Afghanistan is global hub of narcotics production and smuggling. It is the main source of opium, morphine and heroin, among other cannabis-type and amphetamine-type stimulants. Since the Soviet invasion in 1979, the country has attained a notoriety for being one of the largest producers of the illicit opium poppy. The level of its production and smuggling reached new heights in the 1990s. The production got reduced significantly for a short period of time during the Taliban rule, but again its cultivation started increasing after the 2001 invasion of the US/NATO troops on Afghanistan. According to the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime’s annual opium survey, in 2017, opium production in Afghanistan reached a record high. After years of US military strikes, global efforts by the UN along with US and its allies, as well as spending of more than $8.7 billion dollars to counter the country’s illicit narcotics economy, Afghanistan still remains the world’s largest opium producer.1 As a result in February 2019, the US ended its anti-narcotics campaign in the country, without achieving any substantial results or dismantling the production and trafficking network, which, despite the campaign has spread to more areas.
For the first time since the invasion of Afghanistan, the US has recognized that only a durable peace process can ensure peace and stability in the war-torn country. Previously, the US relied on a military solution, but the US President Trump’s desire to exit the 18 years long war has opened a new avenue of diplomacy, by conducting negotiations with the Taliban leadership. The security situation in Afghanistan has considerably worsened, in the last couple of years;, the uncertainty and instability in Afghanistan has had negative implications on the region. All the stakeholders to the conflict, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran, and even the US agree that the cycle of violence must be broken, and the Afghan conflict must be brought to an end.
The appointment of Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad as the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, and the consequent rounds of peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban leadership haves given hope to the world. However, there are several hurdles impeding the success of this peace process, mainly political. It is imperative that a meaningful peace process may be undertaken to establish long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan.
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