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President of the World League “Mind Free of Drugs” JenishbekNazaraliev: The Eurasian Protective Umbrella against Afghan Extremism


What can ensure the security of Europe, Russia, China and Central Asia from the Afghan Threat?

Currently, Kyrgyzstan chairs the Organization of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which includes Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Tajikistan and Armenia. This is an important and crucial moment for Kyrgyzstan and for the whole of Central Asia. In 2014, when the NATO coalition will minimize its presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia, the CSTO will need to strengthen the influence on the regional geopolitics, but above all - to secure the participating countries from the threats of extremism, terrorism, and the increasing potential of conflict, instability and disruption. Over the past several years, the CSTO has had to fight with NATO’s metastatic Afghan operation in Central Asia; however, now it will be fully responsible for the security of the entire region.

What will happen to Afghanistan after the withdrawal of forces?

It is possible to predict what awaits Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO’s troops in 2014 based on the region’s history.  It is well-known fact that in February 1989, the Soviet Union fully withdrew its troops from Afghanistan, and three years later the president of the republic and, in fact, a Soviet protégé, Mohammad Najibullah, was killed by the Taliban for “the extermination of our own people.” Following years of civil war, the Taliban emerged as the social and political force; nevertheless, their government came to an end in December 2001 during operation “Enduring Freedom,” which the U.S. led in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Following the U.S. military invention, Hamid Karzai, then head of the interim administration of Afghanistan, was elected as a president.  In a recent article published in the NY Times, it was reported that in 2002, American emissaries from the CIA administrationtransferred tens of millions of dollars to Karzai and his inner circle every month. These funds in special service were called "Ghost money,” because they were not registered and were directed to support the political allies, military forces of Karzai’s weak state. 

Instead of its intended purpose, the financial investments increased corruption and created favorable conditions for the production of drugs.  In addition, there is substantial evidence that Karzai did not only receive financial support from the United States, but also from Iran. However, he later abandoned the Iranian “gifts.” As a result, this fact brought the Afghan opposition and Iran closer.  It became obvious that without the support of the U.S. military and NATO, Hamid Karzai would not be able to hold out against the opposition forces of the Taliban.  They cruelly disposed of the curators of the southern provinces of Afghanistan, who had been appointed by the Karzai administration.

Not so long ago, names added to the list of killed were the president's half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai and Gen. Mohammad DaudDaud. Thus, Hamid Karzai had lost the control over the transport corridors in the south of the country, where since 2005, the main positions had been occupied by the Taliban. Today, he is trapped in the north of Afghanistan, and is unable to fight against the production and sale of drugs in the south. According to Director of the Russian Federal Service for Drug Control (FDCS) Viktor Ivanov, during the time of operation “Enduring Freedom,” opium poppy production in Afghanistan has increased by 40 times. This illustrates he deplorable consequences of the invasion of NATO troops in Afghanistan.

The Afghan economy and drugs

Over the past ten years, the total amount of land used for the production of narcotics has grown significantly, mainly due to the coverage of new areas. Earlier in the northern provinces of Afghanistan,only 20% of the land was cultivated; currently its rapid growth is marked. Overall, 20 out of 32 provinces now supply raw materials for the production of drugs. In 2012, illegal sowing of land increased by 18% to 154,000 hectares. The expansion of crop is caused by other factors that include unfavorable weather conditions, declining productivity and the need of the local population to earn a living.  In 2012, the purchase price of opium was at the level of 196 dollars per kilogram. This is many times greater than for example price of wheat.  Based on local realities, crop cultivation in Afghanistan will only increase.

There are two polar points of views on this status quo. One critical perspective accuses the United States and NATO in connivance and closing their eyes to the problem of drugs, for in their view, this is a domestic financial resource for the Karzai regime having little funding from outside. But, as it has already been noted, the United States paid large sums to the Karzai government to maintain stability.

Other experts, however, believe that the proceeds from the Afghan drug trade are used to finance activities of the Taliban’s opposition movement and to strengthen the extremist groups in the region. In particular, it is the official point of view of the United Nations and its Department on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). However, the average income from poppy cultivation is 5.5% of Afghanistan's GDP.  Even in good years, it only reaches 7% of GDP, and in 2012, it went down to 4%. So the drugs well embedded in the structure of Afghanistan's economy, and will remain a part of it.

Therefore, both sides are correct; however, one cannot deny there are two growing threats to the neighboring Central Asian region - first, the increase of drug trafficking, and second, the rise of extremism and Islamism. Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan directly fall under the influence of negative processes in Afghanistan and it is likely that they will accelerate after the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014. Inside Afghanistan, the political struggle will exacerbate between the Taliban and the regime of Hamid Karzai.  As a result, for an indefinite period of time, there will be no force capable to control the drug production. If there is no control over the drugs, extremism and political destabilization will likely follow soon after.  The activities of Hizbut-Tahrir, Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan will not only increase in the neighboring republics of Central Asia, but advance deep into Russia and Eastern Europe.

Drug threat from Afghanistan

Today, the European Union, Russia, the CSTO countries and China must think on how they will protect one of their most important outposts against the Afghan drug threat, that being Central Asia, which forms the “Silk Road” of drug trafficking. In Europe, drugs are trafficked via the Balkan route - through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey.  However, the Balkan route is more secure and a dangerous path for the drug dealers.  In contrast, there are a virtual absence of borders between the countries of Central Asia and the CIS, where the transportation of drugs has almost has no obstacles. This makes the curbing drug trafficking and combating its effects in Central Asia, the priority areas of work in organizations such as the CSTO and the SCO.

To assess the extent of the Afghan drug trade, one only needs to realize that approximately 90% of the drugs in Europe are of Afghan origin.  Every year, it is estimated that 100 tons of pure heroin is smuggled from Afghanistan into Russia.  The number of victims of drug abuse using the Afghan product exceeds the annual losses of the Soviet Union during the military campaign in Afghanistan. Despite the severity of the laws, China is not far behind on the growth rate of consumption of drugs and removes only 18% of drugs trafficked into the country.

The problem also lies in the fact that when growing an average of 5 tons of opium a year in Afghanistan, there are significant reserves of raw materials for the production of opiates. Moreover, if before the international community only spoke of Central Asia as a purely transit region for drug trafficking from Afghanistan;now at the moment we see a rise in AIDS cases in which people are becoming infected by HIV positive drug users. The lack of programs designed to combat the drug addicted population in Central Asia could turn into a humanitarian catastrophe, thus becoming a new Silk Road linking Europe and Asia, in a very unstable region with a flourishing lush color of extremism.

The ways to Afghan resolution

In the Russian Federation, authorities speculate on the economic reformation of the region.  Officials talk of investing into small and medium size factories and the potential development of energy resources in Central Asia. This is a constructive suggestion, and in my publication, The Afghan Extremism for Export, I support this given idea.  Increasing the working activity and economic opportunity in the region will lead to thousands of people to step out from a shadow economics where they were engaged in producing or smuggling heroin, which will also reflect the drug expansion.  The southern borders of Central Asia should also be enforced, as Vladimir Putin said during an OSCE meeting in May of this year. It would be correct if the borders with Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan will be formed and secured by the troops of CSTO.

Director of the Armed Forces of Russian Federation Mr. Valery Gerasimov,suggests forming a special force unit for special operations in the Central Asia and Near East region. The new resolution is based on the reconsideration of the economic potential of the region and its disclosure. However, even this idea may involve financial limitations.  According to the preliminary plan, the Russian Federation will initially invest only 2 billion rubles. Using simple mathematics, it will only provide working places to as many as 30,000 people from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in the next 2-3 years. Thus the effect from such investments will be more than descent, and will not be able to cover the entire population engaged in drug smuggling in the regions.

Regardless, the action upon must be taken any way. Therefore, it would be reasonable if the European Union, CSTO members, China and all countries interested in the stability of the Central Asia, such as the U.S., India, Pakistan and Iran increase the amount of direct investments in the economies of Central Asia in 2014 and focus and direct their forces for primary prevention of drug abuse in the region. The members and participants of the CSTO and SCO, are to support Russian initiatives and additionally consider the possibility of issuing of setting up of the European Investment Bank with an authorized capital of up to $ 100 billion. These funds will be directed for the development of the energy sector in Central Asia, on which such countries as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and partially Turkmenistan are already highly dependent upon. 

The erection of modern and sufficient Hydro Electro Stations, the reconstruction of logistics, highways and infrastructures, including mining will help the economies of the Central Asian regions to strengthen and tightly integrate with the global economy.  The founders of the bank may be the member countries of the SCO, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the United States and Europe, who will be able to build partnerships in the region and earn good returns on profitable investments. The investment bank, in turn, will guarantee the intended use of funds for the effective long-term projects with high impact and comprehensive economic effect.

Central Asia after 2014

It is vital not to underestimate the importance of preventative actions. It is not enough to only engage the populations of Central Asia;we must work closely with children and youth who do not fall in to the active economical segment of society. In the early 90s, a program called “After School All Stars” was implemented in 400 schools across 10 US states. Its main aim was to try and keep school children busy from 3 pm to 6 pm, the time when they would be hanging out on the streets and potentially get themselves into different sorts of troubles, perhaps being introduced to and/or using drugs and alcohol.

In 2000, one of the coordinators of this program was an Honorable Member of the World League “Mind Free of Drugs” Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Coming from what we know today, we may conclude the following: the Central Asian region can avoid instabilities, destruction, illicit drug trafficking and the expansion of extremism if the governments whose geopolitical interests include the stability in the Eurasian zone, besides power measures directed towards decrease of narcotization and prevention of extremism, will invest into preventative works among population and into the economics of the region. 

In the next ten years, the Eurasian Investment Bank can convert the arc of tension into the arc of prosperity and economic growth.

There are three key bases: power, economic and prophylactics, which will provide stability in Central Asia which in the short time, can only be evoked by neighboring Afghanistan. In this case, regardless of the political regime and the production of illegal drugs in Afghanistan, most Eurasian countries will have a protective umbrella against Afghan threats in Central Asia.

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