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United Nations Commission

on Narcotic Drugs

Study Guide

Akash Majumdar
Aditya Khosla




Dear Delegates,

It is my pleasure to welcome you to Calcutta International School MUN
2014! The simulated UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs has an
extremely ambitious topic area to cover. Each delegate shall, explore
the tumultuous world of Afghanistan's illicit drug trade; treading
through the mountainous borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran,
while uncovering a trail of drugs, an addicted populace, and widespread
crime. Afghanistan produced a record opium poppy crop in 2007,
supplying 93% of the world's opium. Opium trade has become an
increasingly substantial source of revenue for various criminal groups
and finances criminal and terrorist activities.

Having introduced the topic to you, a little about your chair: I am a 12th
grade Science and Economics student at CIS. I have attended several
MUNs including the Indian International Model United Nations 2013
and CMUN, Mumbai. Your moderator Aditya Khosla, is a talented
debater and has attended the Harvard Model Congress Asia 2013.
Together we shall spare no effort to make your experience enjoyable
and enriching. In a country where approximately 85% of the population
depends on agriculture and agribusiness as a source of livelihood, poppy
cultivation and opium trade continue to play a significant role in the
agricultural economy. This committee has to deal delicately with the
Afghan economy, terrorism, and international politics, it promises to be
a compelling experience for all delegates.

I sincerely urge you to research further and widen your perspective on
the issue and your country's stand as this problem requires creative yet
feasible solutions, along with a high level of diplomacy. Knowledge on
the topic is of course, vital, without which your committee sessions will
be frustrating and fruitless.

On behalf of the entire dais staff, I wish you best of luck with your
preparation. I look forward to meeting you in July. Till then, dwell upon
these words by William Shakespeare, Be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust
upon 'em."

Yours Creatively,
Akash Majumdar
Director, UNCND
Secretary General, CIS MUN 2014

Study Guide

Soviet Invasion (1979-1989)
Opium production and consumption has been an issue in Afghanistan since the
time of the Shahs, when the Shah banned the production of opium in Persia and
Iran, a lucrative trade was set up, to feed the addicted Iranian population. And so
the golden crescent came into being, but the crescent as we see it today evolved
primarily as a result of the Soviet and US involvement in Afghanistan. When in the
1970s the Soviet Union decided to enter the perilous world of Afghan politics,
many Afghan people joined the rebel forces, the Mujahideen, these forces, in order
to fund their military activities relied heavily on American aid reaching them
through Pakistan. In addition to this, they revived and increased opium cultivation
in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. This opium was then shipped
off to Europe through various channels including the ancient Silk Route and the
Balkans route through Eastern Europe. Since these southern areas were under the
control of US funded groups they received a lot of criticism for their role in
Afghanistan. The Soviets were not uninvolved in the flourishing drug trade either.
A Soviet ship, the Kapitan Tomson was captured by the Dutch police in 1986, with
220 kilograms of pure heroin on board, which at that time was the largest heroin
seizure in Europe. It succeeded in proving beyond doubt that Soviet authorities
were involved in the opium trade in Afghanistan. Though no such concrete
evidence was found during the Afghan war against the USA the US sympathetic
attitude towards opium cultivation and trade in the region is now common

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The situation continued to worsen, with the drug trade increasing steadily but
surely as the war progressed. Soon some of the more influential factions of the
Mujahideen even controlled heroin laboratories situated within the Pakistani
border. The condition in Afghanistan was detrimental to Pakistan's population as
well. The opium addicted population of Pakistan rose from 5000 to 1.3 million in
a span of just eight years. The problem was clearly escalating to a level where it
was no longer in control as the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
estimated that a colossal 25 % of Afghanistans GDP was through the illicit
cultivation of opium and through the trade of opiates.

The Taliban era (1989-present)

After the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan in 1989, and the following loss of US
interest in the region, the various factions comprising the Mujahideen were vying
to fill the power vacuum created. The lack of US funds to the Mujahideen now
meant that the only significant inlet of funds was now the cultivation and
marketing of opiates. And so in the decade following the Taliban, Al Qaeda,
managed to establish themselves as what we know them to be today. The drug
trade flourished in Afghanistan, as the international community watched helplessly
as Afghanistan was about took over the spot of the worlds top opium producer
from Burma (The Golden Triangle) in 1991, during this period the opium
production in Myanmar was steadily decreasing due to various factors while in
Afghanistan the rise in the same continued undeterred. After a few years the
Taliban had established a sufficient monopoly over the opium trade to be the sole
threat to the government. The only period in recent history when there was a
significant decline in the opium production in the Golden Crescent was in the
year 2001, when the Taliban issued a ban on the cultivation.

The success of this ban was unbelievable, the opium cultivating areas all over
Afghanistan drastically reduced. However the motivation of the ban is still
unclear. Some say the Taliban had come to an agreement with the United
Nations and decided, for the benefit of Afghanistan to issue the ban on
cultivation. Others suggest that due to the reduction in prices of opium and
opiates which caused significant drops in the Talibans income, to overcome this
the Taliban decided to ban opium cultivation for a year so that the shortage in
supply of opiates would cause the prices to shoot up. Whichever the true cause
may be, the next year opium production shot right back up to the levels of the
previous year once again enriching the Taliban and displaying, the harsh reality to
the world: that control was in the Talibans hands and that the only way to
effectively reduce opium cultivation would be if they decided it themselves.
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In 2001, following the US invasion, the production of opium continued regardless
of the war, funding the Taliban s before but now also forming the income of a
large number of warlords and allegedly members of the Northern Alliance as
well. So the US for a long time made little or no effort to eradicate the poppy
fields, but rather, they adopted the attitude that the opium and drug problems
were someone Else's to tackle and they did not need to deal with it till their war
was won.
The production of opium in Afghanistan is only a fraction of the problem of the
golden crescent. The crescent refers to the area of poppy cultivation, trade, and
opium production in the area encompassing the Pakistan Afghanistan and Iran. As
mentioned earlier Afghanistan is the main area in terms of cultivation of the poppy
crop among the three. The cultivated opium from Afghanistan makes its way
through what is popularly referred to as the golden route. Here the opium makes
its way through the so called crescent first travelling East into Pakistan where a
large part of it gets processed into a morphine base. After this, the goods are
shifted into Iran where a small part of it is consumed, and then onto Turkey which
is the major centre for conversion of the morphine base opiates into heroin and
hashish. After this it finds its way into European markets and feeds the addict
population in the continent.
This route is probably the most important route in terms of the quantity of opium
traversing the passage, but the other main route for opiates is the so called
northern route. As the name suggests, the route leaves Afghanistan from the north
and proceeds further north through various nations in central Asia finally entering
Russia through Kazakhstan. Russia has been possibly the worst affected by the
modern boom in Afghan opium production. The route itself has only been used
since the early 1990s and was founded primarily to feed Russia's two and a half
million strong addict population.

Both these routes are plagued by poor security facilities. Most of them readily
accept bribes and most of the security personnel usually have neither the willpower
nor the means required to deny trafficking rights to allies of the Taliban. The
commissions paid increase steadily at each level and the system works seamlessly
and enriches both the US supported Northern Alliance and the Taliban supporting

The crescent due to its mountainous terrain provides excellent cover for those
smuggling drugs which makes the tracking of drug traffickers and the opium itself a
lot more difficult and often impossible by satellite as well. Cultivation, smuggling and
processing of these opiates is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and enriches the
economies of the involved nations.
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Another part of the issue is that the nations in the crescent are among the most
corrupt in the world. The government officials receive ample amounts of money
simply to turn a blind eye on the traffickers and thus even at the highest level of
government there is often hesitancy and sometimes unwillingness to have a major
crackdown on drug lords. For example, in Pakistani, in the earlier times majors and
army generals had been proven guilty of assisting the opium traders as well as
Hamid Hasnain, the vice president of the Pakistani government's Habib Bank.
Hasnain was the personal account manager for President Zia-ul- Haqn who served
as prime minister twice and was also a general in the army. Afghan and Iranian
leaders have also been involved in their fair share of drug scandals. This situation
has further stalled and deterred many of the international community's efforts to
reduce production of opiates.

Hamid Karzai, the current president of Afghanistan, has been more forthcoming in
his intentions to eradicate the drug plantations, he readily combined with US
forces to push for an eradication programme, however, the most effective
methods of controlling the opium crops in Afghanistan include aerial spraying of
the crops with poisons, primarily glyphosate. This plan was supported strongly by
the US forces after the bumper crop in the region in the year 2006. Negotiations
began between US, NATO and the Afghanistan government regarding this. Karzai,
backed strongly by the UK, argued that this would not have the desired effect.
According to them, the uneducated farmers and opium cultivators will be
intimidated by the outlandish devices, which are nothing like anything the primitive
farmers have seen before. The fear is that if the farmers discover the government
is behind this, the deeply religious Afghan masses will turn against them and join,
further strengthening Afghan terrorist groups like the Taliban. These discussions
were completed in January of the year 2007, with an agreement being reached to
use more old fashioned, and less alien to the people approach of ground based
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eradication techniques. However this was strongly criticized by Russia as well as
other nations, who accused the government of inadequate resolve.

Russia too has had an important role to play in the system, suffering the worst
from Afghan opium production. 30,000 Russians, many of them in their youth, die
every year due to Afghan opium. The Russian government has not been actively
involved in Afghanistan since the end of the Soviet invasion in 1989; the nation has
certainly been keeping a close eye on the US activities in the region, and
attempting to speed up eradication processes by pressuring the concerned
governments into accelerating their efforts. Though they agree with the US in their
modern day strategy on drug eradication they have not been allowed to start an
offensive of any kind in the region by the Afghan government. Recently however, in
2010, Russian forces took part in a joint raid where they destroyed opium and
hashish worth an estimated 250 million dollars. This caused some reaction in
Karzai, who called it a violation of sovereignty and criticized Russia for the act.
Russia simply says that what Karzai claims is not possible since the Afghan Interior
ministry participated in the joint raid and hence knew that Russian forces would be

Iran, the origin of the poppy cultivation in the crescent has successfully reduced its
heroin addiction, trafficking and cultivation. Since historic times, the shahs of Iran
have banned poppy cultivation, reducing their peoples financial dependence on
poppy farming. This however did not help in reducing the addict population
significantly. After the revolution, the new regimes stance did not change,
however, policies did. Initially, the policy was supply sided, and a massive
crackdown began with the arrest of 68,000 traffickers and many more arrests in
subsequent years. Thousands of troops were deployed; to stop trafficking along
the border this plan met much success. Next, under President Mohammad
Khatami rehab centers were set up and an anti-narcotic campaign was carried
out. However, under President Ahmedinejad, policies once again shifted back to
supply side policies, with a resurgence of troops on the border it shares with
Afghanistan. As a result of these policies, Iran has been the most successful
country in combating trafficking, in terms of drug bust. Pakistan on the other hand,
has been hugely unsuccessful in dealing with the problem due to greed and graft.
Suffering from a massive population of addicts, the government has been helpless
in the face of powerful drug lords who own laboratories all along the border
Pakistan shares with Afghanistan. It is estimated that 80% of Afghanistans heroin is
processed there.


There is no easy solution to this problem. Spraying will allow crops to be
eliminated in the heartland of Taliban controlled territory, with relatively less risk.
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However, as mentioned earlier, the Afghan people are against aerial eradication as
they fear it, and ground based eradication is comparatively slow and unfeasible.
Only then will the incentives provided actually have effect, because without the
fear of eradication, no farmer will willingly give up a crop as lucrative as poppy. No
change is needed to the incentives provided to farmers to change from poppy
growth. The real reform must come in two areas. Border security, to prevent the
opium from leaving, and the legal system. Trapping the heroin and opium within
the country might bring prices down so much, that poppy might become un-
profitable. Secondly, the Jails of the country need to be secured, to prevent
inmates (especially traffickers) from escaping while strengthening the legal system
to prosecute more traffickers and drug lords. An innovative idea to dissuade the
people from growing poppy and countering Taliban logic is to conduct an
advertisement campaign, by highlighting the costs of poppy to the nation. An
alternate way of approaching this problem is to crack down on the Hawala system
of money transfer. This would choke the Taliban of funds.


Efforts are underway to eradicate poppy crops from the ground, but they are
inefficient and costly. In one instance, the central eradication force set out to
eliminate poppy crops in an area and were met with such resistance, that they had
to retreat. This establishes that ground eradication is not the best possible option.
However, President Karzai is against aerial eradication fearing it will turn public
sentiment against the government. Karzai also portrays his poppy farmers as
poverty stricken; claiming that there is no way this section of the Afghan
population will be able to survive financially without their current means of
livelihood. However he has been a big fan of incentives to turn farmers away from
poppy cultivation. A great deal is being is being done to eliminate trafficking, but
corruption runs so deep, that it is impossible to catch anyone, since everyone
from the judges to the policemen are corrupt. The former attorney general
attempted to prosecute some of them, but was stopped by Karzai for political


Recently however, new proof has emerged, that the ones trying to grow the
poppy arent the poor farmers, as consistently propagated by the Afghani
government. Satellite photos have shown that in the southern part of Afghanistan
wells and canals are being dug, fertilizer bought and poppy is being grown on
massive industrial-size plots, making it obvious the farmers are rich. Farmers are
abandoning their traditional means of lifestyle, to get into the more profitable
business of poppy cultivation. In recent UNODC reports it has been stated, that
farmers growing poppy have now begun hugely costly land reclamation process.
This means that the farmers have more resources to evade capture, increase
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output and possibly even survive the eradication of their crop once. It is the high
margins that have made it the most effective poverty eliminator in rural
Afghanistan. Per hectare, wheat yields 250-300 dollars, while poppy yields 1200
dollars. Poppy cultivation is soaring in the wealthier districts, while it is on a
decline elsewhere. Considering poppys potential to eliminate poverty however,
several economists have suggested, that the production of poppy for medicinal
purposes be allowed, this however this is absolutely unacceptable to the
international community. The Afghan government keeps professing the poverty of
poppy growers, which allows countries to sympathize with the government in not
following hard-core cracking down on opium production. Many believe that the
poor poppy farmers are in fact the ones who are easier to stop and convert to licit
crop-growers, and that the governments claim that eradicating opium fields would
cause a loss of livelihood, is not entirely true.

Though many may disagree with the idea that the Afghan governments claim that
the opium trade is the only means of livelihood for millions of Afghans, there is no
denying some truth in the statement. Some say that its really only the rich farmers
who are the producers of the majority of the opium and the poor ones are the
ones who are easier to convert into licit crop-growers. Much against this theory,
another view is that the cultivators in the Southern regions and the Helmand
province are richer, and have larger opium fields at their disposal. Most of these
farmers also have the protection of major warlords and sometimes even the
Taliban. Thus, the government has obvious, and justified fears regarding storming
these regions. US and NATO forces too, have steered well clear of this dangerous
and volatile region. Even if they tried to convince the farmers to cultivate another
crop instead of the poppy they do, think for a moment from the perspective of a
farmer who has grown up in Afghanistan. When he was a youth, the country was
being torn apart by war during the period of Soviet invasion. In those days, he
never had enough to eat, but today, he earns a lot of money cultivating a crop
with an almost unlimited demand and protection from deterrents provided by his
buyers. Why would such a farmer choose to change his crop to something that
will inevitably be less profitable, and risk being rounded up by his former
protectors the warlords for halting his flow of income?

On the other hand, in the Northern regions, where the farmers are poorer, there
are less poppy fields, and smaller land holdings. So as a result, the farmers are
poorer and have less chances of coming up to the standard of their Southern
counterparts. Also, the Northern part of Afghanistan is the part that the
government has more control of, in these regions it is easier for US and Afghan
forces to carry out raids without fear of being attacked by the Taliban and its allies.
The poorer farmers having never experienced true wealth offered by the opium
industry in its fullest since they have never been able to expand to the extent of
the Southern farmers, So, when the government goes up to these farmers and
offers them other crops they do not have much to lose by accepting the licit
crops. However, this changes little in their lives and they continue earning a
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meagre amount. The farmers in Afghanistan rely mainly on traditional methods of
farming and are unable to adapt to the means of cultivation of the replacement
crop, which may require different techniques from the ones practiced by the
farmers. They soon come to realize that in a country as ravaged as Afghanistan the
only crop which can ensure them of a yield every year and also a market is opium.
However, now trapped growing the licit crop the government, usually under the
influence of the US DEA, is supplying, their income and livelihood spiral from bad
to worse. Thus, the opium farmers who the government was able to control,
those in the north, have become poorer. And the government does not want to
eradicate all the poppy immediately fearing loss of occupation and insolvency for
several farmers. In the areas where the cultivation is greater, the farmers are


Narco-terrorism, probably the chief evil arising from opium cultivation is an acute
issue that will need resolution. It is best known as action against governments or
authorities in an endeavor to illegally traffic opium worldwide. These actions take
the form of violence or bribe and are thus acts of terrorism. However, this is a
particularly vile form of terrorism in that it feeds itself. Imagine the example of a
diamond merchant who owns a security agency. Now, his security agency
obviously protects a storeroom full of his diamonds. Now, as this diamond
merchant mines more and more diamonds, the security needed for his diamond
storeroom increases simultaneously. Thus, the diamond merchant by mining more
and more diamonds is funding both his businesses. This is how Narco-terrorism
works, as the illegal opium cultivators harvest more and more opium, more and
more terrorism is needed in the form of more violence on authorities to expand
this trade. Thus, both the activity of opium cultivation and the practice of
expanding trade in refined opium poppy are forms of terrorism which strengthen
each other. Eradicate one, eradicate both. Perhaps the best known example of a
Narco-terrorist outfit is the Forces of the Armed Rebellion, Columbia, and the
FARC. The FARC originated as an opposition to the right wing parties in
Columbia, but after a short, unsuccessful stint at polity, the groups political nature
came to an end and it began military expansion and coincidentally the expansion of
its Narco-terrorist activities. This coincidence is attributed to the fact that in the
1980s there was an international boom in the demand for illegal drugs, specifically
cocaine. FARC and some other Columbian cartels became chief suppliers,
worldwide. While the Cali and Medellin cartels led the way in cocaine production
and distribution, the leaders of FARC soon realized the opportunities that coca
cultivation provided.

FARC started their foray into the drug and Narco-terrorist world by taxing local
coca growers in southern towns. This taxing was carried out by extortion and
similar acts of terrorism. The focus of the Columbian government on defeating the
Cali and Medellin cartels resulted in much of the cocaine production moved to
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areas controlled by the FARC. This allowed the increased growth and strength of
FARC to continue and consequently their influence grew. To summarize, FARCs
involvement in the drug trade was born out of rejection from the political system.

The drug trade funded their attacks against the Colombian government.
Increasingly, these attacks became terrorist in nature. Thus, the drug trade both
caused as well as funded the FARCs terrorism against the Columbian
governments anti-drug efforts. In order to push their leftist agenda, FARC was
using the drug trade to fund the attacks against the Colombian government and
even kidnappings and killings of innocent peasants suspected of colluding with the
paramilitaries. The growing power of the FARC forced the Columbian government
into poor bargains and finally they granted FARC land the size of Switzerland near
south of Bogota, only to have the FARCs drug trade increase by $300 million and
anti-government terrorism to continue and grow as the rotten fruit of their hasty

In Afghanistan, in recent times, the large influx of drug money has necessitated that
this money be laundered through various methods to allow the Taliban to utilize it
for their various purposes. This is done all over the world by specialists. The
Hawala, or informal money transfer system has allowed thousands of dollars to
cross continents with ease but the money trail left can not only lead us to the
highest reaches of the Taliban.


In the words of CIA director Charles Cogan, We sacrificed the war on drugs to
fight the war on communism.

Study Guide

United States involvement in the opium trade in Afghanistan always believed to
have existed has never been proved. Since 1980 the CIA has been active in the
region first working to undermine the soviet run government, by providing
resources and support to the Mujahideen. In the words of an unnamed CIA
officer, the CIA needed the lucrative profits of drug trafficking to fund its para-
military activities all over the world. Once its purpose had been achieved, they
ceased to support the then Mujahideen forcing it to depend on the most lucrative
means of funding itself, opium. The CIA again entered the scene, in 2001, when
they began paying off several drug lords, to help undermine the Taliban rule in
Afghanistan as a direct result of which poppy production increased in the years
after. Till date, the CIA has many alleged links to the drug trade and provides
them with a certain degree of protection in exchange for information (denied
vehemently). The most prominent of their alleged contacts is Ahmed Wali Karzai,
Afghan president Hamid Karzais brother, who has many alleged links to Pashtun
Drug Lords. He is also said to work with the CIA on smoothening logistical issues
for CIA ground forces. Russia has often pressed the Afghan government into
cutting off the drug production to no avail. In Afghanistan, recently a deadly new
disease is destroying the poppy crop, and although allegations are being thrown,
no proof has emerged. From corrupt army officials on the borders of Pakistan,
that allow massive quantities of opium to be processed and trafficked into their
country, to corrupt customs officials in Russia that allow their countries to be
used as intermediaries to port officials in SE Europe that allow their countries to
be used as global distribution centers. How to deal with this chronic disease of
corruption is a question that will certainly need answering if we are to go ahead
and try to save Afghanistan.


Study Guide

The most potent, and widely used product obtained from poppy is heroin. Heroin
consumption, especially among the youth, is on the rise, driven by lower prices,
higher purity and availability. It feeds a global addict population of around 30 million,
30,000 of which die in Russia alone, annually. Afghanistan alone retains 3%, a
significant proportion of its crop, to feed its massive addict population. In the
subcontinent alone there are almost a million underage users of heroin. 150,000
new people internationally use heroin every year. Heroin has several destructive
effects on the body in the long and short term, the worst being heart attack as a
short term and heart diseases as long term. However, heroin trafficking leaves a
trail of death and destruction in its wake, creating gang violence and clashes with
security forces, that leave hundreds dead annually. It feeds corruption and greed
across 5 continents, undermining governments and pulling thousands into its deadly
nexus, of greed and destruction. Not only that, but the profits from these illicit
enterprises, are ploughed straight into the criminal underworld fuelling organized
crime. Apart from the obvious terrorist activities, heroin has many hidden effects.
Addicts commit serious crimes, like mugging and armed robbery, to pay for their
addiction, and still die debt-laden. The cost to countries in term of human capital is
immense; many talented people lose their minds and lives to this deadly drug, which
takes more than 100,000 lives every year. It is not crime which fuels drugs, but
drugs that fuel crime. The international cost due to this addiction directly and
indirectly is many times that which is spent in its prevention; after all, prevention is
better than cure, and in this case much cheaper.

1. What can be and should be done about corruption in the legal system in
Afghanistan? Are special autonomous prosecuting courts a viable option? (You must
also ensure that your interference in the same does not impede Afghanistans
2. Is eradication of opium crops a viable option? If not what are the alternatives? What
is the way forward concerning eradication? If yes, how will the population of
Afghanistan be affected by eradication?
3. Is heroin production truly a monopoly of the rich or last resort of the poor?
4. What incentives can and should be offered to wean farmers of poppy production?
Taking into account why the presently available incentives are unsuccessful, how can
you ensure that farmers will accept the alternative crop/occupation?
5. Is legalisation (in whole or in part) a viable option, attempting to harvest the poppy
for legitimate purposes like medicinal or others?
6. How can flow of funds across the world by terrorists be shut down? How can we
identify their money laundering and transferring entities and shut them down?
7. How can we identify agents of smuggling and stem flow through heroin smuggling
routes across Eurasia, particularly through the Golden Crescent?