Counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan may benefit insurgents, analysis finds

Jun 25, 2010 By Minne Ho

(PhysOrg.com) -- In an applied economic analysis, UCLA's Mark Kleiman and his co-authors found that the current counter-narcotics strategy is likely to aggravate the Afghan insurgency and exacerbate corruption and criminal violence.

Could the counter-narcotics efforts of U.S. forces and their allies in Afghanistan actually make the insurgency worse?

That's the argument Mark A.R. Kleiman, a professor of at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, Jonathan Caulkins, a Carnegie Mellon University professor of operations research and public policy, and researcher Jonathan Kulick put forth in a new report, "Drug Production and Trafficking, Counterdrug Policies, and Security and Governance in Afghanistan."

In their study, released by New York University's Center on International Cooperation, the authors provide an applied economic analysis of the effect of the counter-narcotics policies which challenges the current view that these initiatives benefit counterinsurgency efforts by cutting off revenue to insurgents.

The researchers found that, contrary to much of what has been written on the subject, the counter-narcotics strategy is likely to aggravate the Afghan insurgency and to exacerbate and criminal violence.

In particular, they argue:

• "Price is king" — global production of heroin and opiates will remain concentrated in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, regardless of counter-narcotics efforts.

• Rural development efforts should be focused on assisting rural populations — aid should not be provided only to those who desist from poppy-growing.

• Counter-narcotics enforcement efforts should be refocused to discriminate against illegal armed groups and corrupt officials.

The authors utilized microeconomic analysis of the likely consequences of various counter-narcotics strategies on both drug-market outcomes and the security and governance situation in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the illicit opium in the world. Nothing done in Afghanistan is likely to change that much or to shrink world demand," Kleiman said. "When counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan succeed, the result is higher prices and the movement of the drug trade to insurgent-held areas. Why should we enrich our enemies?"

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User comments : 4

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Roland
not rated yet Jun 25, 2010
We legalizers have long maintained that police (and military) efforts against drugs simply serve as a price-support mechanism. Legalize, and prices fall to near the cost of production. Without fat margins, the organized-crimers are out of business. And that's how it worked when alcohol was legalized in
the 1930s. Or, continue doing what isn't working, and continue billing the taxpayers for wars, prisons, and all the rest.

dirk_bruere
not rated yet Jun 25, 2010
"...contrary to much of what has been written on the subject, the counter-narcotics strategy is likely to aggravate the Afghan insurgency and to exacerbate corruption and criminal violence." Who would have guessed it? Apart from anyone with a brain. Good job that doesn't happen in the here eh?
harryhill
not rated yet Jun 25, 2010
Somebody suggested we or the Afgan govt buy the stuff and preempt the Taliban.
Hmmm...then the Taliban would suggest to the farmers "We will give you a choice that you cannot refuse"
COCO
5 / 5 (1) Jun 30, 2010
my god - where are your heads - control and profit from the opium bus was one of the goals of the US - the Taliban had pretty well stopped this farm interest.