The developments that shattered Central Asia in the past several months – the intensification of the Talib insurgency in the northern part of Afghanistan, the outbreak of instability in Tajikistan's eastern provinces where the government forces remain locked for over a month in a massive campaign against guerrilla groups, and the last of the coups in Kyrgyzstan – are to varying extents linked to the activity of the narcomafia which operates drug trafficking routes traversing the region. The drug groups which supply narcotics from Afghanistan to Russia and Europe are making serious efforts to ensure the immunity of their northern drug trafficking route.
The geography of drug supplies from Afghanistan explains the drug lords' increasing interest in the northern drug trafficking route.Contrary to the widely held view, at the moment the lion's share of the Afghan drug output continues to be delivered via the eastern and western routes rather than the northern one. Tajik anti-narcotics agency chief R. Nazarov says that the Balkan “channel” stretching across northern Iran and Turkey to Europe and the new route – via the Caucasus towards Ukraine and Russia – account for roughly 59% of the drug transit from Afghanistan. Another avenue used to transit some 35% of the drugs produced in Afghanistan runs across Pakistan and ends in Australia. Only some 15% of the Afghan drug total actually reach Russia via Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
As reported by the Tajik police, in January – September, 2010 it seized 2,651.984 kg of narcotics including 646.3 kg of heroin, 605.4 kg of opiates, and over 1,400 kg of cannabis-group narcotics, and arrested 687 people including 20 Afghans for drug trafficking. The Tajik police disrupted 116 illicit drug transactions and identified 35 criminal groups involved. Jointly with the Afghan forces, the Tajik law-enforcement agencies launched 43 anti-drug raids, destroyed 12 drug laboratories, rounded up 50 drug traffickers, and confiscated 852.6 kg of narcotic substances including 140.1 kg of heroin and slightly under 1.5 ton of opiates.
The recent events in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are interwoven with drug transit. Not long ago, International Crisis Group vice president for Europe A. Deletro said in an interview to Deutche Welle that the Afghan drug transit and sales posed the greatest single threat to the region and that currently drug groups are looking for new drug trafficking routes across the Pamir mountains to Tajikistan and across the southern part of Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan, Russia, and the EU. He expressed the view that the recent unrest in Kyrgyzstan was fueled by the drug trafficking money and warned that not only Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan but also more powerful Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan risk being affected by the amplification of drug flows and losing control over their own territories. Deletro outlined an alarming tendency: at the moment the evolution of the drug situation in Central Asia seems to be following the Latin American pattern, perhaps due to the similarities between the geographic parameters of the regions' drug-producing and transiting countries. In the past, Columbia's emerging as a major drug supplier had a serious impact on such smaller Latin American countries as Guatemala and Salvador. Moreover, the relatively powerful Mexico was also affected. The analogies between the situations in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, on the one side, and the Latin American countries, on the other – or between the problems experienced by Mexico and Kazakhstan – are straightforward.
The Talib surge in Afghanistan's northern provinces, the fighting with insurgents in Tajikistan's Rasht valley, and the second Kyrgyz “revolution” may be elements of the same picture – the establishment of favorable conditions for the transit of drugs from Afghanistan.The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which is widely suspected of organizing drug trafficking is active in both Afghanistan and Tajikistan. As for Kyrgyzstan, the same Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan gained control over the route traversing the republic already during the 1999-2000 conflict when insurgents from Tajikistan invaded the nearby Batken province of Kyrgyzstan. The volumes of drug production and transit in Kyrgyzstan are known to have risen considerably since the displacement of the republic's former leader K. Bakiyev.
Tajikistan's location is strategic from the standpoint of the drug-trafficking geopolitics. Sharing a 1,400-km weakly guarded border with Afghanistan, somehow the republic does manage to remain a barrier in the way of the drug lords' onslaught on Central Asia and Russia. It should be taken into account that Tajikistan hosts the NATO northern supply route used to support the operation of the Western coalition in Afghanistan (another NATO supply route serving the same purpose passes via Pakistan).
Moscowis increasingly concerned over the situation in Tajikistan.Reportedly, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin will probe into the possibility of redeploying Russian border guards in Tajikistan and of Russia's renting the Aini airbase near Tajik capital Dushanbe during the November summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.