tajikistan also have lengthy borders with Afghanistan that, due to the rugged terrain among other obstacles, is difficult to control. Most of the Afghan narcotics that flow northward and eastward pass through these two countries, where the barriers are generally weaker than along the frontier with Iran. Unfortunately, large numbers of Pakistan and Tajik citizens are also addicted to Afghan drugs, which encourages them to engage in drug trafficking to share in the deliveries, as well as other crimes, to pay for their own fixes.
Shortly before the 10th meeting of the Council of SCO Heads of State, Zhang Xiao, deputy director general of the Department of European and Central Asian Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, listed drug trafficking, as well as terrorism and transnational crime, as major SCO concerns regarding Afghanistan.