Wednesday 16 May 2012

Afghanistan's northern heroin route

Afghan producers put a logo on their heroin bags
Of the estimated 380 tons of pure heroin manufactured in Afghanistan in 2010, about a quarter (90 tons - equivalent to 1,000 tons of unpurified opiates) was trafficked northwards through Central Asia to the Russian Federation, along with around 35-40 tons of opium, according to a new report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Some of the opium was grown or came from stocks held in the north, but at least half came from the more intensive opium farms in the south of the country.  About three-quarters of opiates were destined for the Russian market, with about three or four tons trafficked onwards to Eastern and Northern Europe. The rest was for local use in the north of Afghanistan, where there are known to be over 100,000 addicts.
Little is done to halt the flow north, with only very limited seizures being reported. This the report puts down to poor law enforcement.
Unlike in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban and other insurgent groups don't appear to be taxing the opium trade in northern Afghanistan, which is one of the safest regions in the country. The drug trade also appears to be immune from official interdiction, primarily due to corruption.
Most of the opiates exported from Afghanistan (85 per cent) pass through Tajikistan. Other routes include one through Turkmenistan that feeds through into the Balkans via Iran.
Once shipped into Central Asia, traffickers use the railways to transport opiates and hashish through to the Russian Federation and beyond: "The size of some loads detected in 2010 suggests that traffickers are operating with a heightened confidence level. Massive seizures of hashish in containers destined to North America are a confirmation that railroad trafficking is also linked to transcontinental trafficking", says the report.
It also notes that drug trafficking is also a source of conflict in Kyrgyzstan, where the inter-ethnic clashes of 2010 were used by ethnic Kyrgyz criminal groups to assume predominance over ethnic Uzbek criminal groups and to control the drug routes through this part of Kyrgyzstan.

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