Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

AAN in the Media

US anti-narcotics policy backfires in Afghanistan

< 1 min

TRT World, 1 February 2018

In this article on the Turkish news website, AAN’s Thomas Ruttig and research by AAN’s Jelena Bjelica are both quoted on the US start of a targeted strikes campaign against drug labs in Afghanistan. Thomas describes how drug labs would look like:

“Those labs are not what people—at least we in the West—imagine them to be; clean labs in separate buildings. They are also not ‘manned’ by the Taliban fighters,” Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), told TRT World.

“These are low-tech hubs, run by local people, i.e. the civilians. So such attacks will likely hit the wrong people, those at the bottom of the ‘food chain’, adding to the civilian casualties.” (…)

“Too many representatives in the Afghan government are profiting from the narcotics trade, [too], mainly from protecting the trafficking,” explained Ruttig.

“It has long been known that administrative, police and other official posts along trafficking routes are so lucrative that they are bought, with the hope of this ‘investment’ becoming even more profitable,” he added, referring to the corrupt practice of “selling” lucrative border patrolling jobs to the highest bidder.

“There was never a willingness to seriously approach this issue, not by donors, nor by the Afghan government,” Ruttig said. (…)

Jelena Bjelica, a researcher at AAN further elaborated the lucrative economics of opium production in her report titled A Low-Risk Crop in a High-Risk Environment. “Even during wartime, the market for opium still functions,” she noted. “Farmers who grow legal crops [during conflict] have to get them to market, risking their year’s income travelling through front lines and checkpoints. If they grow opium, the buyers come to them. It is a lot safer,” she explained.