With its oil revenues falling, ISIS may look more and more to the heroin trade that originates in Afghanistan.
Russian anti-drug chief believes ISIS makes about $1 billion from Afghan heroin trade
With oil prices falling and more importantly bombs from Russia, France and the United States falling on ISIS’ oil production infrastructure, ISIS needs to find other revenue streams and heroin is big money.
Russia’s entry into the bombing campaign against ISIS has seen an increase in attacks on ISIS trucks, tankers, and refineries including a barrage of cruise missiles fired from the land-locked Caspian Sea that saw Russia focusing on ISIS money derived from illicit oil sales.
Since the downing of a Russian bomber in Turkish airspace, President Vladimir Putin has made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of forgiving Turkey any time soon. So it is no surprise that Turkey has been singled out as an important transit point for heroin entering Western Europe. That said, Turkey has, well before ISIS came to be, been historically involved in the Afghan heroin trade.
But now that ISIS is in the neighborhood, they are branching out into heroin trade, generally speaking, by taking a commission on the drugs smuggled through territory it controls.
“ISIS fighters are controlling certain territory,” Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia’s federal anti-drug agency FKSN was quoted as saying by TASS news agency recently. “Now it is targeted by the Russian Air Force, but until recently the terrorists enjoyed great freedom there. Trafficking illegal drugs was one of the major sources of their income.”
“This money is getting into the criminal turnover and destabilizes the situation in the transit countries. Turkey is exactly such a country,” Ivanov added while also mentioning the Balkan states.
ISIS heroin trade on the rise while poppy production decreases
While Ivanov predicted in July that this year would see another record poppy harvest in Afghanistan, his prediction turned out to be wrong.
Owing to a drought, Poppy production, essential to the heroin trade, is down for the first time six years.
Afghan poppy production has seen a 19% decrease from last year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
While this may sound great on the surface, it’s important to mention that poppy production just in areas of Afghanistan still controlled by the Taliban is more than enough to meet global demand. The sheer amount of money involved has destabilized Afghanistan for centuries and saw the United States making interesting bed-fellows with tribes involved during its invasion of Afghanistan.
It’s no wonder ISIS wants in on the action especially as its oil revenues are being reduced.
In addition to the money involved, ISIS certainly would love to see Europe struggling with a drug epidemic that will see more deaths and misery than they can possible inflict even with coordinated attacks like those that occurred in Paris.
The United Nations agrees with Russia’s assessment
A recent report by the United Nations spoke to the problem reading: “While it is difficult to establish how widely terrorist groups are involved in the illicit drug trade, or the breadth and nature of cooperation between these two criminal groups, the magnitude of the numbers involved make the relationship worrisome.”
While many believe that the majority of airstrikes and artillery bombardments by Russia in Syria are targeting rebels opposed to the Assad regime rather than ISIS, Russia is indeed hitting ISIS hard and have repeatedly gone after its biggest money maker — oil.
With this understanding, expect ISIS to become more and more involved in the heroin trade.