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2002 * International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

US DEPARTMENT OF STATE
US. DEPARTMENT OF STATE International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 2002

Released by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State - Washington, DC, 1 March 2003




AFGHANISTAN

I. Summary

Despite strong statements by President Karzai in January 2002; an Afghan government-led, British-supported eradication campaign in spring 2002; and alternative livelihoods assistance that has begun to flow to the poppy growing areas, Afghanistan’s 2002 opium cultivation was 30,750 hectares, according to the U.S. estimate. The UNODC estimated that more than twice as much land in Afghanistan was sewn to poppy. The U.S. estimate for poppy cultivation is up from the 2001 level of 1,685 hectares. The low 2001 level was a one-year deviation from a decade of high-level opium production and was the result of the Taliban poppy ban. By the time Hamid Karzai became head of the then-Interim Government in December 2001, however, the poppy crop reflected in the 2002 cultivation figures was already in the ground. Afghan farmers continued to cultivate poppy as a risk-avoidance response to continuing drought conditions and lack of credit, farm inputs, and markets for other agricultural products. Afghanistan returned to its former position as the world’s largest producer of illicit opium. Also contributing to the increase was the chaotic situation in Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, and the limited enforcement reach of the new government.

During 2002, the Afghanistan Interim Authority (AIA), followed by the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan Government (TISA), took several important first steps to control its enormous drug problem. On January 17, 2002, President Karzai issued a decree banning cultivation, production, processing, illicit trafficking, and abuse of narcotics drugs. He issued further decrees in September and October, which designated Afghanistan’s National Security Council (NSC) as the body responsible for drug control, established within the NSC a Counternarcotics Department (CND), and named its Director. International drug control coordination meetings were held in Kabul in July and October, resulting in the formation of five working groups headed by line ministries to implement the five subject areas of the national drug control strategy currently in draft. With this drug control architecture in place, Afghanistan is in a good position to carry out the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention, to which it is a party. Unfortunately, the new government’s excellent intentions and initial organizational successes in Kabul had no real short-term effect on opium production in the countryside. Effective steps to reduce opium production in Afghanistan remain a challenging future task for the new government, assisted by the international community. Help with developing alternative livelihoods for Afghanistan’s opium farmers will be crucial to the success of any opium crop reduction strategy.

II. Status of Country

The size of the opium harvest in 2002 makes Afghanistan the world’s leading opium producer. Trafficking of Afghan opium and heroin refined in numerous laboratories inside Afghanistan creates serious problems for Afghanistan and its neighbors. It corrupts local authorities, is a major factor in the rising heroin addiction in refugee and indigenous populations, and provides funds for those who wish to destabilize the country. Afghanistan also produces, consumes, and exports a large amount of hashish. Increasing numbers of Afghans, especially women, are found to be poly-drug abusers, generally using a combination of opium, hashish, and pharmaceutical drugs such as Valium, which are cheaply and readily available. Afghanistan does not have in place any effective laws to control precursor and essential chemicals or money laundering.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2002

Policy Initiatives. In December 2001 the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) under Chairman Hamid Karzai was formed as the key outcome of diplomatic discussions yielding the Bonn Agreement. The Agreement specified that the Interim Authority shall cooperate with the international community in the fight against terrorism, drugs, and organized crime. The Agreement also required that the AIA commit itself to respect international law and maintain peaceful and friendly relations with neighboring countries and the international community. Control of drugs, crime, and terrorism continued to be featured at the top of the political agenda at all international fora related to the recovery, rehabilitation, and reconstruction process in Afghanistan. In addition, two major international coordination meetings focusing exclusively on drug control issues were held in Kabul in July and October 2002. The National Development Framework drafted in April 2002 incorporates the government’s determination to eliminate poppy cultivation and to reestablish security and the rule of law, including law enforcement.

President Karzai issued a decree on January 17, 2002, banning cultivation, production, processing, illicit trafficking, and abuse of narcotic drugs. On April 3, 2002, the AIA issued an executive order to eradicate opium poppy fields in the country, with compensation being paid to farmers who eradicated. The eradication process started on April 8, 2002, in Helmand and Nangarhar Provinces. Approximately 16,500 hectares were eradicated. On September 4, 2002, as the season for planting poppy for the 2003 harvest approached, President Karzai issued another very strong declaration urging farmers not to plant poppy. In addition, the TISA sought support from the provincial governors and religious leaders for implementing the poppy ban. Nevertheless, the number of hectares of poppy eventually harvested during 2002 makes Afghanistan the world’s leading opium producer this year. However, cultivation in Afghanistan was reduced substantially from the record levels of the late 1990s.

Given the recent tumultuous events in Afghanistan, it should be no real surprise that the new government’s efforts to organize itself to deal with Afghanistan’s monumental drug problem met with some difficulties. In February 2002, the AIA reactivated the State High Commission on Drug Control (SHCDC) in Kabul as an inter-ministerial coordinating body with the objectives of eliminating cultivation of illicit drugs, and reducing drug trafficking and drug abuse in Afghanistan. However, the SHCDC received little or no donor support because the AIA quickly realized that the SHCDC was at best an inefficient, and at worst, a corrupt organization incapable of formulating and implementing a strong national drug control policy. As a result, the government declined to approve a UNODC capacity-building project intended to strengthen the SHCDC.

As preparations began for the first international drug control coordination meeting to be held in Kabul on July 23, 2002, SHCDC provided no assistance to the British (who have the lead on counternarcotics assistance for Afghanistan). Therefore, the British were forced to work with senior Afghan leaders to organize this first and very important international drug control coordination meeting. Although the meeting laid out a British-drafted strategy and framework for tackling the drug problem in Afghanistan, the leadership vacuum at SHCDC continued. Furthermore, most donors, the UNODC included, were not yet organized to begin delivering assistance to implement the draft framework.

To address SHCDC’s inaction, President Karzai named his National Security Council (NSC) as the body responsible for Afghanistan’s counternarcotics efforts. Unfortunately, he left the SHCDC in place. This ambiguity proved unworkable and confused donors seeking to assist the government’s counternarcotics efforts. Finally, on September 19, 2002, President Karzai signed an executive order naming Haji Mirwais Yasini as Director of the Counternarcotics Department (CND) of the NSC, followed by a decree on October 7, 2002, stating: “As of now the National Security Advisor office of the Transitional Islamic Government of Afghanistan is responsible for handling activities related to preventing drug production, use and drug trafficking. The SHCDC is directed to work under this office. In addition, all national and international organizations working in the drug control field should coordinate their activities with the office of the National Security Advisor.”

The NSC CND Director quickly leapt into action, with support from the UK, UNDCP and U.S., to prepare for the second international drug control coordination meeting. The NSC CND sent letters to line ministries in each of four sectors—alternative livelihoods, law enforcement, judicial reform, and demand reduction—asking them to form a working group of relevant ministry representatives, UN organizations, and leading bilateral donors. The NSC CND itself took the lead in the area of building government counternarcotics capacity. Each working group prepared a plan of action to present at the October 17, 2002, international drug coordination meeting. These action plans, which are now incorporated in the draft National Drug Control Strategy, provide the framework within which TISA can implement the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. In addition, a new drug law, intended to meet international standards, is under consideration by TISA.

Accomplishments. The Afghan-led, UK-supported eradication effort, although fraught with difficulties in fairly compensating farmers who verifiably had eradicated their poppy crops, clearly reduced the level of production in 2002 to an amount significantly below the high levels of the late 1990s. In addition, the eradication campaign apparently has had some effect on farmers’ future planting decisions. There is anecdotal evidence that, as of December 2002, farmers in some areas were delaying planting to try to better assess the likelihood that, if they planted poppy, they would be able to harvest it. Alternative livelihoods assistance is beginning to be evident in poppy areas, and the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development is playing a strong role in coordinating assistance in this area. The U.S. provided $14 million during 2002 in “Cash for Work” Programs with a direct and immediate benefit for the rural economy. Collapsed and long-abandoned infrastructure, vital to rural crops, (e.g., silt-clogged irrigation canals) were rehabilitated through this program. Longer term efforts focused on the introduction of cotton in certain areas, and grapes for raisins in others were also advanced in sub-projects under the general “Cash for Work” project. The tribal leader in Nad-i-Ali District of Helmand Province, the largest-producing district in Afghanistan, wrote a letter to the U.S. Government saying that because we were providing assistance in rehabilitating the irrigation canal system, his people promised not to plant poppy. Nevertheless, systematic and effective drug enforcement efforts are still a notable missing piece of TISA’s drug control efforts, and realistically, developing alternative crop regimes to traditional poppy production in Afghanistan will be a very long term effort.

Law Enforcement Efforts. At present, drug enforcement efforts in Afghanistan are largely non-formal and regionally based. There are periodic reports of drug seizures and arrests in Kabul and the provinces. There have also been reports of the closing of opium bazaars in Nangarhar and Helmand Provinces. The Peshawar, Pakistan, Pashto language press reported in early November that poppy eradication was taking place in two districts of Nangarhar Province and also in Ghor Province, but there is no systematic collection of reliable data upon which to base judgments of progress.

Plans are in place to begin development of a separate narcotics law enforcement directorate in the Interior Ministry, which would contain three units: information collection and intelligence, investigations, and interdiction. Training for the intelligence and investigations units began as 2002 ended; interdiction unit training will take place in 2003. Locations to house the three units have been identified, and work is nearly complete on the intelligence unit buildings. Work on the site for the other two units will have to wait for spring weather. Plans are also being formulated for development of the Border Police.

Corruption. In Afghanistan’s tribally based society, corruption is historic and endemic. Nepotism prevails in hiring, especially where having a personally loyal employee is critical. The perception prevails that only family members or kin can be trusted. Tribal alliances were intensified during years of conflict, especially during the civil war period when tribal warlords vied for territory and supremacy. It is in this context that President Karzai and his Finance Minister are trying to establish a transparent government that is accountable to its constituents. In early November 2002, President Karzai dismissed twenty senior officials and another eighty minor officials in the provinces for corruption. These dismissals included the heads of customs in Herat and Nangarhar Provinces and the security chief in Kandahar. Involvement in drug trafficking was one of the stated reasons for dismissal. In late November, Karzai issued a decree establishing an Office of Control and Inspection and providing for an inventory of public property. From these actions and the presidential decrees against drug production and trafficking, it is clear that, as a matter of government policy, the country does not encourage or facilitate illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. On the other hand, given the realities of Karzai’s coalition government and the limits of its authority in the provinces, it is not possible to say categorically that no senior official of TISA engages in, encourages, or facilitates the illicit production or distribution of such drugs or substances, or the laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions.

Agreements and Treaties. Afghanistan is a party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Afghanistan intends to become a party to the 1972 Protocol to the 1961 Convention as soon as possible. The Afghan Government’s National Drug Control Strategy and sectoral plans of action provide the framework for implementing Afghanistan’s responsibilities for drug control under the international agreements to which it is a party. Afghanistan and the U.S. have no mutual legal assistance or extradition treaties. The 1964 Constitution, which is one of the principle sources of Afghan law, states in Article 27: “No Afghan accused of a crime can be extradited to a foreign state.” The Minister of Justice and other relevant officials are aware of the potential benefits of being able to extradite Afghan citizens. The international community needs to work with the new Constitutional Commission and the Constitutional Drafting Committee on the issue of extradition and also on providing a constitutional or other legal basis for mutual legal assistance.

Cultivation/Production. During 2002, Afghanistan was the world’s largest producer of opium and a major producer of cannabis. The U.S. estimated that Afghanistan produced ca. 1300 metric tons of opium gum; the UNODC estimate was roughly twice that level (ca. 3000 metric tons of opium) in 2002. The estimates also differed sharply on the amount of land planted to opium in Afghanistan, with the ratio also ca 2:1. Efforts are underway to reconcile the sharply different estimates of opium production. Following a substantial reduction in opium production in 2001 under the Taliban ban, 2002 production increased dramatically, though not to the highest levels of the late 1990s. According to UNODC estimates, three provinces—Helmand, Nangarhar and Badakhshan—accounted for 78 percent of the area under poppy cultivation and 77 percent of the tonnage of opium produced. Uruzgan and Kandahar were the fourth and fifth largest producing provinces. A disturbing trend in 2002 was detection of poppy cultivation in areas where poppy had not previously been grown, such as Ghor and Bamiyan Provinces. The large portion of opium production in Helmand Province, accounting for 40 percent of the total area in Afghanistan under poppy cultivation, justifies the current high priority for focused assistance to repair the province’s extensive irrigation canal system and provide alternative crop extension services and marketing assistance.

Anecdotal reports indicate the mushrooming of morphine and heroin processing laboratories, no doubt to handle this year’s large opium production. For example, there are reports of numerous labs in the Faizabad area of Badakhshan Province that are consuming enormous amounts of firewood in processing heroin, thereby driving up the price of firewood beyond local residents’ ability to purchase it. Labs in Nangarhar and Helmand Provinces are reported to be numerous and highly mobile, thereby making detection and destruction more difficult. Seizures of narcotics in neighboring countries (notably Tajikistan) have also increased absolutely, and seizures continued a shift towards seizures of a higher share of heroin that began last year.

Drug Flow/Transit. In the absence of support for legitimate agricultural production and marketing during years of conflict, opium traders have cornered Afghanistan’s modest agro-business sector. Their method of operation is to provide seed, fertilizer, tools, and the credit with which to buy these inputs, and then purchase the harvested opium from farmers at a price highly advantageous to them, but disadvantageous to the indebted farmers. Poppy cultivation requires less water than many other crops, which, given the last several years of drought, has further encouraged farmers to plant opium. The ease of storage of opium and its ready marketability make it an ideal store of value during times of conflict, fluctuating currencies, and lack of any formal banking or credit systems. Opium markets have been highly organized and openly conducted until relatively recently, when some opium markets in Nangarhar and Helmand Provinces were reported to have been shut down. However, in reality, there are indications that the opium markets have simply gone “underground” to less public sites.

Narcotics seizure statistics in countries bordering Afghanistan indicate heavy trafficking out of Afghanistan along well-known routes. Given the dearth of effective law enforcement measures in Afghanistan, and the traditional involvement in drug trafficking during the war years by people of influence as their major source of revenue, trafficking in Afghanistan can unfortunately be expected to continue almost unimpeded in the near future. Continued reliance on interdiction by neighboring countries will be necessary for any impact on drug trafficking out of Afghanistan.

Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). Although there has been no formal assessment of the extent of drug abuse, anecdotal evidence indicates it is rising in Afghanistan. According to UNODC, heroin, opium, and hashish are the most commonly abused drugs, along with a wide variety of locally available, uncontrolled pharmaceuticals. A UNODC study of Afghan women in refugee camps in Pakistan indicated that poly-drug abuse consisting of opium, hashish, and Valium or other similar pharmaceutical drugs was increasingly common, often associated with post-traumatic stress. Traditional use of opium as a panacea for ailments is common in some parts of the country, especially in the North. Opium is even customarily given to babies in some areas. Heroin use is generally by mouth or inhaled, though there are reports, especially in the urban areas, of increasing use by injection, including needle sharing. An informal assessment of one area of southwest Kabul by an NGO working in the drug treatment field revealed the following estimated numbers of drug abusers within an adult population of about 4,000: 700 hashish users (17.5 percent); 400 (10 percent) female tranquilizer users; 200 (5 percent) female opium users; and 80 (2 percent) male heroin users, of whom 18 (.5 percent) are injecting.

The Afghan government struggles with its limited resources to provide in-hospital detoxification services, but often can provide no analgesics to ease the withdrawal symptoms. Nejat, an NGO operating on extremely limited funding, provides pre-detoxification counseling, in-home detoxification, and a year’s support to the drug abuser and family members. In the past, UNODC has done some training of Afghan female community activists in drug awareness, basic health, and sanitation. Concerted efforts should be made to energize the Ministries of Education and Public Health to increase drug abuse prevention education and drug treatment capability as part of TISA’s National Drug Control Strategy.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

U.S. policy is to support the British lead on Afghan drug control by providing assistance for a wide range of counternarcotics programs in Afghanistan. Current U.S.-funded counternarcotics programs include: provision of seeds and fertilizer, quick impact cash-for-work on infrastructure improvement projects, a large alternative livelihoods project, assistance in the development of drug law enforcement capability, small programs in demand reduction and an counternarcotics public affairs campaign, and support for rehabilitation and modernization of the criminal justice system.

The Road Ahead. The U.S. will continue to support the development of Afghanistan’s national drug control capacity, especially in mentoring the NSC CND as it begins to assume its role as Afghanistan’s drug control policy and implementing body. In addition, the U.S. will continue to support the activities of the five sector working groups and will coordinate all U.S. counternarcotics assistance projects with the line ministries.

In the meantime, poppy cultivation can be expected to continue until rural poverty levels can be reduced via provision of alternative livelihoods and reduction of farmers’ debts. However, sustained assistance to poppy-growing areas permitting diversification of crops, improved market access, and development of off-farm employment, combined with law enforcement and drug education, are expected gradually to reduce the amount of opium produced in Afghanistan. But drug processing and trafficking can be expected to continue almost unabated initially until drug law enforcement capabilities can be increased. Again, sustained assistance by the donor community over many years will be required to help an Afghan government fully dedicated to countering its drug problem to succeed.

Afghanistan Statistics (1993–2002)

Opium 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993
Potential Harvest (ha) 30,750 1,685 64,510 51,500 41,720 39,150 37,950 38,740 29,180 21,080
Eradication (ha)
Cultivation (ha) 30,750 1,685 64,510 51,500 41,720 39,150 37,950 38,740 29,180 21,080
Potential Yield1(mt) 1,278 74 3,656 2,861 2,340 2,184 2,099 1,250 950 685

1Note: Potential production estimates for 1996-1999 have been revised upward from previous INCSRs, reflecting improved methodologies for estimating opium yields. The estimates of land area under poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for those are unchanged and have not been revised.