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Afghanistan Drug Interdiction

Under plans put into effect in February 2009, NATO military forces can attack drug lords, drug factories and traffickers, even in the absence of evidence that they are helping to finance the insurgency. General John Craddock, the NATO commander who is also chief of US forces in Europe, issued a "guidance" that would authorize NATO troops "to attack directly drug producers and facilities throughout Afghanistan." Craddock, said "it was no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker . . . in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective." Around that time four operations had been carried out to destroy 11 laboratories, with narcotics valued at $500 million.

Interdiction is a team effort that relies on the successful execution of several steps in an interdiction continuum, including the collection and dissemination of actionable intelligence, the detection and monitoring of suspect activities and locations, and the physical interdiction of those activities and locations. The interdiction strategy is like a constantly-changing chess match, with both sides trying to react to and anticipate the other's moves.

Interdiction and international activities affect producers' costs, which are only a small part of the users' charges. The bulk of those charges are added in the later stages of processing and delivery. Of course, local and state efforts to control the supply of drugs also face several obstacles: competition among producers and distributors, the large markup from wholesale to retail prices, and the ability of distributors to dilute the drug to maintain an end price that customers can afford.

Critics claim that interdiction and international activities are both more costly and less effective than other antidrug efforts; that no clear proof of their efficacy exists; and that the federal government could drastically reduce the resources devoted to such activities without affecting drug use over the long term. In fact, some sources show that illicit drugs were less expensive and more readily available than they were before the federal government began trying to control them. Interdiction and international activities do not reduce the demand for drugs and have less impact on the price users pay than state and locally funded efforts.

Proponents argue that a variety of reasons exist to support interdiction and international activities. Notable successes, including the destruction of major drug trafficking organizations and the large quantities of illegal drugs seized or destroyed, contradict claims of ineffectiveness. In fact, supporters of interdiction and international activities argue that street prices would have been much lower, and the availability of drugs much greater, without extensive funding for criminal justice efforts. Moreover, if the goal of the federal government is to control, and not simply to reduce, the use of illegal drugs, some effort to reduce the flow of drugs would be necessary.

Peruvian forces in the past had used weapons against aircraft suspected of transporting drugs and in early 1994, Colombia announced that it was planning to implement a policy to shoot down drug traffickers. US government officials became concerned that such a policy would violate international law. According to the Justice Department, U.S. officials who knowingly provide information that leads to the shooting down of civilian aircraft could be subject to criminal prosecution.

A US-Latin American aerial drug interdiction program that had been conducted over the skies of countries like Colombia has been reinstated, US Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced 19 August 2003. Air interdiction "is a regional issue" that affects all of Latin America, Rumsfeld pointed out, involving efforts to eradicate the sale and distribution of "drugs, as well as weapons."

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:32:09 ZULU