Drug trafficking terrorist groups undermine security: observers

By Asker Sultanov

Officials from the former State Drug Control Service detain a suspected drug dealer in Bishkek in 2009. [Asker Sultanov personal archive]

Officials from the former State Drug Control Service detain a suspected drug dealer in Bishkek in 2009. [Asker Sultanov personal archive]

BISHKEK -- Terrorist groups that fund their activities through drug trafficking are undermining security in Central Asia, analysts say.

Afghanistan produces about 70% of the world's opium -- the raw material for heroin, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime 2016 World Drug Report. Much of it reaches foreign markets via the Central Asian "northern corridor".

"Drug trafficking undermines the security of Central Asian countries and fuels international terrorist and religious extremist groups," Alexandr Fedulov, head of the UNODC Programme Office in Kyrgyzstan, told Caravanserai. "The region needs to observe the regime of international monitoring of drug trafficking."

"More than 120 different drug smuggling routes cross through 35 points along Central Asia's border with Afghanistan," Idinov told Caravanserai.

Drug-trafficking revenues finance groups that seek to subvert Central Asian governments, added Idinov.

Those terror groups include the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Jamaat Ansarullah, the chief of the Tajik Drug Control Agency told the BBC in 2015.

Idinov warned about financial institutions that launder drug money.

"Financial institutions can be exploited to finance international terrorism, organised crime and extremism," he said, warning of subsequent "corruption in government and more trans-national crime".

"Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan witnessed terrorist attacks on their own soil within the past few years," Bishkek political scientist Alikbek Jenkshekulov told Caravanserai, citing the ability of "trans-national narco-rings to finance armed conflicts and terrorist activity in [drug] transit countries".

Central Asians also consume some of the narcotics passing through their territory, leading to various social problems.

"About 100,000 Kyrgyz citizens use drugs," estimated Bishkek political scientist Azamat Idinov in an interview with Caravanserai.

"State agencies in Central Asia have adequately increased drug control and ... the amount of drugs [being seized] has decreased," said Fedulov, citing the reduction as a sign of success in curbing cross-regional drug trafficking.

In 2016, Kyrgyz authorities recorded 1,190 drug crimes and seized almost 15.3 tonnes of drugs, according to the Interior Ministry (MVD).

Drug pushers are using the northern corridor less and other routes more to export of Afghan drugs, said Fedulov.

International support

More than 40 representatives of Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies, the Health Ministry and foreign and domestic NGOs came to hear the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)'s 2016 annual report, presented by the UNODC and the MVD State Service on Drug Control March 3 in Bishkek.

The document describes the global drug control situation and contains recommendations how to defeat drug trafficking around the world, said UNODC Kyrgyz spokeswoman Vasilina Brazhko.

"The INCB's recommendations are essential for planning and evaluating future action, as well as for adopting well-informed and efficient management decisions," said Azamat Arayev, chief of the MVD Anti-Drug Trafficking Service, at the conference.

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