Rethinking the drugs war in Afghanistan

Operation Enduring Freedom: Marines operate near Combat Outpost Ouellette. Photo By United States Marine Corps Official Page

By Virginia Comolli, Research Associate

For those studying Afghanistan, the drugs trade is such a pervasive feature of the nation’s economy, politics, security and society that separating it from counter-insurgency (COIN) and diplomatic efforts is simply unthinkable. Yet the subject of counter-narcotics (CN) was notably absent from the agenda of last month’s NATO Summit in Chicago.

The IISS has acknowledged the difficulties of conducting counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics operations simultaneously; in most situations, the latter usually take a back seat. Nonetheless, the security implications of the illicit market make it a good time to assess current strategies and the ‘Afghanisation’ of policy, as well as to discuss ongoing international cooperation and the future prospects for Afghan counter-narcotics policy. And these were exactly the sort of discussions that the IISS Transnational Threats and Political Risk research programme and Dr David Bewley-Taylor of Swansea University facilitated when they recently hosted an off-the-record ‘Colloquium on counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan: transition and beyond’.  (Dr Bewley-Taylor’s involvement was part of a project funded by the Open Society Foundations’  Global Drug Policy Program and the colloquium was supported by the International Drug Policy Consortium.)

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