On 5 March, the East West Institute opened a two-day roundtable meeting of the Joint U.S. Russia Working Group on Afghan Narco-Trafficking. The Working Group aims to enable the United States, Russia, Afghanistan and other countries in the region to collaborate to combat the narcotics threat in Afghanistan. Over the course of the two-day meeting, diplomats, academic experts, practitioners at the East West Institute’s offices in New York City discussed Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics policies and ways to collaborate to combat the threat of narcotics in the future.
Representatives of the government of Afghanistan in attendance at the meeting included Mr. Ashraf Haidari, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Afghanistan in New Delhi; Mr. Farhad Basharyar Parwany, Desk Manager of Counter Narcotics at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan; Ms. Asila Wardak, Minister Counselor at the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations; and Mr. Rafiullah Naseri, Second Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations.
East West Institute’s Vice President David Firestein opened the debate, providing a background of the work of the group and highlighting its most recent report, “Post-2014 Scenarios”. He then gave the floor to H.E. Ambassador Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, who framed the debate and discussed the policies of the government of Afghanistan.
Welcoming participants, Ambassador Tanin noted that the persistence of narcotics in Afghanistan poses a serious threat to the country’s stability. “The narcotics trade has major consequences for the social, political, economic and security arenas in the country,” he said, and is fueled by the interrelated problems of crime, insecurity, terrorism, and corruption. Narcotics also have a severely detrimental societal impact, with over 2 million severely addicted in Afghanistan today.
The government of Afghanistan has recently pledged to prioritize drug control as a key element of its reform agenda. The government will “intensify efforts to control narcotic production and sale by adopting a broad approach targeting both the production base as well as the handling and refining of narcotics,” Ambassador Tanin explained.
Ambassador Tanin was clear to emphasize that drug control is ultimately a global issue. “The only way to truly address these issues is through genuine, comprehensive global and regional strategies to implement both drug-demand and drug-supply reduction measures,” he explained.
The roundtable continued until its closing on 6 March, with a series of sessions on various aspects of international and regional counter-narcotics efforts. The meeting allowed participants to consider constructive ways to work together to counter the production and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan, a goal which participants agreed would enhance security and stability in the country, the region and the world.