Tajikistan's State Drug Control Agency (DCA) celebrated its 10th anniversary recently, drawing praise from President Imomali Rahmon for its success in combating narcotics trafficking. Even so, foreign officials continue to complain that large quantities of drugs continue to move across the Tajik-Afghan border and on to European markets.
Tajikistan's southern neighbor, Afghanistan, produced approximately 7,700 tons of opiates in 2008, 93 percent of global volume, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Though Afghan and Tajik drug control agencies predict Afghanistan's drug production to fall slightly in 2009, the organizations' capacities are still insufficient to properly counter international drug cartels, Lieutenant General Rustam Nazarov, head of the Tajik DCA, told the Asia Plus news agency on 28 May.
Nevertheless, Tajik officials are in a celebratory mood. In a televised speech May 30, Rahmon lavishly praised the DCA, describing success stories and listing positive statistics. Highlighting Tajikistan's exceptional position in the worldwide fight against Afghan drugs, he said; "Geographically, Tajikistan is located on the intersection of drug routes, and during the last two decades [the country] has been playing the role of a buffer zone on the frontline of the threat to the contemporary world."
Tajikistan's contribution to anti-trafficking efforts is substantial, he asserted. "Over 62 tons of narcotic substances, including 29 tons of heroin were seized throughout Tajikistan during the last nine years and four months of this year. Over 36 million people could have become drug addicts had this amount of heroin reached consumers," he said.
In a clear bid to obtain donor assistance, Rakhmon added that Tajikistan cannot battle drug trafficking alone. "I would like to suggest drawing up a single program for combating drug trafficking under the aegis of the UN until 2010, and holding an international conference with the participation of interested countries and international organizations and to declare 2011 as an international year of fighting drug trafficking," he said. He volunteered the Tajik capital Dushanbe to host the proposed conference.
Despite the successes, Russian officials have long complained Tajikistan is not doing enough. In March, Victor Ivanov, head of Russia's Drug Control Agency, caused a diplomatic row by asserting that 60 percent of Russian heroin arrives via Tajikistan.
Linking an increase in trafficking to the end of Russia's troop deployment along the Tajik-Afghan border in 2004, Ivanov further stoked controversy by blaming the United States for building a new bridge linking Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The bridge makes trafficking easier, he said: "Daily, there are 300 trucks passing over the bridge and every second of them is stuffed with heroin."
Russia is indeed suffering. In February the Duma's Security Committee released a Russian DCA report detailing the impact of narcotics use on Russia's youth. According to UN data, Russia has five to eight times more drug users per capita than any EU country. "Despite the growing seizures of Afghan drugs in Russia, drug users in the country consume not less than 12 tons of pure heroin annually," says the Russian DCA report. According to the Russian Health and Social Development Ministry, since 1996 the level of non-medical consumption of narcotics in Russia has grown by a factor of 20.
Russian drug control officials describe the current drug problem as "a serious blow on the nation's genetic fund." Every day, up to 250 young men become drug addicts in Russia. The exclusion of able-bodied workers from economic life, expenditures on the penitentiary system and medical treatment leads to the annual loss of 3 percent of the Russian GDP, the report added.
Konstantin Parshin is a freelance correspondent based in Tajikistan.