Recent weeks have seen a number of major narcotics busts in Tajikistan. On June 17, a border patrol found a cache containing almost 420 kilograms of cannabis in Shurobod district, on the country’s southern frontier with Afghanistan. On June 11, the authorities reported busting some 14 kg of hashish in the country’s north. One day earlier, police in Shurobod spotted a group of Afghan smugglers that had crossed the Panj River separating the two countries. Following a brief shootout, the smugglers retreated to Afghanistan, leaving behind about 100 kg of cannabis. On June 9, police reported capturing some 107 kg of narcotics, including 38 kg of heroin, in Hamadoni, another Tajik district lying on the southern frontier. On June 6, police intercepted more than 90 kg of narcotics after a two-hour clash with Afghan smugglers in Shurobod. Overall, almost 800 kg of drugs have been seized in Tajikistan since the beginning of June (news.tj, June 7, 10, 11, 18).
These interceptions represent only a tiny portion of the total flow of narcotics transported through Tajikistan en route to Russia and other destinations. In a report released in May, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that 75 to 80 metric tons of Afghan-made heroin and 18 to 20 tons of opium is smuggled through the country annually. This means that about 200 kg of heroin and 50 kg of opium pass through Tajikistan every day. Most of these narcotics end up in Russia where demand is driven by an estimated 2.5 million drug users (“Opiate Flows Through Northern Afghanistan and Central Asia: A Threat Assessment,” UNODC, May 2012; fskn.gov.ru, May 3).
The flow of narcotics through Tajikistan is likely to increase over the next several years. Reports by the UN estimate that the production of opium in Afghanistan increased from 3.6 tons in 2010 to 5.8 tons in 2011. Moreover, the Afghan drug business is increasingly targeting Tajikistan as the primary transit country for heroin bound to Russia and Eastern Europe. Recent reports indicate that the cultivation of opium poppies in the northeastern areas of Afghanistan, lying along the border with Tajikistan, has lately increased by half while the number of laboratories that process opium into heroin has doubled (interfax.ru, May 31; rferl.org, March 28).