Illicit drug cultivation, production, trafficking, and consumption flourish in Afghanistan, particularly in parts of the south and southwest where instability is high and state institutions are weak or non-existent. More than 90 percent of illicit poppy cultivation takes place in these regions. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that Afghanistan cultivated 154,000 hectares (ha) of opium in 2012, with a total yield of 3,700 metric tons (MT) of raw opium. This was an 18 percent increase in cultivation and a 36 percent decrease in opium production from 2011. Poor weather and naturally-occurring crop disease contributed to the lower yields. A symbiotic relationship exists between the insurgency and narcotics trafficking in Afghanistan. Traffickers provide weapons, funding, and other material support to the insurgency in exchange for the protection of drug trade routes, fields, laboratories, and their organizations. Some insurgent commanders engage directly in drug trafficking to finance their operations. The trade in narcotics undermines governance and rule of law in all parts of the country where poppy is cultivated and traffickers operate.
According to the United States government's 2012 assessment of the drug problem in Afghanistan, poppy cultivation increased by 57 percent, from 115,000 ha in 2011 to 180,000 ha in 2012, while potential opium production remained steady at 4,300 MT, compared to 4,400 MT in 2011. The U.S. and UNODC estimates differ due to dissimilar methodologies for estimating poppy cultivation and opium yields.
Afghanistan is involved in the full narcotics production cycle, from cultivation to finished heroin to consumption. Drug traffickers trade in all forms of opiates, including unrefined opium, semi-refined morphine base, and refined heroin. Some raw opium and morphine base is trafficked to neighboring and regional countries, where it is further refined into heroin. While estimates are imprecise, approximately 95 percent of the opiates produced in Afghanistan are ultimately trafficked out of the country; roughly 5 percent are consumed inside Afghanistan. Afghanistan is also struggling to respond to a burgeoning domestic opiate addiction problem.
Afghanistan generally relies on assistance from the international community to implement its national counternarcotics strategy. Greater political will, increased institutional capacity, enhanced security, viable economic alternatives for farmers, and more robust efforts at all levels are required to decrease cultivation in high-cultivating provinces, maintain cultivation reductions in the rest of the country, and combat trafficking.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
The Government of Afghanistan is publicly committed to confronting the drug problem in Afghanistan, particularly focusing on what it identifies as the root causes of the drug economy including instability, poverty, unemployment; and organized crime. The Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) is the lead governmental agency for developing counternarcotics policy and coordinates the activities of other governmental bodies involved in issues related to the drug trade. MCN is currently drafting Afghanistan's National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS) for the period 2012-2016. The draft NDCS vision is "to implement a five-year plan that seeks to reduce by 50 percent the cultivation of poppy from its 2011 baseline of 131,000 hectares and to increase the capacity to treat drug addicts by 40 percent." MCN is also working to insert counternarcotics into the activities of the entire government by "mainstreaming" counternarcotics efforts into other existing national strategies and programs.
Afghanistan has no formal extradition or mutual legal assistance arrangements with the United States. The 2005 Afghan Counter Narcotics Law (CNL), however, allows the extradition of drug offenders to requesting countries under the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
2. Supply Reduction
According to UNODC, Afghanistan cultivated 154,000 ha of opium poppy in 2012, up 18 percent from 2011. UNODC estimated that Afghan opium poppy crops in 2012 yielded 3,700 MT of raw opium, down 36 percent from 5,800 MT in 2011. According to the UNODC and MCN, the number of poppy free provinces (those provinces with less than 100 ha of poppy under cultivation) remained the same at 17. (Note: The U.S. and UNODC estimates differ due to dissimilar methodologies for estimating poppy cultivation and opium yields.)
There is significant evidence of commercial cultivation of cannabis in Afghanistan. The UNODC and MCN's 2011 cannabis survey found that commercial cannabis cultivation in 2011 was approximately 12,000 ha, capable of producing 1,300 MT of hashish per year. According to the survey, the number of households growing cannabis for commercial purposes increased by 38 percent from 47,000 in 2010 to 65,000 in 2011. UNODC also noted that, like poppy, most cannabis cultivation takes place in insecure areas.
MCN implements the U.S.-funded Good Performers Initiative (GPI) to reward provinces which successfully reduce poppy cultivation within their borders. Provinces that are determined to be poppy-free by UNODC, or where poppy cultivation has declined by 10 percent, receive funding for development projects proposed by provincial development councils and governors' offices. In 2012, 21 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces received $18.2 million in GPI awards, including two provinces that received special recognition awards of $500,000 each. The MCN-run Governor-Led Eradication program reimburses governors for expenses incurred for eradicating poppy fields. Eradication is verified by UNODC. In 2012, a total of 9,672 ha was eradicated, an increase of 154 percent over 2011. Both the quality and efficiency of eradication improved substantially, but attacks by criminals and insurgents on eradication teams killed over 100 civilians and security personnel during the course of the year. An additional 127 people were injured in such attacks.
The Afghan government's efforts to enforce its drug laws also enjoyed growing success. The Criminal Justice Task Force (CJTF) is a vetted, self-contained unit that consists of prosecutors, investigators, and first instance and appellate court judges. Under Afghanistan's 2005 Counternarcotics Law, the CJTF prosecutes all drug cases that reach certain thresholds (possession of two kilograms of heroin, ten kilograms of opium or 50 kilograms of hashish or precursor chemicals) before the Counter Narcotics Tribunal. The Counter Narcotics Justice Center (CNJC) is a central facility for the investigation, prosecution, and trial of major narcotics and narcotics-related corruption cases and is considered a model of excellence within the Afghan justice system. Between April 2011 and March 2012, the CNJC primary court heard 468 cases and tried 788 suspects, involving more than 185 metric tons of illegal drugs. Those convicted receive sentences ranging from 11 to 20 years. The CNJC has a conviction rate of over 97 percent.
Afghan authorities made some progress in improving their capacity to interdict large quantities of narcotics and arrest narcotics traffickers. According to authorities, the police apprehended seven out of ten of the "most wanted" drug traffickers in 2011. Over the first nine months of 2012, Afghan and Coalition Forces conducted a total of 481 counternarcotics operations, 62 percent more operations than the previous year. They seized approximately three MT of heroin, 72 MT of opium, and 176 MT of hash in those operations. The Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) was established in 2003 as a specialized element of the Afghan National Police and is responsible for counternarcotics investigations and operations. The United States supports several specialized units within the CNPA, including the Sensitive Investigative Unit (SIU), the Technical Investigative Unit (TIU), and the National Interdiction Unit (NIU). These units are partnered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The NIU is the tactical element of the CNPA and is capable of conducting independent evidence- based interdiction operations and seizures in high threat environments. The TIU and SIU are specially vetted and trained law enforcement units The SIU carries out complex CN and counter corruption investigations using intelligence developed by the TIU. Outside these special units, low capacity and corruption within law enforcement institutions and the lack of CNPA's direct authority over its resources in the provinces hampers counternarcotics efforts.
Primary trafficking routes into and out of Afghanistan are through Iran to Turkey and Western Europe; through Pakistan to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, China and Iran; and through Central Asia to the Russian Federation. Drug laboratories within Afghanistan still process a large portion of the country's raw opium into heroin and morphine base. Traffickers illicitly import large quantities of precursor chemicals into Afghanistan; UNODC estimates that 475 tons of acetic anhydride are imported each year for manufacturing heroin.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
The Afghan Government acknowledges a growing domestic drug abuse problem, primarily opiates and cannabis. Funded by the United States, the National Urban Drug Use Survey released in 2012 provides a scientifically-valid prevalence rate for the country's urban population based on interviews and toxicology. The United States will begin supporting a National Rural Drug Use Survey to complement the urban study and provide a national prevalence rate. Other recently conducted studies indicate that the prevalence of addiction and severity of consumption among Afghan children is the highest documented in the world.
The United States expects to fund more than 60 inpatient and outpatient drug treatment centers across the country by the end of 2012; however, the demand for services exceeds the capacity of the centers, most of which have waiting lists for new patients. The United States also supports UNODC's global child addiction program throughout Afghanistan to develop protocols for treating opiate-addicted children, training treatment staff, and delivering services through Afghan non-governmental organizations. The current annual treatment capacity of Afghanistan's centers is over 15,000 persons. The Government of Afghanistan is planning an expansion of its treatment system by opening new clinics across the country. Private clinics have also proliferated in recent years, although many of these do not apply evidence-based practices, discharging clients after detoxification without follow-up, thereby resulting in high relapse rates.
The United States funds a multi-pronged public information program, implemented by the Colombo Plan with the support of the MCN, focusing on discouraging poppy cultivation, preventing drug use, and encouraging licit crop production. The United States has undertaken a vigorous public information campaign to reduce drug demand inside Afghanistan, including seeking the support of religious leaders in drug demand reduction efforts, engaging local media, and implementing an anti-drug curriculum in Afghan schools. In 2012, the U.S. government helped establish a partnership between the Colombo Plan's Preventive Drug Education program and the Afghan Premier Soccer League to spread an anti-drug message to youth. The United States also funds an Afghanistan-specific mobile preventive drug education exhibit.
As a matter of government policy, the Government of Afghanistan does not encourage or facilitate illicit drug production or distribution, nor is it involved in laundering proceeds from the sale of illicit drugs. However, many central, provincial, and district level government officials are believed to directly engage in and benefit from the drug trade. Corrupt practices range from facilitating drug activities to benefiting from drug trade revenue streams. The CJTF actively investigates and prosecutes public officials who facilitate drug trafficking under Article 21 of the Counter Narcotics Law, which criminalizes drug trafficking-related corruption. The CJTF has successfully prosecuted high ranking government officials, including members of the CNPA. Between April 2011 and March 2012, 44 public officials were prosecuted in the CJTF primary court.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The U.S. government maintains a counternarcotics strategy that supports Afghanistan's four priorities for disrupting the drug trade; developing licit agricultural livelihoods; reducing the demand for drugs; and building the capacity of the government's CN institutions. The strategy is formulated to help restore Afghanistan's agriculture economy, build Afghan institutional capacity, and disrupt the nexus between drugs, insurgents, and corruption.
In 2012, the United States signed agreements with the Afghan government laying the groundwork for a Kandahar Food Zone in 2013. The Kandahar Food Zone is a multi- sectoral drug reduction program that combines elements of alternative development, law enforcement and eradication, public information and drug treatment. Twenty million dollars are anticipated to be provided over two years to develop the Alternative Livelihoods component of the Kandahar Food Zone, a comprehensive approach to counternarcotics in the province, integrating its activities with U.S.-funded Counter Narcotics Public Information, Drug Demand Reduction, and Governor Led Eradication programs.
For Afghanistan to enjoy future success in combating the narcotics trade it must continue to strengthen the capacity of the MCN, actively combat corruption at all levels of government, and develop the ability of regular CNPA units to carry out operations. The Afghan government must also demonstrate the political will to challenge vested political and economic interests.
Farmers and those involved in processing and trafficking drugs must also have viable economic alternatives to involvement in the narcotics trade. Improvements in security and market access, as well as continued concentrated efforts to increase agricultural and other alternative livelihoods, will remain key to undermining the drug economy and the insurgency in Afghanistan.
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|Title Annotation:||Country Reports|
|Publication:||International Narcotics Control Strategy Report|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2013|
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