Australia Sees Uptick in Meth Smuggling, Blames Taliban Regime For Flourishing Trade of Banned Drugs in Afghanistan


The latest: In a big blow to the Taliban’s “free of drugs” claim, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said that after the Taliban’s dominance of Afghanistan, the smuggling of methamphetamine (meth) produced in the country has increased to Australia. The organisation expressed concern over the increase in meth-type drug trafficking from Afghanistan.


Go deeper:

  • The Australian police department said that they analyse the drugs in a lab in Sydney to determine the source from where the contraband originate.
  • In Australia, there are many drug dealer gangs who carry out the distribution of smuggled substances and most of them are reportedly transported by international mail last year, inside passports and traditional clothing.
  • Now, these gangs have stepped up the trafficking of methamphetamine, known as meth, into the country in collaboration with Afghan traffickers and try to smuggle glass to Australia through cargo shipments.
  • The illicit drug methamphetamine has been smuggled into Australia from Afghanistan at an alarming rate since the Taliban took control, authorities warned.
  • Stephen Dametto, AFP Eastern Command Assistant Commissioner, said AFP intelligence confirmed Afghan-produced methamphetamine was a significant and emerging threat to the country.


Back story: In 2022, Australian Border Force (ABF) seized 26kg of Afghan-produced drugs in 19 separate imports alone, and drugs were found hidden inside packages sent in the international mail stream.

  • Australian police forces said they had seized another shipment of about 250 kilograms of drugs worth approximately $225 million imported from Afghanistan to Australia.
  • The Taliban after taking power in Afghanistan in August 2021, promised to crack down on narcotics and ban the production, processing, and sale of illicit drugs. The Taliban issued a decree to ban the production and sale of illicit drugs. They, however, failed in their implementation.
  • With Afghanistan plummeting deeper into a devastating economic crisis, the Taliban’s decree that snatches away the sole cash crops relied on by many struggling rural families—opium poppy and ephedra—putting millions at risk of starvation and potentially alienating the group’s own long-suffering support base.
  • High-ranking Taliban members insist that drugs have been fully eradicated from the country and the ban is a matter of ethics; but Kandahar—Taliban’s stronghold in the south, is also where most opium poppies are grown.
  • With international aid and trade largely suspended, opium and meth became the last economic lifeline for many in provinces such as Kandahar and Helmand.


Take note:

  • Meth production flourished after drug traffickers discovered an indigenous plant called “Ephedra.” The plant, known as “Uman” among drug traffickers in Afghanistan, grows wild and is the most important ingredient in glass production.
  • Methamphetamine production has skyrocketed in Afghanistan, with more factories producing each month, the Washington Post reported recently, citing drug manufacturers and dealers in Afghanistan.
  • Experts warn that with this trend, Afghanistan will become the world’s glass production hub. Afghanistan is also the world’s biggest producer of opium which is harvested from poppy plants and used for making heroin.
  • Even, other countries like India have been facing trouble due to the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan under the Taliban. In fact, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India had recently connected the drug cartel to the terrorism emanating from the region. He said that the funds generated through the sale proceeds of Afghan heroin smuggled to India via maritime route were provided to the operatives of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for carrying out terror activities.
  • Apart from this, the Indian Enforcement Directorate (ED) said that there was an organised criminal conspiracy to smuggle illegal consignments of heroin through international trade routes to India from Afghanistan. As per investigations undertaken by monitors of drug trafficking in India, 22 out of 34 states of Afghanistan are engaged in opium cultivation.
  • Even in Tajikistan, the problem reverberates. The Director of the Drug Control Agency under the President of Tajikistan Habibullo Vohidzoda said that the production and trafficking of drugs from Afghanistan is growing, despite assurances from the Taliban who have been in control of the country since August 2021.
  • Tajikistan has seen an increase in drug seizures from Afghanistan over the past two years, especially in border areas, he said. Tajikistan recorded a 52 percent rise in drug seizures during the first half of 2022.


Zoom out: The Taliban have always claimed to be serious about fighting drugs. Every day, they report the clearing of agricultural lands from poppy. However, drugs, especially opium, are being bought and sold freely in a number of Afghan provinces.

  • The Taliban banned poppy cultivation after coming to power, but the production and trafficking of narcotics from Afghanistan to other countries has increased.
  • According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in 2021, 177,000 hectares were used for drug crops in Afghanistan and in 2022 – 233,000 hectares (56,000 hectares more).
  • The threat is also corroborated by a recent report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC – Opium cultivation in Afghanistan, which states that, “The challenges faced by the Afghan population impede the ability to lessen its dependence on income generated from opium, which remains its main export product with well-established markets and trafficking networks. The current contraction of licit economic opportunities makes households even more vulnerable to engaging in illicit activities such as opium and cannabis cultivation, and heroin and methamphetamine manufacture and trafficking.”
  • Besides being one of the largest suppliers of opium-based derivatives of the world, the drug cartel of Afghanistan under Taliban regime is now focussing on production of value-added products like meth-Amphetamine that promises huge margins to peddlers in addition to opium cultivations.
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