Afghanistan is a country that has been and is a traditional centre of opium production and opium poppy cultivation. Drug trafficking is traditionally controlled by the Taliban. An expert in the Central Asian region on condition of anonymity told Belsat whether drug trafficking through Belarus, as Lukashenka had repeatedly threatened Western countries, is possible.
This is not the first time the Taliban has come to power in Afghanistan. In 2000, they began their policy in the country by banning poppy cultivation altogether. But it was done in order to please Western countries so as not to irritate the international community. But other events in 2001 led to the war outbreak: the United States and its allies came to the country as the Taliban sheltered international terrorists.
“During the war from 2000 to 2020, the Taliban, who were constantly resisting US troops, needed funds. Some of the funds were donated by some people from foreign countries who sympathized with the Taliban. But the main source of income was the illegal development of mineral deposits, and the taxation of local people. Naturally, in this situation they could not ignore such a source of income as drug business and drug trafficking,” an expert in the Central Asian region told Belsat on condition of anonymity.
The expert notes that since the beginning of the war in 2000, the volume of drug trafficking from Afghanistan has started to grow. And in 2020 there was a very rapid growth in drug production, despite even the coronavirus pandemic.
According to UN estimates, last year the Taliban received $464 million from illegal mining and $460 million from drug trafficking.
“In general, the drug business at its peak, from 2010 to 2020, reached up to 7% of the country’s GDP. Of course, it is difficult to estimate here; there are no reliable statistics, only expert calculations. The US has struggled with the drug trade in Afghanistan, but the it is still growing. And there were years when wheat yields were very weak, but Afghan farmers did not give up growing poppies, because it brings more profit,” said the expert.
The geography of drug trafficking from Afghanistan is actually quite broad. Opium from Afghanistan enters not only the EU and Russia, but also many other countries.
“It is quite difficult to trace everything. But it is known that the Taliban control not only poppy cultivation and drug production, but even trafficking and local dealers, from which they also make a profit,” says the expert.
The expert says that the traffic goes through different channels to the sea, and after that mainly by sea because there are no borders.
“Once I even came across information about such self-made catapults, which were used to dump drugs across the Iranian border. But I do not dare to say that this really happened and is a significant route,” says our interlocutor.
Therefore, the expert concludes, the main thing is an attempt to deliver drugs to the sea, and from there opium is distributed elsewhere.
Earlier, Lukashenka repeatedly voiced threats to Western countries that Belarus could not only stop controlling refugees at its border, but also suspend control of drugs.
“If you look at the geographical position, you can theoretically imagine a corridor through Central Asia to Belarus and further to Europe. But it’s a pretty long way and quite a lot of borders, a lot of intermediaries. As a result, the final product, say, on the streets of European cities, can be very expensive. This is a rather troublesome matter, given that the EU’s border and customs authorities will be watching very closely. And here it will be quite difficult to find an opportunity for drug transshipment. So I don’t think it can be taken seriously as a significant source of income. Such a temptation arises, but if you really look at it, it is difficult to calculate that there will be some dividends,” the expert highlights.
It is also very unlikely that the Belarusian authorities will be able to use refugees to spread the migration crisis on the western borders.
“It is difficult to establish channels for transferring refugees to Belarus. For example, Belarusians were evacuated from Kabul by Ukrainians. What if one tries to set up such a business with the Taliban? But the fact is that the EU now believes that Western countries must create a corridor to save the Afghans who are in danger. Therefore, while the Belarusian authorities will create channels for the transportation of migrants, Europe can at this time quite legally bring in refugees.”
The expert also notes that now the Taliban are trying to demonstrate their peace and civility. They promise not to touch anyone, there are calls to develop the country together. But so far everyone is waiting to see how true these words are.