PRC and Taliban Friendly Ties Increase Cartel Traffic Threat at U.S. Southern Border

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets Taliban's Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Tianjin, China July 28, 2021 (Li Ran/Xinhua via REUTERS)

October 17, 2021

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has a prime opportunity to boost its narcotics trade following the Taliban’s Afghanistan takeover. This opportunity comes directly and indirectly. Direct opportunity rises from an increase in opium products in a market controlled by an Islamist militia. On the other hand, the PRC has an indirect opportunity to regulate the flow of narcotics from this increase. 

As China becomes the superpower economy to partner with the Taliban wherever convenient, it increases its regulation of opium. This can shift opium sales through China’s pipelines. It can also lead to China’s market regulation of Afghanistan’s narcotics market, paving the way for more opportunities to traffic the synthetic opioid fentanyl.  

U.S. strategy experts warn the indirect opportunity sparks from Beijing’s cooperation at the U.S. southern border with the major drug cartels capitalizing on immigration crisis. 

While experts note the majority of opium traced to Afghanistan sells to Europe, the Taliban’s control of the market resources can benefit China’s drug market.

The Taliban’s control boosts the production capacity of Afghanistan. Data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes from 2019 traced Taliban regulations of Afghanistan’s opium trade. This research found that opium farmers paid a tax of roughly 6 percent to the Taliban. This translated into roughly $14.5 million in opium taxes collected by the Taliban in 2019, with the potential for $61-113 million in taxes if all opium production was similarly taxed. 

This shows a large income stream for the Taliban before their takeover. It serves as a revenue base for a newly formed Taliban government, and is therefore an important factor in all future cooperation with the Taliban’s marketplace and a new Islamic emirate regime’s production in Afghanistan. 

The Chinese regime has factored in cooperation with the Taliban as part of its Belt and Road initiative in the Central Asia region. China continues to pursue partnerships with “narco-states,” states in which cartels have major influence over national revenue and politics. The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan is an opportunity to build on this interest. 

This is a fact that bodes ill for U.S. national security. The Chinese regime has been observed forming partnerships with the many narco-states powering cartel exploits at  the U.S. Southern Border. 

The migrant crisis at the Del Rio, Texas-Mexico crossing is ripe for foreign intervention measures. Experts warn of an influx in fentanyl and opium production wherein China exploits the changing political realities of its neighbor-region as well as the crisis status in the U.S. South. 

Michael Johns, U.S. Tea Party movement founder and a former White House presidential speechwriter and Heritage Foundation foreign policy analyst, is counseling U.S. officials and Congressional Republicans to think of China’s Communist Party (CCP) as a “transnational criminal syndicate.”

Global drug trafficking, he says, is one of several of the CCP’s core illegal revenue sectors. Johns is warning that, absent any U.S. or global effort to constrain China’s engagement in Afghanistan, the CCP will likely seek to wrestle control of Afghanistan’s opium poppy fields, which he says would immediately establish it as the world’s market leader in heroin and synthetic opioid distribution.

“Tens of thousands of Americans a year have been dying from fentanyl overdoses for the past decade or so. But look at the public dialogue around this crisis. We justifiably called for more money for rehabilitation resources for addicts. We invested in Narcan so those in overdose respiratory arrest could be saved,” said Johns, contextualizing the American response. 

“But we never really got around to discussing the two most foundational questions: Who is manufacturing street Fentanyl, and who is shipping it here and how? The answer, it turns out, is China’s Communist Party is engaged in the vast majority of street Fentanyl manufacturing, and they ship it into Mexico, knowing that runners can easily transport it across our porous southern border and into the U.S., where the street market generates about $100 billion annually for the CCP,” Johns said. 

While the Chinese-national staple narcotic fentanyl is more profitable, research from the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations notes that it is too potent to be sold as a pure chemical. Fentanyl has, in the past, been cut with another agent, such as heroin. For this reason, any increase in the Chinese narcotics’ market’s access to heroin coincides with the risk of fentanyl production. 

Because undocumented migrants have historically been used as drug-trafficking mules, the influx of undocumented or unduly processed migrants at the southern borders carries the risk of narcotics trafficking. 

In summary, the Afghanistan crisis opens new illicit market potential that the Chinese regime can couple with its existing exploitation of the U.S. Southern border. This comes from the Taliban’s apparent eagerness to trade with the PRC, as Taliban leaders claim the Chinese regime is ready to “invest billions,” in the nation under their control. This increases the risk of aggressive Chinese interventionism to U.S. Citizens, and demands a strong responsive policy.

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