Report: Afghanistan Meth Trade Surges After Taliban Opiate Ban

    Report: Afghanistan Meth Trade Surges After Taliban Opiate Ban
    Last updated Sep 11, 2023
    Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


    • According to a UN report published Sunday, the trafficking of methamphetamine has drastically increased in and around Afghanistan since April 2022 despite the Taliban clamping down on opiates.
    • The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has detailed a nearly 12-fold increase in methamphetamine seizures — from 2.5 tons in 2017 to 29.7 tons in 2021.
    • However, Afghanistan's interior ministry dismissed the claims as "baseless" and said the UN has made these allegations "at a time when we are working seriously on (the issue of drugs)."
    • The Taliban announced a ban on the production of narcotics in Afghanistan — the world's main opium producer — in April 2022.
    • Though heroin trafficking has slowed, the UN report has found that the methamphetamine trade has intensified, stating that using ingredients found in common cold medicines and industrial-grade chemicals may have boosted methamphetamine production.
    • The rise in methamphetamine production has also reportedly come after traffickers switched their attention to a native plant called ephedra — a natural source of the drug's key ingredient — to manufacture the illicit substance.


    Narrative A

    Despite Western promises of government enforcement and UN agencies spending millions of dollars to fix the country's socio-economic woes, Afghans have suffered instability for decades. However, the Taliban has been able to enforce its writ and be more successful in cracking down on opium than any foreign agent has ever previously managed. The Taliban is attempting to resurrect the country's economy, without the help of Western aid, by banning a harmful and illicit substance — the relative success of this endeavor should not be understated.

    Narrative B

    The Taliban's war on drugs has banned the sole cash crop relied on by many Afghan families attempting to survive amid a devastating economic crisis. With international aid and trade largely suspended, the curb on meth and opium production has put millions at risk of starvation. As there are zero economic benefits, the purported ban on narcotics will only become a costly political mistake that devastates rural farmers, exacerbates the misery of addicts, and enriches the Taliban.

    Nerd narrative

    There's a 47% chance that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan will be used as a base for anti-NATO terrorism by 2026, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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