Rising meth production in Afghanistan sparks worries over IRGC smuggling

By Omar

Reported destinations of methamphetamine originating in Afghanistan, 2019 and 2022. [UNODC]

Reported destinations of methamphetamine originating in Afghanistan, 2019 and 2022. [UNODC]

HELMAND -- A recent United Nations (UN) report starkly underscores the soaring production of methamphetamine in Afghanistan in recent years.

By monitoring drug busts in Afghanistan and neighboring countries, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found a "drastic, nearly twelvefold increase in seizures of the drug in five years from 2.5 tons in 2017 to 29.7 tons in 2021," it said in a September 10 summary of the report.

The study's goal is to provide critical data to the international community for tackling the threat of synthetic drugs, said Ghada Waly, UNODC executive director.

"The surge in methamphetamine trafficking in Afghanistan and the region ... demands our immediate attention," she said.

Crystal meth and heroin are shown in this photograph taken September 3 in Sangin district, Helmand province. [File]

Crystal meth and heroin are shown in this photograph taken September 3 in Sangin district, Helmand province. [File]

"Regional coordination targeting the diversion and smuggling of chemical precursors is essential to stopping the continued expansion of illicit methamphetamine manufacture in and around Afghanistan," she added.

Seizures of methamphetamine of suspected Afghan origin have been reported in places as far away as the European Union, the Near and Middle East, Southeast Asia and Eastern Africa, according to the report.

The study did not have data for 2022.

IRGC's role in meth trafficking

Iran the neighbor has become part of the trafficking of Afghan drugs.

"Sharing a long border with Afghanistan, Iran serves as a transit corridor for surging amounts of Afghan meth being shipped westwards," according to a June 9 report by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.

"The drug moves overland primarily to consumer markets in Europe and the Middle East, and by sea to Africa and beyond," it added.

Afghan, Iranian and Pakistani drug smugglers regularly transfer hundreds of kilograms of methamphetamine via the border region of "Dak" that connects the three neighboring countries.

The drugs enter Iranian territory in co-ordination with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and are escorted by a convoy of motorbikes and dozens of armed men, sources told Salaam Times.

A considerable amount of methamphetamine produced in Farah and Helmand provinces is transferred to Iran every day, a drug smuggler who wished to remain anonymous told Salaam Times.

"We transport shesha [methamphetamine] ... produced in Farah and Helmand to areas near Zaranj city, the provincial capital of Nimroz," he said.

"Several drug smugglers come together and move their drugs to Iran via different routes."

"Every time, we hold a meeting with some members of the IRGC before we transfer our drugs to Iran. We pay them in advance so they do not cause problems for our convoys," he said.

The smuggler said they pay the IRGC hundreds of thousands of dollars in return for permission to transfer the drugs without any issues.

Every now and then, the IRGC seizes a small amount of drugs in coordination with the smugglers to show some security achievements, he said.

Another drug smuggling route from Afghanistan to Iran is in the border regions with Kang district of Nimroz and Lash-e-Jowain district of Farah. In addition to methamphetamine, opium is also smuggled daily via this route.

Another drug smuggler speaking on condition of anonymity told Salaam Times he smuggles methamphetamine and opium to Iran via Lash-e-Jowain district in coordination with Iranian border forces.

The Iranian military takes about 1 million Iranian tomans ($237) per kilogram of drugs, he said.

"Drugs smuggled from Afghanistan are transferred to Zabul and Zahedan provinces in Iran. Iranshahr, Khash and Saravan districts of Zahedan are the main locations for storing drugs," he said. "Drugs are then distributed to different cities of Iran."

"A portion of the drugs is moved via Zahedan to Bandar-e-Abbas in the south. From there, the drugs are smuggled in ships and boats to Arab countries such as Oman," he said.

Another portion, including crystal meth and heroin, is smuggled from western Iranian cities to Türkiye, he said.

These drugs are smuggled by large networks to Greece via Türkiye and from there to Europe, America and other parts of the world, he added.

Active meth plants in Farah, Helmand

Most methamphetamine production plants are situated in Farah and Helmand -- the source of more than 90% of Afghanistan's methamphetamines. These illicit factories operate at night to conceal their activities.

Almost 1,000 drug factories are active in Bakwa district, say local sources in Farah.

Hundreds of meth production plants operate at night in the Sangin, Musa Qala and Bahramcha districts of Helmand.

Drug production plants used to operate freely in the past, but their activities are now regarded as illegal, said Shah Gran, a resident of Bakwa district.

"About 10 crystal meth manufacturing plants operate in our village," he said. Most are situated in the desert, away from the public eye, he added.

"Security forces destroyed several drug manufacturing plants in remote villages," he said, noting that this has led some smugglers and locals to manufacture drugs in their own homes.

Smugglers and producers of drugs are armed and resist the destruction of their plants, Mohammad Anwar, a tribal elder in Bakwa district, said.

"Several armed guards protect each plant and do not allow anyone to come close," he added. "Thick smoke rises from plants at night, spreading the smell of drugs into the villages."

Manufacturers have recruited young local men to work at these plants, he said, adding that "five to 10 people work at each plant, maintaining smooth production."

Heavily guarded drug shipments are then transferred from those plants across the borders and on to their destinations.

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Iran always tries to hide something. Iran is a drug-producing country. How can it blame Afghanistan? All our immigrant brothers in Iran got addicted. How did they get addicted there? All these evils are there in this nasty country. When I see our youth addicted to drugs in Iran, I don't feel sorry for Iran in any way. I will donate if it gets destroyed soon. If Pakistan and Iran, our two neighboring countries, get demolished from the world’s map, I will have no sympathy for them. I asked Almighty Allah for such a day when these countries are destroyed.


According to a report that I read a few years ago, almost $2 billion from the profits of drugs grown in Afghanistan go to the pockets of Afghans, from which a small amount goes to the pockets of the farmers for the hardships of planting and harvesting the poppy crops they tolerate. Meanwhile, $58 billion of Afghanistan's drug revenue goes into the pockets of Iranians, Pakistanis, Turks, Europeans and Americans, who deliver the extracts of Afghanistan's poppy crops to the West. It is said that during the twenty years of the republic in Afghanistan, some of the domestic and foreign mafias based in Afghanistan used to take out heroin from Afghanistan and deliver it to the Western countries. As a result, not only Afghans but also Europeans and Americans suffered from this dirty addiction. Regarding the Meth, we can say that this ominous phenomenon has spread to Afghanistan from Afghanistan [Iran] and Tajikistan. Else, such a thing were not found in Afghanistan in the past. In my opinion, a relative security has come in Afghanistan at the moment, not only Afghans, but also the residents of the global village may better consider this opportunity valuable, in order to improve the situation and prevent the cultivation and harvesting of drugs in Afghanistan. The current government should respond to the demands of Afghans and the world and not allow Afghanistan to become a drug hell again.


Drugs are generally used to destroy humans, so there is no need for any human to smuggle or cultivate them; however, when Iranians accuse Afghanistan, they are eating shit, because Iran itself is a country that produces drugs. On the other hand, the Iranian government has never done well with Afghanistan, so Afghans cannot do to anything else, they have to do something else.


For many years, the people of Afghanistan have been transporting narcotics to European and Central Asian countries through Iran and Tajikistan. What is surprising here is how these narcotics reach the markets of European countries safely in tons of this way? I think that the police of Iran and Turkey are also involved with these drug smugglers. If the police of European countries were able to reduce the smoking of drugs in their own country, the people of Afghanistan would never have planted poppy seeds in their lands because the usage of drugs in foreign countries is increasing day by day, because poppy seeds are not cultivated in other countries. For these reasons, poppy seeds' cultivation has increased in Afghanistan. If the police of the countries through which these drugs are transported, they would have been able to prevent drug trafficking. No one in Afghanistan ever cultivated this poppy seed in their land. All the police are involved in the way that drugs are transferred. If they were not involved, nobody could have transported a gram of drugs in these ways.


You are strange people! Has Iran, especially the Sepah, ever done Afghanistan any good? We have never heard anything like this. Iran's dirty intelligence agency and Pakistan's military intelligence have destroyed Afghanistan in the past four and a half decades. In the 1990s, Iran supported the Jamiat government led by Burhanuddin Rabbani on the one hand and, on the other hand, provided arms and money to the Hizb Wahdat Shia Hazara militias led by Abdul Ali Mazari. Jamiat and Hizb Wahdat both fought against each other. Ahmad Shah Massoud, the defense minister of Rabbani's government and the main ruler, bombarded the Hazara areas of Kabul, killing hundreds and thousands of Hazara Afghans. The Wahdat Party, led by Mazari, captured and killed Sunni Pashtuns and Tajiks. This means Iran only wanted to spread the war and kill Afghans from both sides. As for as meth is concerned, it is a fact that Iran is smuggling drugs in the region together with Afghan smugglers. More than 50% of Afghans, especially young people who return from Iran, have become addicted to drugs. In addition, during the past 20 years, Iran supported the government of the Republic of Afghanistan on one side. On the other side, it endorsed Alipur and Shujai rebels fighting against the government. Moreover, it supported the Taliban to destroy Afghan facilities. Apart from all this, it sent thousands and tens of thousands of Hazara youths to the wars in Syria and Iraq, where most of them were killed. Most of the dead


I am sure that whatever law violation occurs in Afghanistan will have its roots in the neighboring countries. The neighbor will either want to carry it out with the help of Afghans or will carry it out itself. Whatever crimes happen in Afghanistan, whether it is smuggling or production of drugs, Iran, China, Pakistan, or Russia will have a hand in it. Before the powder was manufactured from it, Afghans were unaware of it and had no machines. At first, when the production of powder started in Afghanistan, Punjabis and Iranians had expertise in it, and this process was gradually transferred to the Afghans, but the sponsors were still Iranian and Pakistani businessmen. I want to give another undeniable example here. Many people from Afghanistan go to Iran and Pakistan in good health, and when they return, they get addicted to powder, hashish, or alcohol. Afghans mostly do not know about these things, but when the teacher becomes his neighbor, he is forced to indulge himself in these dirty practices...