Prepared for: Professor Xhudo
Transnational Crime GLOB1.GC.2065.001
New York University
Center for Global Affairs
Rebecca M. Ensor-Kelly
Student, Transnational Crime
April 24, 2018
National Unity Government, NUG in Afghanistan have failed to eradicate drug production.
The failure of Afghanistan’s government has enhanced influence of the Taliban, and put Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban chief, in a position to negotiate politically.
The political corruption and ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has encouraged collaboration between terrorist and criminal organizations, which further destabilizes the region
This memo endeavors to establish that political corruption in Afghanistan provides drug trafficking organizations, and terrorist groups like ISIS and the Taliban, ideological, economic and political opportunity. Since the U.S. and NATO led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, efforts by the west to stop the trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan have failed. The Obama era efforts to provide farmers with alternatives to opium have not worked because gains from the drug industry far outweigh the profits from any other farming commodities. Counterinsurgency efforts have been thwart and Afghanistan is likely to face a civil war due to the rising political influence of the Taliban, and current government weaknesses and corruption. Therefore, ongoing regional instability has allowed drug trafficking and terrorist organizations to thrive. Opium is primarily produced in Afghanistan, and through networks of terrorist organizations, and criminal networks drugs, alongside other illicit goods, can find their way to Europe, Russia, China, Central Asia and Iran. The United Nations reported that Afghanistan traffics 92 percent of the world’s opium across borders via Balkan and Eurasian drug routes, which are secured by drug traffickers with criminal networks who ensure that the drugs reach their destination. As the interconnectedness between terrorist groups and criminal organizations grows, so does their influence with government, law enforcement, and government officials. Additionally, as opium farmers want to protect their income, they are more likely to side with the organizations that assist their profits, which, in turn, make them reluctant to give intelligence to law enforcement that could harm their source of income
The National Unity Government, NUG in Afghanistan is far from unified due to the ongoing animosity between CEO Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani. Weak leadership, alongside lack of policies that could adequately address transnational organized crime, and foreign terrorist organizations, continues to threaten societal, national, regional and international security. The ongoing rise in the consumption of narcotics globally also coincides with Afghanistan’s rise in producing heroin, with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) stating that the drug trade in Afghanistan is likely to be the largest in the world. The Taliban have gathered power and influence by taxing timber, government spending programs, and NATO trucks, alongside raising money in the Middle East and Pakistan for their organization.
Ever since Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which was the name used for the war on terror, an estimated one million people have died from drug-related deaths, and around a trillion dollars have been reinvested into transnational crime. In recent years western government agencies have found that they could no longer curtail opium production in Afghanistan, so they turned they turned their back on the issue, allowing the drug trade to flourish. Today, the drug trade is so embedded in Afghanistan, in part, because so many people rely on it for income, with around 19 percent of the country’s GDP dependent on the opium trade. However, drug trafficking represents a systemic security threat, as the drug traffickers put every effort into undermining legitimate business, whether it is infiltrating the economic systems, or utilizing various methods like corruption, extortion, and violence. Furthermore, criminal organizations in Afghanistan can work with terrorist organizations like the Taliban, and ISIS that will overpower weak authority, and lengthen conflicts in fragile countries.
The failure of Afghanistan’s Unity government has propelled the political and economic strength of the Taliban, and given Haibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban chief, political leverage.Additionally, the Taliban has sanctuary in Pakistan and Iran, alongside receiving additional support from Russia. Due to the increased political and economic reach of the Taliban Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani is now in negotiation to politically legitimize the Taliban. Stability in Afghanistan has also been adversely affected by the U.S. and ISAF troops reducing their presence in Afghanistan, which will allow criminal organizations and the Taliban to thrive. For example, insurgent and terrorist groups, government officials, and criminal organizations collaborate, which creates a cross-border network of contacts that allows criminal activity to continue unchecked. This, in turn, creates a link between the source of the product and the destination areas, which adds another level of instability in fragile regions, while also destabilizing other countries due to criminal networks leveraging their trade for economic, political and societal gains.
Economic and social impact
The growth of the drug trade has also financed the Taliban, by helping them mobilize support, buy weapons, recruit, and gain political leverage. The narco-state that Afghanistan has become ultimately impacts other states due to its ongoing political, social, and economic threats, which can also threaten international stability. Ultimately the democratic process will be undermined due to the social, political and economic influence that a criminal or terrorist organization has. For example, gathering civilian support, by providing them with economic and social benefits, which a weak government cannot, will undermine any attempt to establish legitimate law and order.
Afghanistan essentially has a parallel economy, with around one-third of their revenue coming from opium. Political corruption and the drug trade have seen the hawala markets, which in Arabic means the transfer, dominate the Afghani financial system, and significantly reduce a legitimate economy. Profits from the drugs are laundered into legitimate currencies like U.S. dollars and British pounds, which enables the Taliban to move money internationally. The World Bank has also estimated that around 80 to 90 percent of Afghanistan’s economic activity takes place illegitimately. However, The Financial Action Task Force or FATF are in a position to address the illicit profits attained by the Taliban and the criminal organizations that they work with, as they are an intergovernmental anti-money laundering agency. They have said that around fifty to ninety percent of cross-border transactions utilize hawala, involving drug-related money transfers.
Recommendations that could curb the productions of opium would be to make the Afghani government accountable for financial transparency. Anti-money laundering and anti-drug trafficking in the west involves a multiplicity of agencies that identify criminal gangs, freeze assets, and make arrests. Therefore, giving the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Afghanistan, FinTRACA, the necessary authority to collect intelligence regarding illegal activity associated with money laundering or other related financial criminal activity will enable more transparency in Afghanistan regarding the financial operations of Terrorist groups and criminal organizations. Implementing stronger cross-border regulations concerning trafficking and illicit movement of funds by partnering with countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan, would help curtain illegal activity by criminal and terrorist organizations that continue to profit ideologically, and monetarily from criminal enterprises.
Furthermore, counternarcotic strategies that increase government accountability in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan regarding illicit activity could also assist with reducing drug-related profits. For example, the Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) in Afghanistan created a joint collaboration between the Ministry of Interior, in the government of Afghanistan, and U.S. law enforcement agencies, which included the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), represented by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), and Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) to assist with combating international crime. Upholding bilateral economic, and political relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan will help strengthen the Afghan government’s capacity to fight drugs by increasing their responsibility, ownership, and independence, which, in turn will assist with countering the narcotics and terrorism nexus that has been part of their history for so long.
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