Summary: Opium, Afghanistan's leading economic activity, lies at the heart of the challenges the country faces in state building, governance, security, and development. With their narrow law enforcement focus and limited recognition of development, security, and political implications, current global counter-narcotics polices impose a heavy burden on Afghanistan. This paper first provides a summary overview of Afghanistan's opium economy and the factors determining rural households' decisions on cultivating opium poppy. It then discusses the dynamic evolution of the Afghan drug industry in recent years, in particular its consolidation around fewer, powerful, politically-connected actors and the associated compromising of parts of some government agencies by drug industry interests. The paper reviews the experience with different counter-narcotics interventions, analyzes some proposals not yet tried in Afghanistan, and draws lessons and policy implications. Unfortunately there are no "silver bullets"-easy, quick, or one-dimensional solutions, and a longer-term horizon along with sustained commitment and resources will be required in order to phase out the opium economy over time. The paper concludes by putting forward some broad principles and approaches of a "smart strategy" against drugs in Afghanistan.
The development impact of the illegality of drug trade
Summary: This essay reviews many of the less considered consequences of the war on drugs, particularly the consequences for developing countries, and weighs them against the evidence that exists regarding the likely efficacy of current strategies to curb drug use and trade. The most important unintended consequences of drug prohibition are the following. First, the large demand for drugs, particularly in developed countries, generates the possibility of massive profits to potential drug providers. Since they cannot be organized freely and under the protection of the law, they resort to the formation of organized crime groups, using violence and corruption as their means of survival and expansion. In severe cases, the challenge to the state is such that public stability and safety are severely compromised. Second, prohibition and its derived illegal market imply the expropriation of endowments and resources used to produce and trade drugs. In many instances, this entails the transfer of wealth from poor to rich countries and from poor peasants to rich (and ruthless) traders. Third, criminalization can exacerbate the net health effects of drug use. These consequences are so pernicious that they call for a fundamental review of drug policy around the world.