Terrorism – Drug Trafficking Interconnection, in the Geographic Area of ​​Turkmenistan

Mihail Păduraru

In 1996 more than 14 tons of drugs were seized from smugglers and approximately 42 tonnes in 1997.
In 1999, 50 tons of hasish, 2.3 tons of heroin and 7.7 tons of opium were confiscated and destroyed.
According to statistics, from UNODC program fighting against drug trafficking, only 10% of the total volume of shipments is usually retained, so it is not hard to imagine the real situation.
In the expert’s report, Turkmenistan has transformed into one of the main drug trafficking routes from Afghanistan into Pakistan and Central Asian countries, to Russia and Europe.[1]
Much of the poison remains in Turkmenistan aggravating the drug situation already existing in the country.

In Turkmenistan, today the price of heroin, opium and cannabis is highest in Central Asia, this indicates a decrease in supply, due to the fact that in the first six months of the year 2013, 218.2 kilograms of drugs were seized.

According to Russian intelligence services, there are close relations between Turkmenistan and Afghan groups rely on drug and arms trafficking.
UN experts believe Turkmenistan is the main transit route for drugs exported from Afghanistan.

In January 2015, Ms. Ashita Mittal, UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia conducted her first visit to Turkmenistan.
During her meetings with high level Government officials issues of further collaboration between UNODC and Turkmenistan as well as forthcoming 9th Meeting of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Sub-regional Drug Control Cooperation to be held on 4-5 May in Ashgabat were discussed.
The MOU process will facilitate further discussions among Member-States on counter-narcotics, terrorism and organized crime issues in a wider regional context and strategize UNODC interventions in the region under the new Programme for Central Asia 2015-2019.
The Programme was developed in close collaboration and consultations with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Aga Khan Development Network which are the Member States of the MOU.[2]
The official narrative from the governments of Central Asia, supported by all structures involved in the fight against drugs, is that  terrorism and narcotics are intrinsically linked.
In Central Asia, this hypothesis has been confirmed by well-documented involvement of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in drug trafficking during the summers of 1999 and 2000, in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.[3]
However, the connection between drugs and terrorism in Afghanistan, is based on a very simplistic reading of the situation there, where drug trafficking is just one way through which Taliban and their allies finance their activities.
Strategies of international actors for combating drug trafficking have been the subject of conflicting interpretations.
Russia, for example, wants NATO to go straight to production by destroying poppy fields and laboratories.
In this context, the Russian government presented a plan, “Rainbow-2”, a large-scale program to eradicate poppy fields, and proposed to the UN Security Council to declare Afghan production a threat to global peace and security.
Such a decision would allow the imposing  sanctions on Afghan land owners that are permitting the cultivation of opium, and authority to destroy poppy fields.
However, NATO refused to join Russia’s claim, under  the pretext that it would be necessary to provide Afghan farmers with alternative sources of income, or risk damaging the organization’s image among the Afghan population.
NATO said it wants to focus its efforts to eradicate the drug storage facilities, so that, casualties should  be oriented only to criminal activities.

Central Asian States cannot fight the problem alone!

They are located on the transit routes from Afghan production warehouses to consumers in Russia and Europe.
They are  limited in their abilities to allocate funds to fight, to train staff, and build susceptible politics.
Also must manage a geopolitical competition, which sometimes creates rivalries between US and Russian projects.
NATO and UNODC are transformed into power projection arenas.

Concerns about religious extremism in Central Asia, make their presence felt in Turkmenistan
A video that appeared on YouTube in June 2013,  shows four militants captured in Syria, who claimed they were from Turkmenistan.[4]
The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddine Hassun said in October 2013 that there are around 360 citizens of Turkmenistan fighting alongside “mercenaries” in his country.
On November 2015, Russian security forces have detained, in Moscow, members of banned Takfir Wal-Hijra group, and among them were citizens of Turkmenistan.[5]
Russian military officials said  that, militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, cross through Turkmenistan from Afghanistan to arrive in Uzbekistan.[6]
As mentioned, there are pro-Taliban Turkmen in Afghanistan, and Turkmens from Turkmenistan display themselves alongside militants in the tribal area of Pakistan and Syria.[7]
An Afghan Turkmen from  tribal area of ​​Pakistan told Radio Azatlyk that there are  turkmen nationalsin the militant groups in Pakistan.[8]
Radio Free Europe correspondents in Afghanistan say there already are restricted areas, under Taliban control, in Faryab and Jowzjan provinces on the border with Turkmenistan.
A correspondent reported the incursion of a pro-Taliban group who had captured a village in Jowzjan province along the border with Turkmenistan, a few months ago.
Government forces intervened and chased the group out of the village.
The group, mainly consisting of Turkmen ethnics led by Uzbeks ethnics, has found refuge on an island in the Amu Darya river, that divides Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, then gradually disappeared back into Afghanistan.
These correspondents report an increasing number of Turkmen ethnics from Afghanistan that are arming themselves, and some joined the Taliban or foreign fighters, among them Uzbeks allied with Talibans.
There are reports that a group of border guards have been killed by the terrorists, in the summer of 2013, on the border with Afghanistan.[9]
In June 2013 an article was published on “centrasia.ru” wich said that Turkmen authorities have arrested over 150 of jihadists, 100 of them being detained in the town next to Gas Achake, near the river Amu Darya, next to uzbek borderline. These plotters were planning a major attack on Turkmen territory.[10]
Seizure of $ 1.5 million from jihadists shows that the terrorist threat is real, especially from IS.
In February 2014, 3 border guards were killed at the border with Afghanistan, and in May of that year, 3 more border guards were reported killed.[11]
Despite the worsening situation along the border with Afghanistan, Turkmenistan has ambitions in terms of promoting peace and stability in the neighboring country using preventive diplomacy.
For example, the Turkmen government has proposed to host inter-Afghan peace talks under UN auspices as a way to find new political and diplomatic mechanisms to resolve this problem.
However, according to the Global Terrorism Index 2015, Central Asia is safer than Europe.
Eurasian states not only perform well compared to most troubled countries, but even compared to influential neighbors such as Russia and China.
The former Soviet states were included in the categories with the lowest impact of and potential impact of terrorism, being classified between 83rd and 162 place, while Turkmenistan (p.124) and Uzbekistan are occupy the last places.[12]

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