Global Insights: Russia’s Self-Defeating Afghan Narcotics Policy

Global Insights: Russia’s Self-Defeating Afghan Narcotics Policy

Russia has disappointingly blocked for now a U.S. State Department initiative to build a network of U.S.-supported counternarcotics centers in Central Asia. In public, Russian officials denigrate the effectiveness of programs to interdict drug transportation through Eurasia and instead have favored concentrating international resources on fighting opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan itself. But some Russian officials’ opposition to the initiative is driven by their desire to minimize the U.S. presence in Central Asia.

Formally launched in June 2011 as a $4.1 million State Department program, the Central Asian Counternarcotics Initiative (CACI) aims to establish counternarcotics task forces in all five Central Asian countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. With training and mentoring from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, these task forces would collaborate with existing anti-drug task forces in Afghanistan and Russia to improve coordination on joint and cross-border interdiction operations and collect evidence against Eurasian drug dealers. The resulting counternarcotics network would link both the main narcotics source country, Afghanistan, with the key transit countries in Eurasia, many of which are also becoming large consumers of Afghan-based narcotics in their own right.

The Obama administration’s CACI is a well-conceived and cost-effective proposal in an area where region-wide cooperation is essential but currently insufficient, with most existing programs either bilateral or limited in scope.

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