Global Insights: U.S. Drawdown Raises Russia’s Fears on Afghan Narcotics

Global Insights: U.S. Drawdown Raises Russia’s Fears on Afghan Narcotics

Matthew C. DuPée's WPR briefing last week on Afghanistan's counternarcotics efforts skillfully analyzes how U.S, U.N. and Afghan policies are failing to achieve an enduring reduction in the country's opium production. Now neighboring governments, especially Russia, are growing increasingly worried that NATO's withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan will force them to confront the problem largely by themselves.

At present, the main threat Russia faces from Afghanistan comes in the form of Afghan narcotics exports. According to the United Nations, Russians are consuming much of the recent surge in Afghan narcotics production, which has occurred despite stagnant or even declining demand for opium-based drugs in Europe and North America. U.N. analysts estimate that as much as 2 percent of Russia's population may be addicted to these drugs.

As a result, Afghanistan's narcotrafficking has emerged as a major source of tension between Russia and NATO. Russian officials hold the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan responsible for failing to curb that country's exploding opium production. They argue that, in occupying the country, NATO has assumed responsibility for countering narcotics trafficking and other transnational crime based in or originating from Afghanistan.

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