Midterm Article: A Familiar War in an Unfamiliar Place

As global conflicts unfold, including well-known ones like those in Ukraine and Palestine, alongside lesser-known ones in places like Papua New Guinea and the Congo, another ubiquitous battle is the War on Drugs. This global campaign takes various forms, notably in Afghanistan, where the Taliban’s involvement reshaped the drug landscape. Afghanistan’s history as a major opium producer traces back to the mid-1950s, culminating in the Golden Crescent region with prime conditions for cultivation. The Soviet-Afghan War in 1979 catalyzed opium production, as militant groups and warlords funded their activities through the drug trade, facilitated by CIA involvement. Despite the Taliban’s subsequent crackdown on drugs for a brief period, the American-led invasion in 2001 led to a resurgence in opium production, with the new government often turning a blind eye due to its profitability. Until the fall of Kabul in 2021, Afghanistan dominated the global drug trade, producing vast quantities of heroin and opiates.

The Taliban’s resurgence in 2021 saw a shift in policy, with a renewed effort to eliminate opium cultivation. Mandatory rehab programs were implemented to address the country’s significant drug addiction issues. However, Myanmar, particularly amidst its own internal turmoil, has emerged as the new epicenter of opium production in the Golden Triangle region. The situation is exacerbated by geopolitical rivalries, with Russian and Chinese interests hindering international efforts to address the crisis.

Despite the severity of the drug epidemic, global attention remains limited, with geopolitical interests often overshadowing humanitarian concerns. The United Nations’ ability to intervene is constrained, leaving the region’s future uncertain amidst a complex web of political and economic interests.


Research and References:

Afghan farmers lose income of more than $1 billion after the Taliban banned poppy cultivation

Thai police seize a record haul of 50 million methamphetamine tablets near border with Myanmar