The opium trade and patterns of terrorism in the provinces of Afghanistan: An empirical analysis

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Contemporary terrorist movements in Afghanistan are frequently alleged to be fueled, in part, by the country's voluminous opium trade. Experts argue that terrorist groups currently active in Afghanistan, like the Afghan Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Hizbul Islami, and various al-Qaeda affiliates, use drug trade profits to recruit and pay cadres, acquire weapons and equipment, and bribe officials while becoming more powerful, and deadly, in the process. This study empirically examines the relationship between the opium trade and terrorism in Afghanistan by conducting a series of negative binomial regression estimations on terrorist attacks and casualties in the 34 Afghan provinces for the period 1996 to 2008. The analysis also considers various economic development, infrastructure, geographic, security, and cultural factors when examining causes of terrorism in the provinces. The study determines that, across all model specifications, provinces that produce more opium feature higher levels of terrorist attacks and casualties due to terrorism, and that opium production is a more robust predictor of terrorism than nearly all other province features. Furthermore, tests indicate that the direction of causation runs from opium production to higher rates of terrorism, not otherwise. The study concludes with a brief discussion of the policy implications of the findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-234
Number of pages22
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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