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Counselor Haidari Lectures on Afghanistan’s Drug Control Policy at Georgetown University

Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari gave a lecture on “Afghanistan’s Drug Control Policy: The Nexus between Drugs and Insecurity” at the Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service on April 17. Haidari described the backdrop against which Afghanistan has become a prime victim of a coalition of transnational drug traffickers, criminals, Taliban terrorists, and those who profit from undermining the rule of law in Afghanistan. “There is a direct correlation between abject poverty and insecurity and drug production, particularly in southern Afghanistan where people have received little or no alternative assistance, and where security has continued to worsen over the past five years,” Haidari said.

However, he noted that “any involvement in the illicit opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking is strictly forbidden by Islam, by our Constitution, and by our culture.” He explained that, despite objecting to drug production on cultural and religious grounds, the past thirty years of war have forced some ten percent of Afghanistan’s rural population to rely on poppy cultivation for survival. He identified global demand supported by highly adaptive and mobile transnational mafias as the key motivation behind increased narcotics production in Afghanistan. “We know from economics that as long as there is demand for anything, there is always supply, which, in case of narcotics, is often found in war-torn countries where states lack resources for rural development and law enforcement capacity to fight and eradicate drugs.”

Haidari discussed Afghanistan’s comprehensive eight-pillar Drug Control Strategy, and pointed out that international aid for counter-narcotics had been under-funded and ineffectively coordinated over the past five years. Haidari noted that “targeted eradication that distinguishes between center and periphery farmers and includes a grace period accompanied by relief and alternative assistance to vulnerable farmers is key to the effectiveness of any eradication campaign.”

In his closing remarks, Haidari welcomed increased counter-narcotics assistance provided by the US government and the recent appointment of the US Coordinator for Counter-narcotics and Justice Reform in Afghanistan, Ambassador Thomas Schweich. “Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Embassy in Washington will continue to play our key role in supporting the joint US-Afghan fight against the narcotics network that undermines our common national security interests,” he said.

Haidari concluded by recounting similar national struggles against narcotics, and cautioned that unless key regional and international stakeholders cooperatively balance ‘carrots and sticks’ to fight narcotics at the supply end, address the problem at the demand end, and commit long-term rural development assistance to revitalize Afghanistan’s legal agriculture, “we would continue swimming against the tides of drugs.”

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