Russia’s challenge to Afghanistan’s opium barons 

You may not have read much about it yet, but an unusual conference is set to take place in Moscow in about 2 weeks. The subject of the conference is the Afghan opium trade – an illicit business that could be worth up to $65 billion annually, some observers claim.

Russian drug experts believe that opium grown in Afghanistan and exported abroad kills about 100,000 people worldwide per year, including up to 30,000 Russians. The Russians also worry that the Central Asian states (who border on Russia) through which the opium travels on its way to lucrative markets elsewhere in the world are being wracked by drug-related corruption and crime.

The conference, entitled “Drug Production in Afghanistan: A Challenge for the International Community,” has not attracted much MSM attention yet, but hopefully that will change. The event will be held June 9-10 in Moscow, under the auspices of RIA Novosti, a Russian state-run news outlet.

You don’t need to be a drug war fan to hope this conference succeeds in drawing attention to the Afghan drug production problem. The subject matter to be highlighted in Moscow is important to anyone who cares about the success of the international effort to ensure the Taliban don’t return to power in Afghanistan.

Every time an American soldier dies from wounds caused by one of the Taliban’s improvised explosive devices, it’s worth recalling that parts of that deadly device were likely purchased with the proceeds of Afghanistan’s opium trade.

Ditto for any time a soldier from another country helping to stabilize Afghanistan is killed by the Taliban.

According to materials released by the conference’s organizing committee, the meeting will cover various topics, including how to increase international cooperation against criminal groups that launder the cash generated from the trafficking of Afghan opium.

One conference on its own won’t neutralize the scourge of Afghan opium. But the Moscow conference is a smart and timely idea, that will hopefully help initiate a wider discussion about how to nudge the international community towards a common understanding of why Afghanistan’s drug production problem should be a matter of global concern.

Similarly, one conference on its own won't spark the development of a common international strategy for fighting back against Afghanistan’s drug lords.

However, if this anti-opium conference can help raise awareness and help foster greater cooperation against the opium barons by law enforcement agencies, it will have been well worth the effort.


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Neil Hrab

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