The volume of narcotics flowing out of Afghanistan to Central Asia and Russia appears to have decreased slightly over the past year. But the stockpile of opiates that traffickers already have on hand is sufficient to supply users in Central Asia and Russia for 15 years, according to a leading drug-control expert in Kyrgyzstan.
Afghanistan is the world’s major producer of heroin and other poppy-based products. At an international gathering in Vienna on February 16, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that opiate production in Afghanistan rose 61 percent over the past year.
During a presentation at George Mason University in Virginia on February 21, Aleksandr Zelitchenko, the coordinator of the European Union’s Central Asian Drug Action Program in Kyrgyzstan, examined the impact of Afghanistan’s narcotics trafficking crisis on Central Asia. Roughly 70 percent of illicit Afghan opiate exports flowing to Western Europe pass through Iran, Turkey and the Balkan states. Most of the remainder uses a northern route via Central Asia. About 60 percent of the drugs trafficked via Central Asian routes are consumed in Russia, he said.
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Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.