Global Security Watch -- Central Asia

By Reuel R. Hanks | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Drugs, Migration, and Human
Trafficking

DRUGS IN CENTRAL ASIA

The illicit trade in drugs in Central Asia represents a major challenge to the region’s long-term stability. Illegal trafficking in drugs is linked to a host of social problems, including a rising incidence of HIV infection, higher crime rates, corruption, and connections to terrorist groups and organized crime. These challenges inhibit efforts toward increasing stability via economic and political reform by diverting resources and funding into interdiction and control. Furthermore, drug addiction is not only a threat to the states of Central Asia themselves, but the countries of the region also serve, to varying degrees, as conduits for the movement of opiates to the broader Eurasian region, including Russia and western European countries. The head of Russia’s Drug Control Agency asserted in March of 2009 that 60 percent of the heroin consumed in his country arrived via Tajikistan, and although the claim was hotly disputed by Tajik authorities, there is little question that the estimate is likely close to the mark.1 Law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom estimate that approximately 90 percent of the heroin smuggled into their country has been refined from opium produced in Afghanistan. Much if not most of this traffic moves through the Central Asian countries, is then carried into Russia, Bulgaria, or other eastern European states, and eventually reaches the large markets in Western Europe. Combating drug traffic in Central Asia therefore is a process that carries not only ramifications for regional security, but represents a struggle to counter a problem of international dimensions that fuels social problems far afield from the region itself.

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