Redefining Targets

Towards a Realistic Afghan Drug Control Strategy
07 December 2009
Policy briefing

Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium and has an under-reported but growing heroin-use problem. Current drug control policies in Afghanistan are unrealistic, reflecting a need for immediate signs of hope rather than a serious analysis of the underlying causes and an effort to achieve long-term solutions.

Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium and has an under-reported but growing heroin-use problem. Current drug control policies in Afghanistan lack focus and are unrealistic, driven by headlines rather than evidence. They reflect a need for immediate signs of hope rather than a serious analysis of the underlying causes and an effort to achieve long-term solutions.

This policy briefing provides an update on drug control efforts in Afghanistan1 and outlines policy dilemmas on drugs production, trafficking and consumption issues facing Afghan officials and international agencies today. It also reflects concerns and needs of heroin users and –former- opium farmers. Key issues include the chronic absence of coordination of drug control efforts; the foreign-driven and often hypocritical nature of the agenda; and the difficulties in defining realistic drug policy objectives.

Much media attention has focused on the anticipated change in US drug control policy. Eradication efforts have not shown any measurable results. Clearly, more attention needs to be given to the development and viable conflict resolution scenarios. Concretely, however, little has changed. While the end of US support for the controversial central eradication force and pressuring the Afghan government to allow spraying is a most welcome step, there are as of yet no signs of alternative policies. The announced surge in military forces is unlikely to deliver positive effect on drug control as long as the counter-productive effects of their involvement so far are not fully understood and revised.