There is compelling evidence provided by a recently-resigned assistant secretary general of the United Nations Organisation, the estimable Mr Anthony Banbury, that «thanks to colossal mismanagement, the United Nations is failing». He writes that the UN «is filled with smart, brave and selfless people» but that «unfortunately, far too many others lack the moral aptitude and professional abilities to serve».
From personal experience and observation, I can only agree with that criticism, but also concur unreservedly with his assertion that «for the world’s sake we must make the United Nations succeed».
Hearteningly, there is at least one department of the UN that does seem to be trying very hard to succeed.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a diligent organisation which tries to coordinate international efforts to combat some of the worst evils that beset the world. Its efforts to reduce the illegal flow of drugs are admirable, although its most recent report is depressing, in that it records among much other data that «there has been little change in the overall global situation regarding the production, use and health consequences of illicit drugs... the increase in global opium poppy cultivation and opium production to record levels has yet to have major repercussions on the global market for opiates».
That last phrase is ominous. The problem appears massive to the point of disaster, and if «major repercussions» are yet to be felt, then drug-production and trafficking present an international crisis of staggering dimensions.
The UNODC’s Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, is a distinguished diplomat of many years experience and is ideally suited to the task of guiding international efforts to control and reduce the drug menace, but he isn’t receiving much assistance from some of those most directly responsible for national efforts. Meeting with the Afghan Minister of Counter Narcotics, Salamat Azimi, in June last year he «noted that Afghanistan is the primary victim of illicit drug cultivation and suffers high numbers of drug users, crime, insecurity and corruption», and while obviously sympathising with the Afghan government’s difficulties in regard to the country’s drug-production bonanza, commented that «it was also important for Afghanistan to show measurable and concrete results in the reduction of the number of drug users, as well as opium cultivation and production».
To be fair, some people in Afghanistan (mainly those in foreign aid agencies) are trying to make some effort to care for the drug addicts whose number has increased so enormously since the US invasion of 2001. But as it is the second most corrupt country in the world, with most of its money coming from illegal production of drugs, and the areas in which opium poppies are produced are entirely in the hands of criminals of one sort or another, there does not appear to be the slightest hope that there will be any movement towards control of drug production in that chaotic and ungovernable country. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned recently that «the volume of drug production in Afghanistan is growing at a threatening pace and the income is being absorbed not only by terrorist groups in the country, but also beyond its borders».
In February the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the estimable Mr John Sopko, presented a report to Congress in justification of future expenditure on his task of ensuring that the vast amounts of money allocated by the US to Afghanistan «are spent as effectively and efficiently as possible and that they are protected from waste, fraud, and abuse».
Mr Sopko’s analyses of US expenditure of «approximately $107.5 billion to rebuild Afghanistan» over 14 years have not met with approval in Washington. Being totally honest, and having revealed gross incompetence in the Pentagon and the State Department involving appalling waste of US taxpayers’ money, he is not popular in official circles. Truth is important in governance, but when it shows the US in anything but a favourable light, the truth is not welcomed in US Congressional circles. And this especially includes Mr Sopko’s sobering conclusion that «by every conceivable metric, we’ve failed. [Drug] production and cultivation are up, interdiction and eradication are down, financial support to the insurgency is up, and addiction and abuse are at unprecedented levels in Afghanistan».
Opium Production in Afghanistan
The US invaded Afghanistan at the end of 2001 and the opium production statistics speak for themselves thereafter. The 2015 World Drug Report notes that Afghanistan accounts for about 80% of global opiate and heroin production. It records that «global opium poppy cultivation in 2014 reached the highest level since the late 1930s» which was «mainly attributable» to increase of production in Afghanistan.
In 2006 the then head of UNODC, Antonio Maria Costa, appealed for «NATO forces to destroy the heroin labs, disband the open opium bazaars, attack the opium convoys and bring to justice the big traders. I invite coalition countries to give NATO the mandate and resources required». But there was no chance that his common sense would be heeded by US-NATO forces which were engaged in a counter-insurgency war.
It is notable that, thus far, the vast increase in Afghanistan’s heroin production does not threaten America, where the US Drug Enforcement Agency noted in its 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment that «most of the heroin available in the United States comes from Mexico and Colombia». But this state of affairs may not continue much longer.
At present it is Afghanistan’s neighbour, Pakistan, which suffers most grievously from Afghan drug production. The number of addicts in Pakistan has escalated appallingly in the last fifteen years, and corruption has increased in synchrony with the increasingly lucrative drug-trade, but the menace has been extending further – much further – into China and Russia and Europe.
The BBC reported last year that «In times past Afghans would only deliver drug shipments to the border and hand them over to Central Asian groups, but now Afghans representing the Taliban and other Afghan groups are living in Moscow and other towns in Russia, according to Tajik drugs officials, in order to get a share of the huge profits that ensue once the drugs reach Russia and Europe».
There appears little than can be done to check the production of illegal drugs in Afghanistan, and their lucrative export, as Afghan security forces are incapable of doing so and the entire country is terminally corrupt. Over a thousand extremely powerful people – warlords, politicians, senior government officials, commercial tycoons – are involved in making vast profits from poppy farmers who have to grow the plants because they provide a living income. The insurgents, too, are beneficiaries of this national affliction.
Foreign troops are impotent and in any case lack direction so far as drug eradication is concerned. The situation is catastrophic.
Mr Fedotov and his UNODC colleagues are trying hard to deal with criminal drug production in Afghanistan, but have no chance of success. The internationally disastrous drug catastrophe in Afghanistan is yet another horrible example of how US military intrusion can have such cataclysmic consequences for the entire world, and especially for the unfortunate countries doomed to destruction by Washington’s self-righteous declaration that it is «the one indispensable nation in world affairs».
In 2005 I wrote that:
«Non-US NATO is to increase its troop numbers in Afghanistan to 15,000, and its secretary-general states that instead of acting as a peacekeeping force it will assume the combat role of US troops, which is insane. Neither NATO nor the US military is to have any role in eradicating drug production or smuggling.
The insurgency in Afghanistan will continue until foreign troops leave, whenever that might be. After a while, the government in Kabul will collapse, and there will be anarchy until a brutal, ruthless, drug-rich warlord achieves power. He will rule the country as it has always been ruled by Afghans: by threats, religious ferocity, deceit, bribery, and outright savagery, when the latter can be practiced without retribution. And the latest foreign occupation will become just another memory».
And Afghanistan’s drug production will continue to flourish. Thank you, Washington.