‘Afghan opium boom to benefit European, Asian criminal groups’

‘Afghan opium boom to benefit European, Asian criminal groups’
Not just terrorist groups in Afghanistan will benefit from the increase in opium production. Most of the profit will be made by organized crime outside the country, explains Angela Me, Chief Research and Trend Analysis Branch, UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Opium production in Afghanistan is on the way to smashing records this year, according to a new UN report. Areas under poppy cultivation have increased by more than a half since 2016 and expanded into new territories.

RT: For those who haven't seen the report, how can such a catastrophic growth in opium production be explained?

Angela Me: There is serious factor contributed to this large increase. There are some conditions underlying the reason why farmers are engaging in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for many years. It is related to the weak rule of law and also to the limited social and economic opportunities that farmers have in Afghanistan. This year we have seen a large increase in political instability and insecurity and this has caused, basically, the large increase, particularly in the north.

RT: You are saying that corruption and lack of security are enabling the poppy cultivation to continue…

AM: Yes, that…increase and particularly political instability that we are seeing in some of the provinces. And also the activities of many anti-governmental entities in Afghanistan - from the Taliban, but not only, that have caused this increase.

RT: Is it the security issue that is giving the Afghan government so much trouble to try and contain it? Shouldn’t the Afghan forces really have their hands on this situation?

AM: Sure, this is one of the problems. And also the issue of the Afghan government has focused their activities to fight the terrorist groups or the other groups, particularly in the urban areas. So, in rural areas, where the opium cultivation takes place is where these forces have taken more of a presence and also supported the farmers in these efforts.

RT: Is it accurate that various coalition forces have been told to ignore the crops of poppies just because the local farmers rely upon them so much for some form of economic stimulant…?

AM: At the beginning, the NATO forces were not involving counter-narcotics efforts. Actually, in later years, all the governments involved in Afghanistan and the Afghanistan government itself has realized how much counter-narcotics is important to fight an insurgency.

RT: What is the forecast for next year? Is it possible to contain opium production?

AM: The impact of this huge increase in Afghanistan would be felt all over the world. Starting from the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, where a huge amount of heroin would be trafficked. But also in destination countries where probably this will trigger more use of heroin and more harmful use of heroin.

RT: Some people say, it is one issue for the heroin that is produced out of Afghanistan to go to various drug users and drug abusers around the world, but also some say the opium coming out of Afghanistan is really good for big business, i.e., the big pharmaceutical industry?

AM: The heroin and the opium produced in Afghanistan is not used by the pharmaceutical industry; it all goes to the illicit market. It goes to the illegal market of the street where heroin is sold. It does not benefit the pharmaceutical industry. But the benefit is more [for] the terrorist groups, particularly in Afghanistan, where with this increase - particularly the Taliban, but not only – will have more profit to fight. But also most of the profits are made by organized crime organizations also outside of Afghanistan. And in particular destination countries, like Europe or Asia, where most of the money will be made by criminal organizations.