Afghanistan’s narco menace
SO closely linked are the problems of insurgency and drug trafficking in Afghanistan that it is no surprise that Nato has extended its mandate to crush the narcotics trade in the country. But the success of such an operation is in doubt. Some Nato members have had valid reasons to fear that destroying the drug economy would mean alienating a large section of the population dependent on it. There have also been apprehensions that assigning another task to Nato would divert the military alliance’s focus from its main responsibility of fighting the Taliban. Nevertheless, the situation cries out for action. Despite the recent decline in production, Afghanistan still generates some 90 per cent of the world’s opium; the drug trade funds the Taliban in a big way (to the tune of approximately $100m); and the illicit drug economy is equivalent to about half the country’s GDP.
Unfortunately, the political government has not been able to root out the narcotics scourge — no surprise since many elements thought to be boosting the narco trade are political figures. Even President Hamid Karzai’s brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, is believed to be a beneficiary of the drug trade, a charge he has denied. With corruption endemic in the ranks of the country’s political elite, it is no wonder that lower-level officials including police chiefs and judges are not immune from its influence. Warlords and others sponsoring the drug trade are thus able to bribe their way out of possible prosecution.
Given this reality, it would be overly optimistic to suppose that even a foreign force as well-armed as Nato and with the ability to strike at narcotics labs would be able to achieve much in rooting out the menace. It is, in fact, the Afghan government that should be taking the lead in halting poppy cultivation in the country. For this, it is necessary to ensure good and honest governance besides enabling the judiciary and police to play their part in bringing to book drug barons, warlords and others who have a vested interest in perpetuating the narcotics business. The government can also influence tribal heads to exercise their sway over their people to shun poppy cultivation. Meanwhile, the international community can be of invaluable help by actively helping the Afghan government to encourage alternative livelihoods to make up for the loss of benefits acquired through the drug trade. Such suggestions have been made time and again and it is up to the Afghan government to demonstrate the political will to implement them in all sincerity. (Daily Times)