CMRJ 526 APUS Influence of Opium Discussion

Question Description

500 word discussion response, 250 words per numbered responses below. At least 1 response per response.

1. (250 words minimum, 1 citation minimum) This week we study the influence of opium from Afghanistan to the international level, and the involvement of organized crime in the opiate trade. As we have learned thus far, opium (and its derivatives) have been used by humanity for millennia, and are currently one of the most produced and used drugs worldwide. Our analysis on the worldwide flow of Afghan opiates will encompass several viewpoints ranging from the farmers that harvest the opium, to traffickers and radicalized insurgency. Lastly, this report will conclude whether the current multiagency and multinational response against opiate abuse and addiction is working, and what can be done to improve upon this mission.

Heroin is considered the most dangerous drug in the world and one of the most profitable according to the UNODC. In 2009, it generated $68 billion globally, with 90% ($61 billion) coming from Afghanistan. According to the UNODC 2011 threat assessment, most of this money went to narco traffickers and insurgency groups like the Taliban. The proliferation of Afghan opium can be traced to the Soviet invasion at the end of the 1970’s. Perhaps the worst byproduct of this conflict was the destruction of Afghanistan’s agriculture, which directly impoverished 85% of whose citizens were farmers. During this decade long war, both India and Pakistan abided to international pressure and succeeded in eradicating their own opium plantations and kicking opium smugglers out of their countries. Consequently, these same smugglers realized their predicament, and collaborated with the Taliban. By the mid 1990’s they had turned opium into a cash crop in Afghanistan. The Taliban devised a “two prong approach”. First, they sought support from tribal leaders and promised farming prosperity and security for a 10% tax in return. By 2009, farmers had produced a total of 123 thousand hectares (UNODC, 2011).

Second, the Taliban sought funding from smugglers in exchange of a part in the profit and safe haven in Afghanistan. Although opium association is considered haram among Muslims (forbidden by Islam), the Taliban’s involvement with narco traffickers in 2009 produced an estimated 380 tons of heroin, mostly destined for Europe, Asia and Africa (UNODC, 2011). Lastly, our attention into the production of heroin also includes the trafficking of acetic anhydride. Although produced legally and illegally around the world, most of the acetic anhydride used as the precursor chemical necessary for the manufacture of Afghan heroin comes from Europe and East Asia; as confirmed by seizures and arrests along the multinational trade routes and seaports leading to Afghanistan. Of the 2 million legitimate tons produced annually, only 475 tons (0.02%) are needed to process Afghanistan’s heroin (UNODC, 2011).

In conclusion, world countries must continue to harmonize their diplomatic, informational, military, and economic instruments of national power (DIME) when responding to the global threat from Afghan opiates, and with nongovernmental organizations as well as the civilian participation. The Afghan heroin trade introduced the Taliban as an existential threat; based on its extreme ideology-based terrorism. This threat is of higher concern to most civilized nations than Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs), or border disputes. In addition, Afghanistan and its neighboring countries lack a strong governmental framework formed by a professional military, ethical civilian authority, and positive non-state actors. As Afghanistan continues to deal with its domestic security issues, it must integrate with economically driven partnerships and international venues like it did in 2015 with the World Trade Organization. Lastly, democratic states like the United States must continue to work together to disrupt and eradicate asymmetrical threats like terrorism and non state actors like TCOS.

Select a specific area, town, city, or state within the U.S. that is experiencing a drug problem and critique the steps they are taking to combat the problem

2. (250 word minimum, 1 citation minimum) The second topic of this week’s post discusses the issue of preventing the traffic and use of illegal narcotics domestically. Considering the scope and complexity of this task, there is not a single agency with the capacity to combat the drug problem. Only a whole of government strategy involving both national and international groups, and key public stakeholders can effectively address this issue. Having said that, this post will analyze how the drug problem is affecting Puerto Rico, and how it is fighting the problem.

Puerto Rico continues to be a destination and transshipment point of narcotics originating mainly from South America, intended for the mainland to further endanger the lives of Americans in the continental U.S. Semi-submersibles, cigar boats, fishing boats, pleasure yachts, cruise ships and container ships are all maritime platforms used by TCOs to smuggle narcotics through the Caribbean basin. The mix of legitimate trade and traffic with drug smuggling makes interdiction efforts very challenging for law enforcement agencies. In the DEA’s 2018 threat assessment, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and prescription drugs are the principal drug threat and source of violence in the nation’s southeastern most border (DEA. 2018).

The threat posed by opiates continues to grow in Puerto Rico. According to State public health records, there were 612 fentanyl-related overdoses and 60 deaths reported in 2017 (Coto, D. 2019). From 2005 to 2012, law enforcement agencies seized close to 250 kilograms of heroin in Puerto Rico. Although cocaine represents the principal drug threat, heroin can potentially become a bigger problem because of its risk of overdoses when combined with stronger synthetic opiates, and public health concerns such as sharing needles.

In 2015, President Obama issued the Caribbean Border Counter narcotics Strategy as a template to reduce the threat posed by TCOs, drugs and associated violence to Puerto Rico (and USVI). This strategy identifies six objectives in order to achieve its mission. A second example is the implementation of the Container Security Initiative (CSI); an inspection operation at foreign ports of containers destined for the United States. This Customs and Border Protection (CBP) prescreening program is responsible for more than 80% of all maritime cargo imported into the United States (DHS.GOV, n.d.). Thirdly, the program Stonegarden (another CBP initiative) has funded state and local Puerto Rico law enforcement agencies for overtime hours and equipment upgrades since 2009. During this 10-year collaboration period, more than 6,400 pounds of narcotics worth over $45 million have been seized (CBP. 2019).

However, not all responses have been acceptable. State officials have been slow to deal with the opium epidemic. This is mainly because epidemic levels have not reached the ones on the U.S. mainland, and Puerto Rico’s health administration services suffered significant budget cuts stemming from the local government’s public bankruptcy (Coto, D. 2019). Nevertheless, non profit entities and the private sector are trying to synchronize with health professionals to stand up a solid public awareness campaign against hard drugs, especially opiates. These nongovernmental groups are also distributing naloxone (to treat opiate overdose in an emergency), fentanyl test strips, and clean syringes (Coto, D. 2019).

In conclusion, drug addiction is a social problem and as such must be dealt across the spectrum of civil administration including health, education, intelligence and law enforcement apparatus. Because other crimes such as gun running, human trafficking, prostitution and money laundering accompany drug smuggling, the local government along with its federal counterparts must better integrate to address the overall influence of TCOs. This environment of civic insecurity also prevents other human progress factors of such as political and economic to gain traction in Puerto Rico. The disconnect between security professionals and civil leaders, and their inability to carry a unified response, creates a critical vulnerability that TCOs exploit in order to operate with impunity. Their vast financial capital, influence of corruption and capacity for violence, threaten the fibers that form the sinews of governance institutions.

– Gil


United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2011). The global Afghan opium trade. A threat assessment.

ROBERT CLARK. (2011). Opium Wars. National Geographic.…

DEA. (2018). 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment. Department of Justice.

Coto, D. (2019). Growing opioid crisis adds to Puerto Rico’s problems. Associated Press.

Executive Office of the President of the United States. (2015). Caribbean border counter narcotics strategy.

DHS. (n.d.) Department of Homeland Security Organization.

CBP. (2019). Operation Stonegarden grant program reaches a 10-year milestone for the Caribbean border.

Prof. Angela


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