Losing Ground

Drug Control and War in Afghanistan
Cristian Rivier Martin Jelsma Tom Kramer
TNI Drugs & Conflict Debate Paper 15
December 2006

The worsening armed conflict and the all-time record opium production in Afghanistan have caused a wave of panic. We are losing ground. Calls are being made for robust military action by NATO forces to destroy the opium industry in southern Afghanistan. But intensifying a war on drugs in Afghanistan now would further fuel the conflict, which is the last thing that the country needs.

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This Drugs & Conflict briefing focuses on opium elimination efforts and the controversy about involving military forces in anti-drugs operations in Afghanistan. It also provides background on the Afghan drug control strategy, its new counter-narcotics law, and the role of Afghanistan within the global opiates market.

Silver bullets do not exist. Peace building, reconstruction and reducing the dependence on the opium economy will be long-term processes. Their success or otherwise will depend on improving the security situation, bringing about more stable governance and the rule of law, and strengthening the legal economy to provide alternative livelihood options.

A first line to draw is to keep NATO forces out of drug control operations. There is also a moral, political and economic case for having alternative livelihoods in place before commencing eradication. Afghanistan is coming under added pressure as a result of persistent drug control dogmas, but these need to be challenged if the further spread of insecurity and undermining of reconstruction efforts is to be avoided.

Press release: Eradication could undermine Afghanistan reconstruction, new study warns, December 5, 2006

Pers bericht (Dutch): Nederlandse troepen moeten zich ver van drugsbestrijding houden, waarschuwt een nieuw rapport, 5 december 2006

More information: Press briefing

Nella palude: Le strategie di controllo della droga e la guerra in Afghanistan (2.5 MB, Italian version)