Heroin trade entrenched in Afghanistan

Heroin trade entrenched in Afghanistan

Heroin trade entrenched in Afghanistan

Updated 11 June 2012, 16:55 AEST

The war in Afghanistan has turned the country into a major supplier of the world's opium and heroin supplies.

That is one of the facts offered by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in a report on how the drugs trade is fuelling insecurity and failed states, called 'Drugs, Insecurity and Failed States - the problems of prohibition'.

One of the authors of the report Nigel Inkster, a former director of operations and intelligence of the British spy service, spoke to Radio Australia's Graeme Dobell. He said that ending drug prohibition would take a lot of criminal pressure off weak states, but in Afghanistan the drug problem is now a long-term factor in the country's future.

"If the west were to decriminalise the use of heroin, and for example to make supplies available to addicts on prescription, this would erode, eventually, though not entirely eliminate the black market which confers so much of the value."

"The value of the heroin trade really accrues to those who control the trafficking routes and that is where the big mark ups take place," he said.

"I don't think there is a single magic bullet that would eliminate the nexus of security and drug problems that a country like Afghanistan faces. These problems have been a long time in the making and are going to be a long time in the resolving."

He says that it is probable that involvement in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan will only increase after the NATO ISAF drawdown.

"It accounts for probably 30 per cent of economic activity, and is likely to continue to do so, if not actually increase, after the 2014 NATO, ISAF draw down," he said.

"The opportunities to earn money from embezzling western aid budgets will necessarily be reduced as those budgets are themselves."

"There will be a smaller pot from which to take and in circumstances of growing political uncertainty, it seems to me almost inevitable that key actors, former warlords, who have the potential to become warlords again, will look to other earning capabilities, to hedge against a very uncertain future."