By M. Wakhan
A new book published by NATO Defence Education Enhancement Program (DEEP) authored by David R Winston[i]analyses the growth of the narcotics industry stemming from Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and the nexus that has formed between narcotics trafficking and terrorism/extremism.
After the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, last year, the narcotics industry is fast becoming the primary revenue generator for the entire country – as opposed to just funding the Taliban earlier. Through examining the history of narcotics and its connection to terrorist groups, this book identifies how the world fell down this perilous path and offers possible solutions to deal with this new dynamic.
According to the book such trade was made possible with the help of Pakistan’s military spy agency the ISI, which launched several covert operations with sympathetic jihadist groups, all of whom relied heavily on narcotics trafficking to fund their operations, expanding the trafficking route even further through their regions, launching the Balkan, northern, and southern routes of the global narco-trafficking pipeline.
The most substantial networks mentioned in the book is the Haqqani network. A dreaded criminal enterprise situated along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border that was founded on smuggling. Members of the network are key position holders in the de facto government.
The Pakistani military has always seen the Haqqani network as a key ally, given their location and alliances with numerous jihadist groups, and began investing in their bases while using them as a proxy for engagement with other non-state actors. The prominence of the Haqqani network within the Taliban’s current leadership is being witnessed while there is uncertainty as to who may succeed after Sirajuddin Haqqani in the coming years, which can be a further alarming development.
It has been reported that Pakistan has made smuggling networks into India over the last few years.[ii] The legitimacy of these claims, that the smuggling into India is used to fund covert operations of the military was made by Pakistan’s former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the brother of the present incumbent Shehbaz Sharif, who had once revealed how the Pakistani security establishment sells heroin to pay for the country’s covert military operations. This was reported in 1994, in an interview Sharif gave to The Washington Post.[iii] Even the US Congress has taken note of this revelation[iv]and yet the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has continued to operate with impunity in the field of narco-trafficking.
Although, officially the Taliban regime in Afghanistan has stated that they would curb opium trade, considering the state of the economy of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, it would be difficult to imagine a scenario where free flowing money through illegal opium trade is discontinued.
It is hoped that this fresh look into the dangerous network of the opium trade being funded by two sovereign states for all illegal activities including terrorism and covert operations pushes the world community to look into the threat it poses and the world will unite to take action against the same. However, the danger that this nexus represents to the world as a whole, and to the protection of human rights in particular, cannot be overstated.
Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the article.