January 24, 2023
On January 13 of this year, Hasibullah Ahmadi, head of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior’s counternarcotics department, asserted that drug trafficking from the country has dropped, but admitted this illicit trade continues in some provinces. These comments raise the question of the Taliban’s ties to the narcotics market and previous attempts to curb drug production. The declassified documents featured in today’s post, all released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), are a selection from the new Digital National Security Archive collection, Afghanistan War and the United States, 1998-2017, which was published in December of last year. The three documents examined in this post detail the Taliban’s ties to international trafficking networks in the late 1990s and attempts to regulate the market in the early 2000s in an effort to curry favor from the international community. Taken together, the documents describe the Taliban’s ties to drug trafficking schemes and how poppy bans, even when effective, financially benefited the Taliban and associated trafficking consortiums.
As the early Taliban movement emerged, from 1994 to 1996, narcotics production skyrocketed in Afghanistan, with declassified documents asserting that the group aligned themselves with international drug traffickers. There were indications from U.S. officials that narcotics production in the country significantly increased following the Taliban’s control over large swaths of the country. In a now-declassified Secret May 2001 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence outlined that by 2000 the country supplied an estimated 72% of the world’s “illicit opium”. This heavily redacted document included a map noting opium poppy growing areas in Afghanistan (page 26), and a chart showing rising opium cultivation between 1991 and 2000. The NIE noted that producers in Afghanistan had switched to supplying and producing more heroin over several years before 2001.