PROFESSOR ALI SUKHANVER
US Department of State says in one of its recent reports regarding drug trafficking in the Central Asian states, “The Central Asian states that border Afghanistanare facing a significant threat from illicit narcotic drugs transiting from Afghanistan. Violent extremist groups from Afghanistanand Pakistanthreaten stability in the region, with drug trafficking providing a significant source of their funding. The United States Government is committed to partnering with Central Asiato counter these threats.” To put a check on drug-trafficking the USauthorities have introduced a program with the title ‘The Central Asia Counter-narcotics Initiative CACI’. The basic objective behind this program is to promote regional cooperation in countering drug trafficking by setting up task forces in all five Central Asian countries and hooking them up with similar task force in Afghanistan and Russia. A spokeswoman for the US State Department’s
Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said commenting the CACI program that US would continue bilateral consultations with the Central Asian states to make this program successful. ButRussia has expressed her own apprehensions and reservation regarding the CACI program and has asked its allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization CSTO neither to participate nor to cooperate in theUS counter-drug program inCentral Asia. The Russian authorities are of the opinion that this program would provide more probabilities to theUSA to interfere into the affairs of the regional countries.Russia is convinced that the main objective of this initiative is strengthening the military and political presence in a region thatMoscow regards as its area of special interests.
The Russian hi-ups are very much true in their fears and apprehensions regarding the working of proposed CACI in the Central Asian Region. If the CACI program gets started, theUStask forces shall no doubt have very wide powers and above all a full access to secret operational information supplied to law enforcement agencies and intelligence services of theCentral Asiacountries. US would be in a stronger position to gather sensitive information and then use the data to exploit and blackmail the governments in the region. In other words the CACI program would prove itself another successful attempt of weakening the Central Asian region in near future. IfUSAis really sincere in its desire to put a check on drug-trafficking, it must begin withAfghanistanwhich has simply become a hub of all production, trade and use of narcotics particularly in the last three decades. A former commander during the USSR’s operations in Afghanistan in 2009 General Mahmut Gareev once said in a statement that the US is not going to stop the production of drugs in Afghanistan as it covers the costs of their military presence there. This statement must also be an eye-opener to the planners of the Central Asia Counter-narcotics Initiative program.
US’s inability and unwillingness to involve it self in combating drugs and narcotics inAfghanistanhas always been an important topic of discussion. Drug trafficking is one of the major sources of funding for the terrorists inAfghanistan. In the early days of its occupation inAfghanistan,USAshowed a very strong emphatic urge and will to put a check on the production and trade of narcotics inAfghanistanbut with the passage of time all these efforts fell a prey to hidden conspiracies. Even the western media called in questionUSsilence over the matter. Latter on there were news that even theUStroops themselves were found involved in cooperation with the growers, producers and the traders of narcotics inAfghanistan. Without their assistance and co-operation the situation regarding drug-trafficking could have never been such horrible as it is today.
The Editor of The Global Research says in one of his write-ups published in 2008, “The global proceed of the Afghan drug trade is in excess of 150 billion dollars a year. There is mounting evidence that this illicit trade is protected by theUSmilitary. Historically, starting in the early 1980s, the Afghan drug trade was used to finance CIA covert support of the Islamic brigades. The 2003 war onAfghanistanwas launched following the Taliban government’s 2000-2001 drug eradication program which led to a collapse in opium production in excess of 90 percent.” Vladimir Radyuhin, a renowned analyst says in his article, Narco Aggression, ‘The disintegration of the Soviet Union in December 1991 threw open the floodgates of drug trafficking fromAfghanistanacross Central Asia toRussiaand further west toEurope.Afghanistan’s narcotics struckRussialike a tsunami, threatening to decimate its already shrinking population. According to the Federal Drug Control Service, 90 per cent of all heroin sold inRussiacomes fromAfghanistan.Russiatoday has about six million drug-users – a 20-fold increase since the collapse of theSoviet Unionand a huge figure for a country of 142 million people.’
The crux of the matter is that theUSauthorities must not waste their efforts and resources in worrying about the influx of drugs and narcotics in the Central Asian states; they must concentrate upon the origin and the actual source of production not on the market where these drugs find their buyers. Production, demand and supply of anything are closely related terms. The demand automatically dies away when a strict and stern check is put on the supply. However, we can say nothing if the motives behind the CACI program are other than putting a check on drug-trafficking in theCentral Asia. In that case the Russian government will have to be more vigilant and careful because at this stageRussiacannot afford any kind of destabilization leading to further disintegration.
The writer is a Pakistan based analyst on defence and strategic affairs.