Is the (some would argue 'overblown') political and social reaction to illicit narcotics trafficking justified considering other transnational "crimes against humanity" such as human trafficking? Why or why not?
I would argue that those that feel that the reaction to illicit narcotics is overblown in the face of crimes against humanity have a limited understanding of human trafficking and how trafficking routes are used to transport human drugs and other illicit items such as weapons. Meaning that groups that are involved in crimes against humanity are also involved in other illicit trafficking.
As this course, has repeatedly shown most transnational crime is coming out of nations that are failed states and/or failing states that don’t can keep the criminal element in check or at bay. “Countries emerging from conflict or other major crises face numerous difficult challenges on the road to state-building. One of the most harmful is the rise of violent crime, which threatens weak state institutions and the rule of law. In several cases, the presence of transnational organized crime accentuates this concern. Instead of starting on a path of economic and institutional development, these nations are transformed into way stations on the route of illicit products” (Siegman, 2011) This is due to the fact that if a strong government isn’t in place to prevent crime, criminal groups will become the government and trafficking in illicit goods will become the funds that keep nations operating. An example of this would-be Mexico which is a failing state (it has not completely failed) however as time goes by drug cartels are taking on increasingly of the function of the government as the government has become corrupted to the point that Mexican drug cartels are the shadow government in Mexico.
The NOREF Report has the following to say “The problems posed by transnational organized
crime is serious and spreading. In Central Asia, West Africa and Central America, the wounds
of civil war and political transition had not yet healed by the time the phenomenon appeared.
Instead, criminal groups took full advantage of the weaknesses of governments and the rule of
law in the aftermath of faltering transitions to democracy. These groups formed links with formal
economic and political actors, and used their power where necessary to intimidate citizens into
submission” (Siegman, 2011) There is no better way to destabilize a nation than through war, especially civil war, where different segments of the same population are at war with one another for reasons that are difficult to identify. Again, failed states and or failing states (in most cases the result of war) are at risk of being taken over or function of a shadow government behind the legitimate government.
Failed of failing state status isn’t the only factor in play when it comes to illicit transfer of goods, another aspect is regional security. Does a nation have enough security factors in place to prevent the illicit transfer of foods from one nation to the next “Alongside geography, security conditions are fundamental to determining the regions where illicit trafficking is routed and represent the second major external condition shaping patterns of transnational criminalization. Although law enforcement efforts rarely manage to extinguish entirely transnational markets in illicit goods, these illicit markets may become redundant, as happened to Mexican liquor smugglers following the end of prohibition in American,22 or has happened to an extent following the sharp rise in domestic cultivation of marijuana (notably in North America and Western Europe) following weakening restrictions on the use of that drug.” (Siegman, 2011) As the question asks is there is over reaction to drug trafficking when crimes against humanity are taking place and the answer is no. This is because trafficking routes are used for all variety of illicit goods. Ending the trafficking of goods through a certain area may not necessarily end ALL types of trafficking in that area because trafficking is more nuanced.
The United Nations has used its peacekeepers to being safety and stability to regions to end and/or stop from starting transnational organized crime “While not formally acknowledged as a UN tool to track transnational criminal networks, per se, the UN uses panels of experts to this effect. The Security Council appoints these small fact-finding teams to monitor UN targeted sanctions –embargoes on arms, diamonds, and timber; asset freezes and travel bans – and to investigate how they are violated. Initially created to monitor the arms embargo on Rwanda and then sanctions on Angola, panels of experts have since considered how sanctions are violated in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the DRC, Coˆte d’Ivoire, Sudan, and Somalia, and by Al Qaida and the Taliban. The panels were among the first to link criminal networks to continuing conflict, detailing how spoiler secure arms and undermine peace, and in some cases how governments use these networks to continue war.” (Holt & Boucher, 2009) As much as the UN tried to offer stability, it’s research has shown that instability is still taking place across the world and where instability exists illicit trafficking will take place. There are no good ways to limit the types and locations from which trafficking takes place.
What, if anything, is unique about transnational crime and narcotics issues policy makers face relating to Afghanistan/Central Asia compared to transnational crime and narcotics issues in other parts of the world? Why or why not?
The most unique issue facing narcotics trafficking in Afghanistan is twofold. The first being that it is difficult for the United States to interact with a government regarding narcotics trafficking in Afghanistan is the fact that there is no stable government to deal with. There hasn’t been a stable Afghan government for at least 30 years. Instead of one government the Afghan people choose to live as part of a tribal society meaning that instead of one government the society lives under the rules of a tribe not a government. The government that was put in place by the United States proved that it would be difficult for any government to prove that it could or would stabilize the nation. “Afghanistan’s war is fueled by support from within Pakistan for Taliban insurgents, and by poor governance within Afghanistan, including entrenched patronage systems and corruption, and a weak rule of law. The withdrawal of international combat troops between 2011 and 2014 left a fragile security environment and a struggling national economy. Since the disputed 2014 presidential election, friction between the two halves of the “National Unity Government” has prevented the government from implementing widely supported reforms, notably against corruption. This has deepened public discontent and questions over the government’s legitimacy.” (The current situation in Afghanistan, 2017) The United States attempted to place a legitimate government in place in Afghanistan. Saying it was an abject failure is putting it mildly. The government failed because it was unable to prove that it was strong enough to rule a nation that 1) wasn’t used to being ruled by a central government and 2) had to interact with the Taliban and prove that the government not the Taliban would be able to provide a strong government.
The next issue comes with the fact that Afghan farmers are willing to grow opium and little else. They do this because opium has always been a prime exporter for Afghanistan and one of the few crops that will grow in the arid climate. “16 March 2016 - In recent days, UNODC presented a socio-economic analysis of the latest Opium Survey in Afghanistan, which revealed that opium poppy farmers gained considerably less in 2015 compared to the previous year. Figures in the analysis show that the gross income from opium decreased to $3100 per hectare in 2015 - 18 per cent less than the 2014 value of $3800 - and the lowest level since 2002, shortly after the end of the Taliban opium ban.” (Opium poppy farming in Afghanistan less lucrative in 2015, 2016) However cultivation of opium is on the decline in recent years. This shows that the Taliban is having less control over the cultivation of opium (to be used to fund terrorist operations) and the United States is having more of an influence over the cultivation of opium.
There is also evidence that the DEA is have several successful drugs busts in Afghanistan “A joint U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, American Special Forces and Afghan counter narcotics operation in October resulted in an astonishing seizure of 20 tons of drugs, which officials said was the "largest known seizure of heroin in Afghanistan, if not the world."
The operation was kept secret until today, when a DEA official confirmed the contents of a field intelligence report obtained by ABC News but did not explain why a successful "superlab" takedown — which agency veterans agreed is an unprecedented narcotics haul — was not officially announced.
"This drug seizure alone prevented not only a massive amount of heroin hitting the streets throughout the world but also denied the Taliban money that would have been used to fund insurgent activities in and around the region," DEA spokesman Steven Bell told ABC News yesterday.” (Meek, 2016)
While evidence exists to show that cultivation of opium in Afghanistan is on the decline. It is still the largest producer of opium in the world. This is likely to continue since that cultivation of opium is the big money crop in the nation and one that is encouraged to continue growing by the Taliban.
It is likely that opium will continue to be the cash crop in Afghanistan and the United States and its allies will have a difficult time with narcotics enforcement since society in the middle east is much different than US society making any sort of law enforcement difficult.
Central Asia is part of something known as the golden triangle “A United Nations report in December revealed that opium production in the Golden Triangle had tripled since 2006, with the illegal drugs trade in the region worth $16.3 billion. The area produced 762 tonnes of opium in 2014, making about 76 tonnes of heroin, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in its Southeast Asia Opium Survey stated.” (Moodley, 2015) With such a large amount of drugs moving around the region it is difficult if not impossible to enforce drug trafficking. And much like Afghanistan trafficking in narcotics is normal and/or a way to live a middle-class life.
“The DEA will step up efforts to curtail the heroin trade in Afghanistan and plans to send 17 additional agents to the region, Hutchinson told reporters Thursday. Officials declined for security reasons to say how many agents are in the region, but they described the planned increase as a significant boost.
Drug agents are trying to break up heroin trafficking by controlling the flow of chemicals used to process the drug and working with the governments of Afghanistan and surrounding countries to block exports, Hutchinson said.
This year, he said, poppy production in Afghanistan will be reduced 20 percent to 30 percent but added, "We have to do more." (Schmidt, 2002) The DEA is doing the best it can to police the amount of narcotics that are moving around the golden triangle but any sort of enforcement is difficult due to the fact that “Corruption is everywhere and Central Asia is no exception. In fact, looking at reports from international rights organizations you would have to conclude Central Asia might even be one of the worst regions in the world when it comes to corruption.” (Pannier, 2016) There are no friendly governments to rely on. When working on drug enforcement the DEA must rely on other law enforcement agencies also working in the region such as the FBI however, “But the DEA task seems destined to become more difficult because the agency must make up for the FBI's decision to divert about 400 of its agents from drug investigations to the fight against terrorism.
"We want to make sure there is no gap," Hutchinson said. "We're scrambling, and we're working hard. . .. We've got to make sure we're acting efficiently," he said. (Schmidt, 2002) The United States is doing the best it can to end narcotics trafficking from Afghanistan and central Asia but when push comes to shove the DEA is almost set up for failure when it comes to narcotic enforcement. They are on their own. Making it difficult to enforcement drug laws.
Holt, V. K., & Boucher, A. J. (2009). Framing the issue: UN responses to corruption and criminal networks in post-conflict settings. International Peacekeeping, 16(1), 20–32. doi:10.1080/13533310802485492
Meek, J. G. (2016, December 15). DEA: Heroin haul largest ever in Afghanistan, “if not the world.” Retrieved January 27, 2017, from ABC News, http://abcnews.go.com/International/dea-heroin-haul-largest-afghanistan-world/story?id=44216333
Moodley, K. (2015, March 11). Welcome to the Golden Triangle, the centre of the world’s drug trafficking. The Independent - Asia. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/welcome-to-the-golden-triangle-the-centre-of-the-worlds-drug-trafficking-10100420.html
Opium poppy farming in Afghanistan less lucrative in 2015. (2016, March 16). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/frontpage/2016/March/opium-poppy-farming-in-afghanistan-less-lucrative-in-2015.html
Pannier, B. (2016, June 4). The perfect storm of corruption in central Asia. Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://www.rferl.org/a/corruption-central-asia/27779246.html
Schmidt, S. (2002, August 10). DEA to bolster presence along Mexican border, in central Asia. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2002/08/10/dea-to-bolster-presence-along-mexican-border-in-central-asia/30d6c011-9c2c-41af-8cf6-6c55f942fa97/?utm_term=.032901d2d5c4
Siegman, H. (2011). Introduction: The new anxiety over transnational crime. Retrieved from http://noref.no/var/ezflow_site/storage/original/application/382c22e11ce893ffde023e1178878914.pdf
The current situation in Afghanistan. (2017, January 13). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from United States Institute of Peace, http://www.usip.org/publications/the-current-situation-in-afghanistan