Drug trafficking is linked to local, regional, and global insecurity. Terrorist organizations are connected to significant drug-producing countries such as Afghanistan and countries via which key drug transit routes occur. The narcotics trade possesses the capability to avail terrorist groups with additional bonus: sympathizers and recruits among neglected, impoverished, and isolated local farmers who cultivate the drug crops. Narcotics-linked organized crime and corruption weaken the authority of Central Asian states, which makes the elimination of drug trafficking in Central Asia even more difficult.
Why Political and Social Reaction to Illicit Narcotics Trafficking maybe unjustified in Light of the Threat Posed by other Transnational Crimes?
Drug trafficking is connected to insurgent groups directly or indirectly dealing with the cultivation, production, distribution, and trading of controlled substances. There is a clear-cut linkage between organized crime and violence (terrorist activities), as well as other criminal activities such as corruption, money laundering, arms and human trafficking. Transactional organized crime (TOC) represents organized crime carried out across national borders. Transnational organized crime (TOC) is dynamic and diversified with the most outstanding crimes detailing human smuggling and trafficking of humans, drug trafficking, cyber crime, money laundering, and the smuggling of nuclear material drugs and endangered species. Largely, transnational criminal networks employ systematic corruption and violence to attain their objectives.
The involvement of terrorists in drug smuggling brings them into contact with transnational crime organizations. The perception of the challenges presented by illicit drugs trafficking, though overblown by NGOs and state agencies, arose due to the combined impacts and the evolution of the disturbing phenomena. The international community has taken measures to address the drug trafficking problem in the spirit of shared responsibility and has collectively adopted steps to reinforce the national drug control capacity in line with global drug control treaties.
Organized crime pervades almost all countries in the 21st century; indeed, the global revenues from the drug trade have been exponentially increasing. Organized crime can be characterized as the biggest revenue generator for terrorist organizations generating billions of dollars to fund, sustain, and spread their activities globally. The U.S. government has consistently acknowledged that insurgency, terrorism, and crime interact within varied and major ways, to undermine the U.S. national security interests.
Illicit drug trafficking and TOC are pervasive, and no country is immune from the threats. Transnational organized crime fosters illicit drugs and illegal immigration and human trafficking, which are major threats. The economic, security, and political impacts of organized crime are equally grave as those of narcotics trafficking. Indeed, the threat posed by illicit narcotics trafficking is largely overblown. TOC poses significant structural impact, especially on economic and political governance, development, and citizens’ security.
Illegal drugs facilitate terrorism in various ways including funding for terrorism, triggering chaos to provide a favorable environment for illicit activities, and contributing to corruption in an attempt to undermine capability of the society to confront terrorist organizations activities. Illicit drug trafficking also facilitates terrorism by availing such services essential for terrorist actions as money laundering, illegal arms, and production of false identification documents, while simultaneously competing for intelligence and law enforcement attention.
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Insurgents, terrorists, and weapons proliferators characteristically depend on asymmetrical ways and means of financing their activities. Although, the convergence between illicit narcotics trafficking and transnational crimes such as terrorism cannot be dismissed, there are undoubtedly adverse impacts of other transnational crimes such as money laundering. Consequently, the illicit narcotics trafficking is no worse than other transnational crimes.
The Uniqueness of Transnational Crime and Narcotics Policy Issues relating to Afghanistan/Central Asia
Afghanistan faces existential transnational threats including weapons smuggling and militancy, ethnic grounded extremist ideology, and drug trafficking. Afghanistan produces approximately 90% of the global illegal opium, which is cultivated in Zabul, Kandahar, and Helmand provinces that show high level of insecurity. Afghan opiates bring in almost $68 billion in proceeds, in which some of the money is channeled to insurgent groups such as Taliban via hawala-style money transfer and exchange networks.
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Central and South Asian countries face major capacity shortfalls in solving the drug trafficking problem. There is insufficient functioning of basic state institutions, which results in widespread corruption, inadequate law enforcement capacities, and weak rule of law. A counter-narcotics strategy is difficult to implement in Afghanistan/Central Asia due to insurgency. The regional cooperation in counter-narcotics remains quite weak in Central Asia fuelled by high level of mistrust.
The present strategy against drug production within central Asia and Afghanistan draws from the war on drugs policy, sought from the 1970’s that attempt to minimize the accessibility of narcotics through the aggressive suppression of the opium crop growing. The core objective of the counter-narcotics strategy centers on attaining a reduction of drug accessibility via repressive policy by eliminating international supply. The core pillars of the strategy entail: (1) reduction within foreign supply; (2) global ban; (3) relying on inelastic global drug market dynamics; and, (4) present axiomatic correlation between a positive outcome of reduced drug supply and repression. Nevertheless, the policy has largely failed in curtailing the production of the illegal drug, especially because they focus too little on fighting corruption and weak law enforcement.