An Afghan 'Narco-State'?: Dynamics, Assessment and Security Implications of the Afghan Opium Industry

Author/s (editor/s):

Matt Weiner

Publication year:


Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 158

Discourse surrounding states with a high production or perceived tolerance of narcotics has often utilised the term 'narco-state'. However, there is little discussion of the exact meaning of the term and which states, thus, accurately merit such a label. Afghanistan is a state that has been described as a 'narco-state' by media, the international community, and even its own government. This paper explores the term 'narco-state' and develops a working definition and model of the term for future academic research. By assessing the control and regulation by drug networks of a state's three key pillars - Coercive Instruments of the State, Financial Apparatus and Government Executive and Policy - the degree to which a state approaches the ideal-type 'complete narco-state' can be measured. This paper applies this model to contemporary Afghanistan and concludes that it merits the label of a 'narco-state' only to a medium degree, but the embryonic nature of the post-conflict state apparatus places it at risk of higher control in the future. The narcotics trade also has created regional security implications that are subsequently analysed across human, economic and political security spheres. These security concerns have the potential to be significantly exacerbated if Afghanistan moves to a higher degree of 'narco-state'.

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