Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
Opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking have become significant negative factors in
Afghanistan’s fragile political and economic order over the last 25 years. Afghan, U.S., and
coalition efforts to provide viable economic alternatives to poppy cultivation and to disrupt
corruption and narco-terrorist linkages succeeded in reducing opium poppy cultivation in some
areas during 2004 and 2005. However, escalating violence, particularly in Helmand, and
widespread corruption fueled a surge in cultivation in 2006 and 2007, pushing opium output to
all-time highs. Cultivation has decreased in north-central Afghanistan and skyrocketed in the
southwest. In spite of ongoing efforts by the Afghan government, the United States, and their
partners, Afghanistan is now the source of 93% of the world’s illicit opium.
Across Afghanistan, militia commanders, criminal organizations, and corrupt officials have
exploited narcotics as a reliable source of revenue and patronage, which has perpetuated the
threat these groups pose to the country’s fragile internal security and the legitimacy of its
embryonic democratic government. U.N. officials estimated that in-country illicit revenue from
the 2006 opium poppy crop reached over $3 billion, sustaining fears that Afghanistan’s economic
recovery continues to be underwritten by drug profits. The trafficking of Afghan drugs also
appears to provide financial and logistical support to a range of extremist groups that continue to
operate in and around Afghanistan, including the resurgent remnants of the Taliban and some Al
Qaeda operatives. Although coalition forces may be less frequently relying on figures involved
with narcotics for intelligence and security support, many observers have warned that drug-
related corruption among appointed and elected Afghan officials may create new political
obstacles to further progress.
President Bush personally stated in February 2007 that narcotics are “a direct threat to a free
future for Afghanistan” and warned that, “the Taliban uses drug money to buy weapons ... and
they pay Afghans to take up arms against the government.” Afghan president Hamid Karzai has
identified the opium economy as “the single greatest challenge to the long-term security,
development, and effective governance of Afghanistan.” In August 2007, the Administration
unveiled plans to strengthen counternarcotics efforts through a renewed focus on promoting rural
development, coordinating counterinsurgency and counternarcotics, and building political will. th
Members of the 110 Congress may be asked to consider options for further strengthening
counternarcotics efforts. The Administration requested $1.54 billion in regular and supplemental
counternarcotics assistance and related defense funding for Afghanistan and surrounding
countries for FY2007 and FY2008.
In addition to describing the structure of the Afghan narcotics trade, this report provides current
statistical information, profiles the narcotics trade’s participants, explores narco-terrorist linkages,
and reviews U.S. and international policy responses since late 2001. The report also considers
current policy debates regarding the counternarcotics roles of the U.S. military, poppy
eradication, alternative livelihoods, and funding issues for Congress. The report will be updated
to reflect major developments. For more information on Afghanistan, see CRS Report RL30588,
Afghanistan: Post-War Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman.
Introduc tion ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Afghanistan’s Opium Economy......................................................................................................1
Current Production Statistics.....................................................................................................2
Opium and Afghanistan’s War Economy............................................................................7
Actors in Afghanistan’s Opium Economy.................................................................................9
Farmers ............................................................................................................................... 9
Tr affickers .................................................................................................................... ..... 10
Narcotics and Security....................................................................................................................11
Narcotics and Prospects for State Failure in Afghanistan.......................................................12
Anti-Government Elements and Popular Violence...........................................................12
Corruption and Challenges to Afghan Democracy...........................................................13
Opium Profits and Afghanistan’s Economic Recovery.....................................................14
Narcotics, Insurgency, and Terrorism......................................................................................15
Taliban and Al Qaeda Financiers......................................................................................17
Trafficking to the United States........................................................................................18
Russia ......................................................................................................................... ....... 19
Regional Security Implications...............................................................................................19
Paki stan ............................................................................................................................. 21
Ir an ........................................................................................................................... ......... 21
The International Policy Response................................................................................................22
Afghan Counternarcotics Policies, Programs, and Forces......................................................23
Bans, Prohibitions, and Policy Statements........................................................................23
Institutions and Forces......................................................................................................24
U.S. Policy Initiatives: The “Five-Pillar” Plan........................................................................25
Alternative Livelihood Development................................................................................28
Interdicti on ................................................................................................................... ..... 29
Eradic ation .................................................................................................................... .... 31
Issues for Congress........................................................................................................................32
Breaking the Narcotics-Insecurity Cycle................................................................................32
Balancing Counterterrorism and Counternarcotics.................................................................33
Defining the Role of the U.S. Military....................................................................................34
Equipment and Weaponry.................................................................................................35
Mobility ............................................................................................................................ 35
Manual or Aerial Herbicide-based Eradication.................................................................36
Pending Legislation and Counternarcotics Funding...............................................................38
Reauthorization of Defense Counternarcotics Activities..................................................38
Counternarcotics Funding FY2007 and FY2008..............................................................39
Figure 1. Opium Production in Afghanistan, 1980-2007................................................................4
Figure 2. Opium Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan, 1986-2007.....................................................5
Figure 3. Opium Poppy Cultivation by Province, 2006-2007.........................................................6
Figure 4. Narcotics and Security in Afghanistan...........................................................................13
Table 1. Recent Opium Prices in Afghanistan.................................................................................7
Table 2. Afghan Extremists’ Links to the Drug Trade...................................................................16
Table 3. Alternative Livelihood Proposed Spending Targets by Province, FY2005-2007............29
Table 4. U.S. Counternarcotics Funding and Requests for Afghanistan, FY2007-FY2008..........41
Table 5. Defense Department Planned Use of FY2008 Appropriated and Supplemental
Funds .......................................................................................................................................... 42
Table 6. State Department/USAID Foreign Operations FY2008 Request by Program
Table 7. U.S. Counternarcotics Funding for Afghanistan by Source, FY2002-FY2006...............44
Table 8. United Kingdom Counternarcotics Funding 2005-2006.................................................45
Appendix. ...................................................................................................................... ................ 46
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................47
In spite of ongoing international efforts to combat Afghanistan’s narcotics trade, U.N. officials
estimate that a record opium poppy crop was produced in Afghanistan during the 2006-2007 1
season that supplied 93% of the world’s illicit opium. Afghan, U.S., and international officials
have stated that opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking constitute serious strategic threats
to the security and stability of Afghanistan and jeopardize the success of post-9/11
counterterrorism and reconstruction efforts. In light of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation
that the United States make a long-term commitment to the security and stability of Afghanistan,
counternarcotics policy has emerged as a focal point of recurring debate in the Bush
Administration and in Congress concerning the United States’ strategic objectives in Afghanistan
and the global war against terrorism.
Concerns include the role of U.S. military personnel in counternarcotics activities and strategies
for continuing the simultaneous pursuit of counterterrorism and counternarcotics goals, which
may be complicated by practical necessities and emerging political realities. Coalition forces
pursuing regional security and counterterrorism objectives may rely on the cooperation of
commanders, tribal leaders, and local officials who may be involved in the narcotics trade.
Similarly, U.S. officials and many observers believe that the introduction of a democratic system
of government to Afghanistan has been accompanied by the election and appointment of
narcotics-associated individuals to positions of public office.
Efforts to combat the opium trade in Afghanistan face the challenge of ending a highly-profitable
enterprise that has become deeply interwoven with the economic, political, and social fabric of a
war-torn country. Afghan, U.S., and international authorities are engaged in a campaign to reverse
an unprecedented upsurge of opium poppy cultivation and heroin production: they continue to
implement a multifaceted counternarcotics initiative that includes public awareness campaigns,
judicial reform measures, economic and agricultural development assistance, drug interdiction
operations, and more robust poppy eradication. The Bush Administration and Congress continue
to consider options for upgrading U.S. support for counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan in order
to meet the challenges posed by the Afghan opium economy to the security of Afghanistan and
the international community. Questions regarding the likely effectiveness, resource requirements,
and implications of new counternarcotics strategies in Afghanistan are likely to arise during the th
first session of the 110 Congress as such options continue to be debated.
Opium production has become an entrenched negative element of Afghanistan’s fragile political
and economic order over the last 25 years in spite of ongoing local, regional, and international
efforts to reverse its growth. At the time of Afghanistan’s pro-Communist coup in 1978, narcotics
experts estimated that Afghan farmers produced 300 metric tons (MT) of opium annually, enough
to satisfy most local and regional demand and to supply a handful of heroin production facilities 2
whose products were bound for Western Europe. Since the 1980s, a trend of increasing opium
1 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)/Government of Afghanistan Ministry of Counternarcotics
(MCN), Afghan Opium Survey 2007 - Executive Summary.
2 See Jonathan C. Randal, “Afghanistan’s Promised War on Opium,” Washington Post, November 2, 1978, and Stuart
poppy cultivation and opium production has unfolded during successive periods of insurgency,
civil war, fundamentalist government, and recently, international engagement (Figures 1 and 2).
During the 2006-2007 poppy growing season, Afghanistan produced a world record opium poppy
crop that yielded 8,200 MT of illicit opium—an estimated 93% of the world’s supply. This
continued the significant reversal of the slight downward trend in national poppy cultivation and
opium output that occurred from 2004 to 2005. Afghan government and United Nations reporting
finds that downward trends continue in many northern provinces, while remote areas in eastern
provinces and the conflict-ridden southern provinces continue to provide growth opportunities for
traffickers and farmers. In relation to this trend, the United nations Office on Drugs and Crime
(UNODC) concludes that “opium cultivation in Afghanistan is no longer associated with
poverty,” but rather, “is now closely linked to insurgency,” as the Taliban have “started to extract 3
from the drug economy resources for arms, logistics and militia pay.”
Narcotics experts describe Afghanistan’s opium economy as the backbone of a multibillion dollar
drug trade that stretches throughout Central and Southwest Asia and supplies heroin to
consumption markets in Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and the United States. Millions of
Afghans remain involved with various aspects of the opium trade, including farmers, laborers,
traffickers, warlords, and government officials. Some experts have warned that the consolidation
of existing relationships between these groups threatens to transform Afghanistan into a failed
According to the 2007 Afghanistan Opium Survey conducted by the UNODC and the Afghan
Ministry of Counternarcotics (MCN):
• Opium poppy cultivation took place in 21 Afghan provinces in 2006-2007 (see
Figure 3). The land area under poppy cultivation rose by 59% to 165,000
hectares in 2005-2006 (equal to 3.65% of Afghanistan’s arable land). The
increase was concentrated in conflict-ridden Helmand province, which produced
over 69,000 hectares of poppy—42% of the national total and an area greater
than or equivalent to the entire country’s poppy cultivation for most of the 1980s
and 1990s. The U.S. government estimates that 172,600 hectares were cultivated
• The 2006-2007 opium poppy crop produced 8,200 MT of illicit opium, a 34%
increase from the prior season. Crop yields improved 15% due to better weather
conditions. A range of accepted opium to heroin conversion rates indicate that
this year’s estimated opium yield of 8,200 MT could produce 820 to 1160 MT of 4
refined heroin. The U.S. government estimated that 5,644 MT of opium were
produced in 2005-2006.
Auerbach, “New Heroin Connection: Afghanistan and Pakistan Supply West With Opium,” Washington Post, October
3 UNODC, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 - Executive Summary, pp. iv-v.
4 UNODC/Afghan Gov., Afghanistan Opium Survey 2004, November 2004, pp. 105-7.
• Approximately 509,000 Afghan families cultivated opium poppy in 2006-2007, a
64% increase from 2005 and equal to roughly 3.3 million people or 14.3% of the
Afghan population. Over 500,000 laborers and an unknown number of
traffickers, warlords, and officials also participate.
• The estimated $1 billion farmgate value of Afghanistan’s 2006-2007 illicit opium
harvest is equivalent in value to approximately 13% of the country’s licit GDP.
Trafficking proceeds may exceed $2 billion. Many licit and emerging industries 5
are financed or supported by profits from narcotics trafficking.
The 2007 UNODC/MCN report identifies insecurity and poor governance as the major factors
that fueled the large growth in poppy cultivation and opium production during the 2005-2006
season. The report echoes previous assessments that significant sustainable declines in opium
poppy cultivation occurred in provinces and districts that were economically integrated and
politically stable and in those that received alternative livelihood assistance and where effective
eradication took place. Other observers have pointed to the steady increase in opium production
volume that has occurred since late 2001 and argued that excess opium supply has reduced raw
opium price levels (Table 1) and may undercut price incentives for farmers to cultivate poppy.
Price levels have declined across Afghanistan as poppy cultivation and opium production have 6
increased since 2004.
Note: The following figures display trends in poppy cultivation and opium production in
Afghanistan over the last 25-plusyears. The sharp declines in the 2000-2001 growing season are
related to the Taliban decision to ban opium poppy cultivation. According to U.S. officials, opium
trafficking continued unabated.
5 Edouard Martin and Steven Symansky, “Macroeconomic Impact of the Drug Economy and Counter-Narcotics
Efforts,” in Doris Buddenberg and William A. Byrd (eds.), Afghanistan’s Drug Industry: Structure, Functioning,
Dynamics, and Implications for Counter-Narcotics Policy, World Bank/UNODC, November 2006.
6 UNODC/MCN, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 - Executive Summary, September 2007.
Figure 1. Opium Production in Afghanistan, 1980-2007
Source: Graphic developed by CRS using UNODC/MCN data. One metric ton is equal to 2,200 pounds. U.S. government estimates placed 2006 opium production at
5,644 metric tons. The Taliban banned opium poppy cultivation in areas under their control in 2001 but allowed opium trafficking to continue and profited from the sale of
regime-controlled opium stocks. Limited cultivation continued in areas under Northern Alliance control.
Figure 2. Opium Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan, 1986-2007
Source: Graphic developed by CRS using UNODC/MCN data. One hectare is equal to 10,000 square meters. U.S. government estimates placed 2006 opium cultivation at
172,600 hectares. The Taliban banned opium poppy cultivation in areas under their control in 2001, but allowed opium trafficking to continue and profited from the sale of
regime-controlled opium stocks. Limited cultivation continued in areas under Northern Alliance control.
Figure 3. Opium Poppy Cultivation by Province, 2006-2007
Source: Map from UNODC/MCN, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 - Executive Summary.
Table 1. Recent Opium Prices in Afghanistan
(regionally weighted fresh opium farmgatea price US$/kilogram)
2000 2001b 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Opium Price $28 $301 $350 $283 $92 $102 $94 $86
Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghanistan Opium Surveys 2004-2007.
a. Farmgate price for fresh opium is the price paid to farmers for non-dried opium.
b. Dry opium prices skyrocketed to nearly $700/kg immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks and fell to $93/kg after U.S. airstrikes began.
During the more than two decades of occupation, foreign interference, and civil war that followed
the 1979 Soviet invasion, opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking served as central parts of
Afghanistan’s war economy, providing revenue to individuals and groups competing for power
and an economic survival mechanism to a growing segment of the impoverished population. In
December 2001, Afghan leaders participating in the Bonn conference that formed Afghanistan’s
interim post-Taliban government echoed pleas issued by their pro-Communist predecessors 7
decades earlier: They strongly urged that “the United Nations, the international community, and
regional organizations cooperate with the Interim Authority to combat international terrorism,
cultivation, and trafficking of illicit drugs and provide Afghan farmers with financial, material 8
and technical resources for alternative crop production.” In spite of renewed efforts on the part of
Afghan and international authorities to combat opium poppy cultivation since the fall of the
Taliban, Afghanistan remains the world’s leading producer of opium.
Following the Soviet invasion of 1979 and during the civil war that ensued in the aftermath of the
Soviet withdrawal, opium poppy cultivation expanded in parallel with the gradual collapse of
state authority across Afghanistan. As the country’s formal economy succumbed to violence and
disorder, opium became one of the few available commodities capable of both storing economic
value and generating revenue for local administration and military supplies. Some anti-Soviet
mujahideen commanders encouraged and taxed opium poppy cultivation and drug shipments,
and, in some instances, participated in the narcotics trade directly as a means of both economic 9
survival and military financing. Elements of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency
and Afghan rebel commanders to which the ISI channeled U.S. funding and weaponry are also
alleged to have participated in the Afghan narcotics trade during the Soviet occupation and its
aftermath, including in the production and trafficking of refined heroin to U.S. and European
7 In 1978, pro-Communist Afghan officials reportedly requested “a lot of assistance from abroad, especially economic
help, to help replace farmers’ incomes derived from opium poppy cultivation.” Randal, Washington Post, November 2,
8 Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-establishment of Permanent Government
Institutions [The Bonn Agreement], December 5, 2001.
9 See Arthur Bonner, “Afghan Rebel’s Victory Garden: Opium,” New York Times, June 18, 1986, and Mary Thornton,
“Sales of Opium Reportedly Fund Afghan Rebels,” Washington Post, December 17, 1983.
markets.10 After the withdrawal of Soviet troops and a drop in U.S. and Soviet funding, opium
poppy cultivation, drug trafficking, and other criminal activities increasingly provided local
leaders and military commanders with a means of supporting their operations and establishing
political influence in the areas they controlled.
The centralization of authority under the Taliban movement during the mid-to-late 1990s further
fueled Afghan opium poppy cultivation and narcotic production, as Taliban officials coopted their
military opponents with promises of permissive cultivation policies and mirrored the practices of 11
their warlord predecessors by collecting tax revenue and profits on the growing output. In 1999,
Afghanistan produced a peak of over 4500 MT of raw opium, which led to growing international
pressure from states whose populations were consuming the end products of a seemingly endless
supply of Afghan drugs. In response, the Taliban announced a ban on opium poppy cultivation in
late 2000, but allowed the opiate trade to continue, fueling speculation that the decision was
designed to contribute to their marginalized government’s campaign for international legitimacy.
Under the ban, opium poppy cultivation was reduced dramatically and overall opium output fell
to 185 MT, mainly because of continued cultivation and production in areas under the control of
Northern Alliance forces. Individual Northern Alliance commanders also taxed opium production
and transportation within their zones of control and continued producing opium and trafficking 12
heroin following the Taliban prohibition. Although U.S. and international officials initially
applauded the Taliban policy shift, many experts now believe that the ban was designed to
increase the market price for and potential revenue from stocks of Afghan opium maintained by 13
the Taliban and its powerful trafficking allies within the country.
Following 9/11, Afghan farmers anticipated the fall of the Taliban government and resumed
cultivating opium poppy as U.S.-led military operations began in October 2001. International
efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s devastated society began with the organization of an interim
administration at the Bonn Conference in December 2001, and Afghan leaders committed their
new government to combat the resurgence of opium poppy cultivation and requested international 14
counternarcotics assistance from the United States, the United Kingdom and others. The United
Kingdom was designated the lead nation for international counternarcotics assistance and policy
10 See James Rupert and Steve Coll, “U.S. Declines to Probe Afghan Drug Trade: Rebels, Pakistani Officers
Implicated,” Washington Post, May 13, 1990; Jim Lobe, “Drugs: U.S. Looks Other Way In Afghanistan and Pakistan,”
Inter Press Service, May 18, 1990; John F. Burns, “U.S. Cuts Off Arms to Afghan Faction,” New York Times,
November 19, 1989; Kathy Evans, “Money is the Drug,” The Guardian (UK), November 11, 1989; and Lawrence
Lifschultz, “Bush, Drugs and Pakistan: Inside the Kingdom of Heroin,” The Nation, November 14, 1988.
11 The Taliban government collected an agricultural tax (approximately 10%, paid in kind), known as ushr, and a
traditional Islamic tithe known as zakat (variable percentages). The Taliban also taxed opium traders and transport
syndicates involved in the transportation of opiates. UNODC, “The Opium Economy in Afghanistan,” pp. 92, 127-8.
12 UNODC, “The Opium Economy in Afghanistan,” p. 92.
13 In December 2001, then Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Rand
Beers stated that the Taliban had not banned opium cultivation “out of kindness, but because they wanted to regulate
the market: They simply produced too much opium.” Marc Kaufman, “Surge in Afghan Poppy Crop Is Forecast,”
Washington Post, December 25, 2001. See Table 1 and UNODC, Opium Economy in Afghanistan, p. 57.
14 The Bonn Agreement, December 5, 2001.
in Afghanistan. On January 17, 2002, the Afghan Interim Administration issued a ban on opium
poppy cultivation that was enforced with a limited eradication campaign in April 2002. In spite of
these efforts, the 2001-2002 opium poppy crop produced over 3400 MT of opium, reestablishing
Afghanistan as the world’s leading producer of illicit opium. Since 2002, further government bans
and stronger interdiction and eradication efforts failed to reverse an overall trend of increasing
opium poppy cultivation and opium output, although year-on-year reductions occurred from 2004
Farmers, laborers, landowners, and traffickers each play roles in Afghanistan’s opium economy.
Ongoing field research indicates that the motives and methods of each group vary considerably
based on their geographic location, their respective economic circumstances, their relationships 15
with ethnic groups and external parties, and prevailing political conditions. Studies suggest that
profit is not the universal motivating factor fueling opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan:
opium trade field researcher David Mansfield argues that the “great diversity in the socio-
economic groups involved in opium poppy in Afghanistan and the assets at their disposal” 16
ensures that “there is great disparity in the revenues that they can accrue from its cultivation.”
Household debt and land access needs also motivate opium poppy cultivation. Cultivation
patterns and motives vary from district to district.
Field studies have identified several structural barriers that limit the profitability of opium poppy
cultivation for the average Afghan farmer. Many Afghan farming households cultivate opium
poppy in order to improve their access to land, water, agricultural supplies, and credit—inputs
that remain in short supply in many of the rural areas where opium poppy is grown. Experts have
identified high levels of household debt as a powerful structural determinant of the continuation
of opium poppy cultivation among some Afghan farmers. An opium-for-credit system, known as
salaam, allows farmers to secure loans to buy necessary supplies and provisions if they agree in
advance to sell future opium harvests at rates as low as half their expected market value. Crop
failures that occurred as a result of a severe four-year nationwide drought (1998-2001) reportedly
caused many farming households to accumulate large amounts of debt in the form of salaam
loans based on future cultivation of opium poppy. In some cases, the introduction of strict poppy
cultivation bans and crop eradication policies by the Taliban in 2001 and the Afghan Interim
Authority in 2002 and 2003 increased the debt levels of many Afghan farmers by destroying
opium crops that served as collateral for salaam arrangements.
Although the Afghan government issued a decree banning opium-based loans and credit in April
Increased debt has led some farmers to mortgage land and to agree to cultivate opium poppy in
15 Analysis in this report relating to the motives and methods of Afghan farmers, land owners, and traffickers is based
on the findings of the UNODC’s “Strategic Studies” series on Afghanistan’s opium economy and a series of
commissioned development reports by David Mansfield, the Aga Khan Foundation, Frank Kenefick and Larry Morgan,
Adam Pain, and others. UNODC Strategic Studies reports are available at http://www.unodc.org/pakistan/en/
publications.html. Complete citations are provided in Appendix A.
16 David Mansfield, “The Economic Superiority of Illicit Drug Production: Myth and Reality,” International
Conference on Alternative Development in Drug Control and Cooperation, August 2001.
the future through sharecropping arrangements. Other landless farmers have reportedly been
forced to accept the crop selection choices of landowners who control their access to land and
water and who favor opium poppy over other traditional crops. According to experts, this
combination of drought-induced debt, predatory traditional lending systems, and the unintended
side-effects from government cultivation bans and eradication programs has fueled opium poppy
cultivation in Afghanistan. The 2005 UNODC/MCN opium survey warned that in areas where
farmers carry high salaam and other loan debt, significant decreases in opium poppy cultivation
and associated revenue may be “potentially problematic” and could have created “severe financial
pressure on to farmers to resume opium production [in 2006] in order not to default.”
Afghan land owners are better positioned to profit from opium poppy cultivation because of the
labor intensive nature of the opium production process. Land owners who control vital opium
cultivation inputs like land, water, and fertilizers enjoy an economic advantage in the opium
production cycle, which places heavy demands on Afghanistan’s rural agricultural labor market
during annual opium poppy planting, maintenance, and harvesting seasons. Wealthy land owners
secure the services of skilled itinerant laborers to assist in the complex opium harvesting process,
which improves their crop yields and profits. Itinerant laborers, in turn, contribute to the spread of 17
opium cultivation expertise around Afghanistan. Although opium prices have fallen since
reaching a peak of $350/kg in 2002, farmers have experienced greater profit loss than land 18
owners. Land owners also have benefitted from consolidation of property related to rising debt
levels among Afghan farmers. Land valuation based on potential opium yields also benefits land
International market prices for heroin and intermediate opiates such as morphine ensure that
individuals and groups engaged in the shipment and distribution of refined opium products earn 19
substantially higher profits than those involved with cultivating and producing raw opium gum.
According to the UNODC, “most of the opium produced in Afghanistan is converted to heroin 20
within the country.” Although opium refining facilities that produce morphine base and heroin
traditionally have been located in tribal areas along the Afghan border with Pakistan, the growth
and spread of opium cultivation in recent years has led to a corresponding proliferation of opiate
processing facilities. The large proportion of heroin in the composition of drugs seized in
countries neighboring Afghanistan reflects this proliferation and suggests that the profitability of
opiate trafficking for Afghan groups has increased significantly in recent years.
Although Afghan individuals and groups play a significant role in trafficking opiates within
Afghanistan and into surrounding countries, relatively few Afghans have been identified as
participants in the international narcotics trafficking operations that bring finished opiate products
17 See UNODC, “An Analysis of the Process of Expansion of Opium Poppy Cultivation to New Districts in
Afghanistan,” June 1998.
18 UNODC, “Afghanistan Opium Survey 2003,” p. 8.
19 See UNODC, “The Opium Economy in Afghanistan,” pp. 129-40, 165-8.
20 UNODC/MCN, Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 - Executive Summary.
such as heroin to Middle Eastern, European, or North American consumer markets.21 Ethnic and
tribal relationships facilitate the opium trade within Afghanistan, while relationships between
ethnic Tajik, Uzbek, Pashtun, and Baluchi Afghans and their counterparts in Central Asia,
Pakistan, and Iran provide a basis for the organization and networking needed to deliver Aghan 22
opiates to regional markets and into the hands of international trafficking organizations. Some
observers argue that trafficking profits are a source of economic and political instability and that
interdiction and prosecution should precede eradication efforts so that increased post-eradication
opium prices do not enrich trafficking groups further. Multilateral intelligence gathering and
interdiction operations have been initiated since 2001 and are described in further detail below.
Experts and officials have identified three areas of concern about the potential impact of the
Afghan narcotics trade on the security of Afghanistan, the United States, and the international
community. Each is first summarized, and then more fully developed below.
• Prospects for State Failure. Afghan, U.S., and international officials have
identified several correlations between the narcotics trade and negative political
and economic trends that undermine efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, establish the
rule of law, and restore a functioning and licit economy. These trends include
corruption and the existence of independent armed groups opposed to the Afghan
government’s reform and counternarcotics agendas. Similar drug-related trends
threaten countries neighboring Afghanistan. Political observers have warned that
figures involved with the drug trade have been elected or appointed to public
office and may oppose or undermine current and future counternarcotics
• “Narco-Terrorism.” Afghan and U.S. officials believe that Taliban insurgents
and regional groups associated with Al Qaeda continue to profit from
Afghanistan’s burgeoning narcotics trade. Officials also suspect that drug profits
provide some Al Qaeda operatives with financial and logistical support. U.S.
officials believe that financial and logistical relationships between narcotics
traffickers, terrorists, and criminal groups pose threats to the security of
Afghanistan and the wider international community.
• Consumption and Public Health. World health officials believe that Afghan
narcotics pose social and public health risks for populations in Afghanistan, its
neighbors, Russia, Western Europe, and, to a limited extent, the United States.
Increased use of Afghan opiates has been closely associated with increased
addiction and HIV infection levels in heroin consumption markets.
21 “The involvement of Afghan groups/individuals is basically limited to the opium production, the trade of opium
within Afghanistan, the transformation of some of the opium into morphine and heroin, and to some extent, the
trafficking of opiates to neighboring countries.” UNODC, The Opium Economy in Afghanistan, p. 64.
22 See Tamara Makarenko, “Bumper Afghan Narcotics Crop Indicates Resilience of Networks,” Jane’s Intelligence
Review, May 1, 2002.
Afghan authorities and international observers have identified negative trends associated with the
narcotics trade as barriers to the reestablishment of security, the rule of law, and a legitimate
economy throughout Afghanistan—goals that U.S. and Afghan authorities have characterized as
essential for the country’s long term stability. In a September 2004 report on Afghanistan’s
economic development, the World Bank described these related trends as “a vicious circle”
(Figure 4) that constitute “a grave danger” to the “entire state-building and reconstruction 23
Anecdotal reporting suggests that armed and well-financed trafficking groups may be
encouraging Afghan farmers to violently resist expanded drug interdiction and crop eradication
efforts. Opium production remains a source of revenue and patronage for some armed groups and
militia leaders seeking to maintain their power and influence over areas of the country at the 24
expense of the extension of national government authority. Although much of the outright
conflict between regional and factional militias that motivated opium cultivation in the past has
ended, long-established political and commercial networks linking armed groups, landowning
elites, transportation guilds, and drug syndicates continue to constitute the foundation of the
23 Testimony of Robert B. Charles, then-Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
Affairs, House International Relations Committee, September 23, 2004.
24 See UNODC, “The Opium Economy in Afghanistan,” p. 69, and Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in
Afghanistan and its Implications for International Peace and Security, August 12, 2004.
Figure 4. Narcotics and Security in Afghanistan
Source: World Bank, Afghanistan: State Building, Sustaining Growth, and Reducing Poverty, Country Economic
Report No. 29551-AF September 9, 2004, p. 87.
Fears of widespread violence are based in large part on patterns of clashes between Afghan
farmers and counternarcotics authorities seeking to eradicate crops. Recent clashes have involved 25
eradication teams that include U.S. officials and advisers. In May 2006, fighting between the
security detail for a government eradication force and farmers during the destruction of opium
crops in the northern province of Sar-e Pol led to the death of two farmers and the wounding of
nine Afghan police. Afghan soldiers and police also were killed during 2005 by attackers firing on
government eradication forces in Uruzgan and Kandahar. These clashes and attacks follow a
pattern evident in previous years, in which eradication teams employed by provincial authorities 26
faced demonstrations, small arms fire, and mined poppy fields.
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2007 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
(INCSR) on Afghanistan, “drug-related corruption remains a problem, being particularly
pervasive at provincial and district government levels.” Although the 2006 report warned that
President Karzai’s “ability to move vigorously against corruption... is severely constrained by the
practical political considerations of a nascent central government,” the 2007 report details a
number of steps taken by the central government to begin a comprehensive anti-corruption
program. In the past, Afghan counternarcotics officials have stated that “high government
officials, police commanders, governors are involved” in the drug trade and have identified
25 Jon Lee Anderson, “The Taliban’s Opium War,” New Yorker, Vol. 83:19, July 9, 2007.
26 The Afghan government’s Central Eradication Force reportedly was “rocketed by furious villagers” during a 2004
eradication mission in Wardak province outside of Kabul. Reuters, Pressure on Karzai as Afghan Drug Problem
Worsens, October 5, 2004.
“former commanders and warlords who are still in power” serving as “district chiefs and local 27
police” as the main problem with regard to corruption.
Government authorities and security forces in Afghanistan have accused each other of
involvement in opium production and trafficking, and militia commanders have clashed over
opium production and profits in various regions of the country, threatening the country’s stability 28
and the lives of civilians. Although most of Afghanistan’s prominent political figures have
publicly condemned the country’s opium economy, some political figures and their powerful
supporters are alleged to have links with the trade or hold responsibility for areas of Afghanistan
where opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking take place. Commanders under the control of
former cabinet members, former presidential candidates, and members of parliament are alleged 29
to participate in the opium trade.
As the Afghan government develops stronger counternarcotics policies and capabilities, groups
that are involved with the opium trade may join others in seeking to corrupt or subvert
Afghanistan’s democratic process. With regard to the Afghan parliament, some experts have
argued that drug money may have financed the campaigns of candidates, and at least one expert 30
warned that “drug lords” were candidates. High-level appointees also have been alleged to be
involved in narcotics trafficking. One frequently cited example is the former governor of
Helmand province, Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, who was removed from office after 9 metric 31
tons of opium were found at his offices in June 2005. When asked about the case later that year,
President Karzai said, “We don’t need to have an investigation on [Sher Mohammed]. We will
remove him from his place and bring him to do some other government work. Maybe he should 32
become a senator or something.” President Karzai appointed Akhundzada to Afghanistan’s
House of Elders (Senate equivalent) in December 2005. In June 2006, Akhundzada claimed to
have recruited several hundred armed tribesmen to combat the Taliban in Helmand with financial 33
support from the national government.
Reports continue to indicate that profits from Afghanistan’s opium trade may be overwhelming
efforts to reestablish a functioning, licit economy. According to the UNODC/MCN 2006 opium
survey, the value of the 2006 opium harvest, an estimated $3 billion, was equal in value to 45% of
the country’s licit GDP. The World Bank reports that the opium economy has produced significant
27 “Curbing Rampant Afghan Opium Trade Will Take Karzai Years,” Agence France-Presse, December 5, 2004; and
Pamela Constable, “A Poor Yield For Afghans’ War on Drugs,” Washington Post, September 19, 2006.
28 See “7 Are Killed in a Clash of Afghan Militias,” New York Times, February 9, 2004.
29 See Victoria Burnett, “Outlook Uncertain: Can Afghanistan Take the Next Step to Building a State?” Financial
Times, August 19, 2004; Carol Harrington, “Ruthless Dostum a Rival for Karzai,” Toronto Star, September 20, 2004;
and Jurgen Dahlkamp, Susanne Koelbl, and Georg Mascolo, (tr. Margot Bettauer Dembo), “Bundeswehr: Poppies,
Rocks, Shards of Trouble,” Der Spiegel [Germany], November 10, 2003.
30 Anne Barnard and Farah Stockman, “U.S. Weighs Role in Heroin War in Afghanistan,” Boston Globe, October 20,
31 John Jennings, “Opium Crops Flourish in Afghanistan after U.S. Breaks Aid Promise,” Reuters, July 4, 1991; Paul
Watson, “Where Taliban Rules Again,” Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2006; and, DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy
Statement Before the House Committee on Armed Services, June 28, 2006.
32 Steve Kroft, “Afghanistan: Addicted to Heroin,” 60 Minutes (CBS), October 16, 2005.
33 Akhundzada: “I have raised 500 people and am working on their registration. The Finance Ministry pays them $200
a month.” Simon Cameron-Moore, “Afghanistan Mulls Enlisting Tribesmen Against Taliban,” Reuters, June 11, 2006.
increases in rural wages and income and remains a significant source of credit for low income
rural households. Opium profits fuel consumption of domestic products and support imports of
high value goods such as automobiles and appliances from abroad. Funds from the drug trade are
also a major source of investment for infrastructure development projects, including major 34
projects in “building construction, trade, and transport.” In February 2005, the IMF warned that
new counternarcotics efforts, if successful, “could adversely affect GDP growth, the balance of
payments, and government revenue” by lowering drug income and weakening its support for 35
domestic consumption and taxed imports.
Afghan, coalition, and U.S. officials believe that linkages between insurgents, terrorists, and
narcotics traffickers threaten the security of Afghanistan and the international community. In
addition to moving opiates, sophisticated drug transportation and money laundering networks
may also facilitate the movement of wanted individuals and terrorist funds and support illicit
trafficking in persons and weapons. According to the U.S. State Department’s 2007 INCSR
report, “Poppy cultivation contributes to Taliban funding to include the taxing of poppy farmers
by the Taliban. In addition, some drug traffickers willingly finance insurgency activities and
provide money to buy weapons. Traffickers provide weapons, funding, and personnel to the
Taliban in exchange for the protection of drug trade routes, poppy fields, and members of their
organizations.” British officials refer to these relationships as “alliances of convenience” based on 36
the use of drug money to recruit tribal “foot soldiers.” Table 2 describes linkages between
groups involved in terrorism and the drug trade as presented by State Department officials to
Members of Congress in 2004 and 2005.
34 World Bank, State Building..., p. 87.
35 International Monetary Fund, IMF Country Report No. 05/33 - Islamic State of Afghanistan: 2004 Article IV
Consultation and Second Review, February 2005.
36 United Kingdom Defense Secretary Des Browne, “Speech to the Royal United Services Institute,” London,
September 19, 2006.
Table 2. Afghan Extremists’ Links to the Drug Trade
Afghan Are they receiving money from the Do traffickers provide them with logistical Are they telling farmers to grow opium poppy?
Extremists trade? support?
Hizb-i Islami/ Almost Definitely: HIG commanders Most Likely: HIG commanders involved in the drug Probably: Afghan government officials say the Taliban
Gulbuddin (HIG)a involved in trafficking have led attacks on trade may use those ties to facilitate weapons encourage and in some instances force poppy cultivation.
Coalition forces, and U.S. troops have smuggling and money laundering. Existing State Department estimates suggest other groups
raided labs linked to the HIG. interested in weakening the government in Kabul—like the
Taliban Almost Definitely: U.N. and Afghan Most Likely: Major drug barons who supported the HIG—may have followed suit.
officials report the group earns money Taliban when it was in power remain at large, and
from trafficking and gets donations form may be moving people, equipment, and money on the
drug lords. group’s behalf.
Islamic Probably: Uzbek officials have accused Probably: Members with drug ties may turn to Possibly: No reports, and these groups—as foreigners in
Movement of the group of involvement in the drug traffickers for help crossing borders. Afghanistan—may lack the moral and political authority needed
Uzbekistan (IMU) trade, and its remnants in Afghanistan to influence farmers’ planting decisions.
may turn to trafficking to raise funds.
iki/CRS-RL32686Al Qaedab Possibly: Only scattered reports, but fighters in Afghanistan may be engaged in Probably: Traffickers stopped during December 2003 in the Arabian Sea were linked to Al Qaeda. Al
g/wlow-level—but still lucrative—drug deals. Qaeda may hire criminals in South Asia to transfer
s.orweapons, explosives, money, and people through the
://wikiSource: Robert Charles, then-Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Testimony Before the House Committee on
httpGovernment Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources, April 1, 2004.
a. Hizb-i Islami’s leader—former anti-Soviet mujahideen commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar—is alleged to have been involved in the Afghan narcotics trade since the
b. According to U.S. officials, senior Al Qaeda leaders considered and subsequently rejected the idea of becoming directly involved in managing and profiting from Afghan
narcotics. Ideological considerations and fear of increased vulnerability to intelligence and law enforcement reportedly were the predominant factors in their decision.
Author interviews with U.S. officials in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 2005.
Afghan individuals serve as middlemen between the groups described in Table 2 and narcotics
producers and traffickers. Press reports and U.S. officials have identified three prominent figures
involved in Afghanistan’s drug trade that reportedly have financed Taliban insurgents and some
low-level Al Qaeda operatives:
• Haji Bashir Noorzai is a former confidant of ousted Taliban leader Mullah Omar
who served as a military commander during the Taliban era and was reportedly a 37
“major financial supporter of the Taliban.” In June 2004, the Bush
Administration added Haji Bashir Noorzai to the U.S. government’s drug kingpin
list. In April 2005, Noorzai was arrested by DEA officials and charged with
conspiracy to import heroin into the United States over a 15-year period. The
indictment charges that Noorzai and his organization “provided demolitions,
weaponry, and manpower to the Taliban” in return for “protection for its opium
crops, heroin laboratories, drug-transportation routes, and members and 38
a s s o ci at e s . ”
• Haji Baz Mohammed is an alleged drug organization leader from the eastern
province of Nangarhar who was transferred to the United States in October 2005
to face charges of importing Afghan heroin into the United States. According to
his indictment, Mohammed’s organization was “closely aligned with the Taliban”
and “provided financial support to the Taliban and other associated Islamic-39
extremist organizations in Afghanistan” in return for protection.
• Haji Juma Khan has been identified as an alleged drug lord and Al Qaeda
financier. In August 2004, then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International
Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) Robert Charles told Time Magazine that
Haji Juma Khan is “obviously very tightly tied to the Taliban.” Afghan Counter
Narcotics Directorate chief Mirwais Yasini added that “there are central linkages 40
among Khan, Mullah Omar and [Osama] Bin Laden.”
U.S. forces reportedly detained and released both Haji Juma Khan and Haji Bashir Noorzai in late
Taliban and Al Qaeda colleagues during questioning at Kandahar’s airport prior to his release. 42
DEA officials reportedly were unable to question him at the time. Noorzai’s forces later
surrendered a large number of weapons to coalition and Afghan authorities and provided security 43
for the then-governor of Qandahar province Gul Agha Sherzai. Juma Khan remains at large, and
37 Liz Sly, “Opium Cash Fuels Terror, Experts Say,” Chicago Tribune, February 9, 2004; John Fullerton, “Live and Let
Live for Afghan Warlords, Drug Barons,” Reuters, February 5, 2002.
38 See U.S. v. Bashir Noorzai, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, S1 05 Cr. 19, April 25, 2005.
39 See U.S. v. Baz Mohammed, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, S14 03 Cr. 486 [DC], October 25,
40 Tim McGirk, “Terrorism’s Harvest,” Time Magazine [Asia], August 2, 2004.
41 Haji Bashir reportedly described his time with U.S. forces in the following terms: “I spent my days and nights
comfortably... I was like a guest, not a prisoner.” CBS Evening News, “Newly Arrived US Army Soldiers Find it
Difficult to Adjust...,” February 7, 2002.
42 Steve Inskeep, “Afghanistan’s Opium Trade,” National Public Radio, April 26, 2002.
43 See Mark Corcoran, “America’s Blind Eye,” Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Foreign Correspondent, April 10,
Defense Department officials indicate that U.S. military forces are not directly pursuing major
figures in the Afghan opium trade, although U.S., Afghan, and coalition authorities continue to
monitor and collect intelligence on their activities and support Afghan authorities and their 44
Afghan opium presents significant public health and internal security challenges to downstream
markets where refined heroin and other opiates are consumed, including the United States. Russia
and Europe have been the main consumption markets for Afghan opiates since the early 1990s,
and estimates place Afghan opium as the source of over 90% of the heroin that enters the United
Kingdom and Western Europe annually. Russian and European leaders have expressed concern
over the growth of Afghanistan’s opium trade as both a national security threat as well as a threat
to public health and safety.
Heroin originating in southwest Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Turkey) “was the 45
predominant form of heroin available in the United States” from 1980 to 1987, and the DEA’s
Heroin Signature Program has indicated that southwest Asia-derived heroin currently constitutes 46
up to 10% of the heroin available in the United States. Since the 1980s, several figures involved
in the Afghan drug trade have been convicted of trafficking illegal drugs, including heroin, into 47
the United States. Afghan and Pakistani nationals have been indicted and convicted on heroin
trafficking and money laundering charges in U.S. courts as recently as April 2005. Since 2001,
DEA and FBI investigators have prosecuted several Afghan and Pakistani nationals in connection
with heroin trafficking and money laundering charges, including members of Pakistan’s Afridi 48
clan. Officials have indicated that some of the individuals involved in these recent cases may 49
have relationships with Taliban insurgents and members of Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda operatives and
sympathizers have been captured trafficking large quantities of heroin and hashish and attempting 50
to trade drugs for Stinger missiles.
44 Defense Department response to CRS inquiry, November 12, 2004.
45 Drug Enforcement Agency, “The Availability of Southwest Asian Heroin in the United States,” May 1996.
46 Drug Enforcement Agency, “Heroin Signature Program: 2002,” March 2004.
47 In 1985, the DEA developed evidence against a wealthy Afghan national alleged to have been “involved in supplying
Afghan rebels with weapons in exchange for heroin and hashish, portions of which were eventually distributed in
Western Europe and the United States.” See Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control - Annual Report 1985,
December 19, 1986, p. 58; See U.S. v. Roeffen, et al. [U.S. District Court of New Jersey (Trenton), 86-00013-01] and
U.S. v. Wali [860 F.2d 588 (3d Cir.1988)].
48 U.S. v. Afridi, et. al., [U.S. District Court of Maryland, (Baltimore), AW-03-0211].
49 Testimony of DEA Administrator Karen Tandy before the House International Relations Committee, February 12,
50 James W. Crawley, “U.S. Warships Pinching Persian Gulf Drug Trade,” San Diego Union-Tribune, February 9,
2004, and Tony Perry, “2 Convicted of Seeking Missiles for Al Qaeda Ally,” Los Angeles Times, March 4, 2004.
Afghan opiates have been a concern for Russian leaders since the 1980s, when Afghan drug
dealers targeted Soviet troops and many Russian soldiers returned from service in Afghanistan 51
addicted to heroin. More recently, the Russian government has expressed deep concern about
“narco-terrorist” linkages that are alleged to exist between Chechen rebel groups, their Islamist
extremist allies, and Caucasian criminal groups that traffic and distribute heroin in Russia. Since
1993, HIV infection and heroin addiction rates have skyrocketed in Russia, and these trends have
been linked to the influx and growing use of Afghan opiates. These concerns make the Afghan
narcotics trade an issue of priority interest to Russian decision makers, and motivate attention and
initiative on the part of Russian security services in the region. In response, Russian
counternarcotics officials have been deployed to Kabul.
In Europe, press outlets and public officials in several countries have devoted significant attention
to Afghanistan’s opium trade since the 1990s. In the United Kingdom, where British officials
estimate that 90-95% of the heroin that enters the country annually is derived from Afghan
opium, the public places a high priority on combating the Afghan opiate trade. In October 2001,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair cited the Taliban regime’s tolerance for opium cultivation and
heroin production as one justification for the United Kingdom’s involvement in the U.S.-led
military campaign in Afghanistan. Some British citizens and officials have criticized the Blair
Administration’s counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan and argued that more should be done to 52
stem the flow of Afghan opiates in the future. The United Kingdom has served as the lead
nation for international counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan, and British government officials
assist Afghan counternarcotics authorities in intelligence gathering and targeting operations for
interdiction and eradication. British defense officials have deployed 5,700 British troops to
participate in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), many of whom are
serving in the key southern opium-producing province of Helmand, where their mission includes
efforts to support counternarcotics operations.
Afghanistan’s opiate trade presents a range of policy challenges for Afghanistan’s neighbors,
particularly for the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. As a security issue,
regional governments face the challenge of securing their borders and populations against the
inflow of Afghan narcotics and infiltration by armed trafficking and terrorist groups. Regional
terrorist organizations and international criminal syndicates that move Afghan opiates throughout 53
the region have been linked to insecurity, corruption, and violence in several countries. As a
public health issue, Afghan narcotics have contributed to a dramatic upsurge in opiate use and
51 Defense Department officials report that steps are taken to educate U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan about the
dangers of narcotics use and to monitor and prevent drug use. Testimony of Lt. Gen. Walter L. Sharp, Director of
Strategic Plans (J-5), Before the House International Relations Committee, September 23, 2004.
52 House of Commons (UK) - Foreign Affairs Committee, Seventh Report, July 21, 2004.
53 See Tamara Makarenko, “Crime, Terror and the Central Asian Drug Trade,” Harvard Asia Quarterly, vol. 6, no. 3
(Summer 2002); and, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) Report, “Central Asia: Regional Impact of the
Afghan Heroin Trade,” U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), August 2004.
addiction rates in countries neighboring Afghanistan, a factor that also has been linked to
dramatic increases in HIV infection rates in many of Afghanistan’s neighbors. According to the
UNODC, by 2001, “Afghan opiates represented: almost 100% of the illicit opiates consumed in
... Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, 54
Azerbaijan, and the Russian Federation.” With the exception of Turkey, intravenous use of 55
Afghan opiates is the dominant driver of growing HIV infection rates in each of these countries.
These destabilizing factors could provide a powerful pretext for increased attention to and
possible intervention in Afghan affairs on the part of regional powers such as Iran and Pakistan.
The emergence of the so-called “Northern Route” of opiate trafficking through Central Asia and
the Caucasus in the mid-1990s transformed the region’s previously small and relatively self-
contained opiate market into the center of global opium and heroin trafficking. Ineffective border
control, civil war, and corruption facilitated this trend, and opiate trafficking and use in
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan now pose significant security and public
health threats to those countries. U.S. officials have implicated the Islamic Movement of
Uzbekistan in the regional drug trade, as well as well-organized and heavily armed criminal
syndicates that threaten U.S. interests.
Tajikistan has emerged as the primary transit point for Afghan opiates entering Central Asia and
being trafficked beyond. From 1998 to 2003, Tajikistan’s Drug Control Agency seized 30 MT of
drugs and narcotics, including 16 MT of heroin. U.N. authorities estimate that the European street 57st
value of the 5,600 kg of heroin seized by Tajik authorities in 2003 was over $3 billion. The 201
Russian Army Division stationed troops along the Afghan-Tajik border to disrupt the activities of
criminals, narcotics traffickers, and terrorist groups from 1993 through late 2004. Tajik and
Russian authorities completed efforts to replace these Russian military forces with Tajik border
security guards in August 2005. Russian counternarcotics officials have reported increases in
narcotics smuggling via the Tajik-Afghan border following the replacement of the Russian border
guards. Tajik officials deny the claims and have announced large-scale seizures since the 58
handover. In January 2005, Russian press sources reported that Russian border guards seized 2.5
MT of heroin on the Tajik-Afghan border in 2004. A Russian-led Collective Security Treaty
Organization interdiction effort known as Channel-2005 seized close to 9 MT of drugs in 2005, 59
including over 200 kg of heroin.
54 UNODC, “The Opium Economy in Afghanistan,” p. 33, 35.
55 For more information, see the World Health Organization’s Epidemiological Fact Sheets on HIV/AIDS at
http://www.who.int/GlobalAtlas/PDFFactory/HIV/index.asp, and Julie Stachowiak and Chris Beyrer, “HIV Follows
Heroin Trafficking Routes,” Open Society Institute - Central Eurasia Project.
56 For more on Central Asian security and public health, including information on narcotics trafficking, organized
crime, and terrorism see CRS Report RL30294, Central Asia’s Security: Issues and Implications for U.S. Interests, by
Jim Nichol and CRS Report RL30970, Health in Russia and Other Soviet Successor States: Context and Issues for
Congress, also by Jim Nichol.
57 IRIN Report, “Tajikistan: Stemming the Heroin Tide,” OCHA, September 13, 2004. Available at
58 U.S. Department of State, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2006, “Russia,” March 2006.
59 Moscow Interfax, “Russia Says Around 9 Tonnes of Afghan Drugs Seized in International Operation,” November 13,
2005. FBIS Document CEP20051113029009.
According to the State Department’s 2007 INCSR, Pakistan “remains a significant transit
country” for Afghan opiates, and Pakistani narcotics traffickers “are an important source of
financing to the poor farmers of Afghanistan.” Trafficking groups routinely use western areas of
Afghanistan and Pakistan as staging areas for the movement of opiates into and through Iran.
Efforts to control the narcotics trade in Pakistan have historically been complicated by the
government’s limited ability to assert authority over autonomous tribal zones, although recent
cooperative border security efforts with the United States have increased the presence of
government authorities in these regions and improved opium seizures by 61% in 2005. The
Pakistani government’s efforts to reduce opium poppy cultivation and heroin production since
2001 have been moderately successful; however, drug usage remains relatively high among some
elements of Pakistani society. In March 2003, former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy
Chamberlain told a House International Relations Committee panel that the role of Pakistan’s
Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency in the heroin trade from 1997-2003 had been 60
“substantial.” The 2006 INCSR stated that “as a matter of policy, neither the government of
Pakistan nor any of its senior officials encourages or facilitates” narcotics trafficking, although
the report also stated that corruption “is likely to be associated with the movement of large
quantities of narcotics and pre-cursor chemicals.”
Narcotics trafficking and use continue to present serious security and public health risks to Iran,
which, according to the State Department, serves as the transit route for 60% of the opiates
smuggled from Afghanistan. According to the 2007 INCSR, Iran claims that over 3,500 Iranian
security personnel have been killed in clashes with heavily-armed narcotics trafficking groups
over the last twenty years, and 67% of HIV infections in Iran are related to intravenous drug use
by some of the country’s more than 3 million estimated opiate users. Iran’s interdiction efforts
along its eastern borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan are widely credited with forcing opiate
traffickers to establish and maintain the “Northern Route” through Central Asia. According to the
State Department, Iranian officials seized 199 MT of opiates in the first seven months of 2005.
The 2007 INCSR cites “overwhelming evidence of Iran’s strong commitment” to
counternarcotics programs, including interdiction and demand reduction. Although the absence of
bilateral diplomatic relations prevents the United States from directly supporting counternarcotics
initiatives in Iran, the 2007 INSCR indicated that the United States and Iran “have worked
together productively” in the U.N.’s multilateral “Six Plus Two” group. Shared interest in
interdiction has led the United Kingdom to support the Iranian government’s counternarcotics
efforts since 1999 by providing millions of dollars in grants for security equipment purchases, 61
including bullet-proof vests for Iran’s border patrol guards.
60 Ambassador Wendy Chamberlain, “Transcript: Hearing of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific of the House
International Relations Committee,” Federal News Service, March 20, 2003. See also, Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, Yale
University Press, 2000, pp. 120-2, and Barnett Rubin, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, Yale University Press, 2002,
pp. 197-8. See also Rubin, Testimony Before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East
and Asian and Pacific Affairs, March 7, 1990.
61 Jason Barnes, “The Desert Village that Feeds UK’s Heroin Habit,” The Observer (UK), December 12, 1999.
The Bonn Agreement that established the Afghan Interim Authority committed Afghanistan’s new
government to cooperation with the international community “in the fight against terrorism, drugs 62
and organized crime.” After taking office in early 2002, Hamid Karzai’s transitional
administration took a series of steps to combat the growth of the Afghan narcotics trade, including
issuing a formal ban on opium cultivation, outlining a national counternarcotics strategy, and
establishing institutions and forces tasked with eradicating poppy crops and interdicting drug
traffic. Karzai’s government places a high priority on creating alternative livelihoods and sources
of income for opium growing farmers. Many countries have contributed funding, equipment,
forces, and training to various counternarcotics programs in Afghanistan, including crop
eradication and judicial reform. The United States and others work closely with Afghanistan’s
neighbors in an effort to contain the flow of narcotics and strengthen interdiction efforts.
The United Kingdom serves as the lead coalition nation for international counternarcotics policy
and assistance in Afghanistan and has announced plans to spend $510 (£270 million) on 63
counternarcotics from 2005 through 2008 (Table 6). Under British leadership, basic eradication,
interdiction, and alternative livelihood development measures began in the spring of 2002. The
U.S. Department of State’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) Bureau
administers U.S. counternarcotics and law enforcement assistance programs in Afghanistan and
coordinates with the Department of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Government of Afghanistan, the
United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
To date, U.S. forces in Afghanistan have engaged in some counternarcotics activities based on
limited rules of engagement. The role of the U.S. military in counternarcotics expanded in 2005
to include police training and limited interdiction mission support. British military units carry out
interdiction missions in cooperation with Afghan authorities on a bilateral basis that target drug
production laboratories and trafficking infrastructure. By mutual agreement, the NATO-led
International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) does not engage directly in eradication or
interdiction operations, but may provide support by improving Afghan force protection abilities
and sharing intelligence. The United States also provides counternarcotics assistance to other
countries in the region.
The Bush Administration continues to implement a “five-pillar” inter-agency initiative to
reinvigorate U.S. support for the implementation of Afghanistan’s national counternarcotics
strategy. The initiative has been accompanied by a substantial increase in spending on
counternarcotics programs, with particular emphasis on alternative livelihood development and
greater U.S. support for crop eradication efforts. Training of and equipment for Afghan
counternarcotics forces and prosecution teams also have figured prominently in the strategy.
In August 2007, the State Department released a new strategy document outlining plans to 64
improve the implementation of current counternarcotics efforts. According to the document,
62 The Bonn Agreement, December 5, 2001.
63 Dr. Kim Howells, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for the Middle East, “Afghanistan: Counter
Narcotics,” House of Commons Hansard Ministerial Statements for July 13, 2006, (Pt. 0134).
64 Detailed program information is included in the strategy document. Available at http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/rpt/
Administration officials will focus on strengthening rural development efforts, coordinating
counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations, and securing political support from Afghan
and international counterparts in order to improve performance. Each of these issues has proven
to be a key sticking point in counternarcotics efforts to date. In particular, the symbiotic
relationship between insecurity and narcotics production that has taken hold in provinces such as
Helmand may prove difficult to break. Most observers and officials expect that a long-term,
sustained international effort will be necessary to reduce the threat posed by the opium trade to
the security and stability of Afghanistan and the international community.
Among the first acts of the newly established Afghan Interim Authority created by the Bonn
Agreement was the issuance of a decree that banned the opium poppy cultivation, heroin
production, opiate trafficking, and drug use on January 17, 2002. On April 3, 2002, Afghan
authorities released a second decree that described the scope and goals of an eradication program
designed to destroy a portion of the opium poppy crop that had been planted during late 2001. In
order to prevent further cultivation during the autumn 2002 planting season, the government
issued a third, more specific decree in September 2002 that spelled out plans for the enforcement
of bans on opium cultivation, production, trafficking, and abuse.
Religious and political leaders have also spoken out adamantly against involvement in the drug
trade. Islamic leaders from Afghanistan’s General Council of Ulema issued a fatwa or religious 65
ruling in August 2004 that declared poppy cultivation to be contrary to Islamic sharia law.
Following his election in October 2004, President Hamid Karzai has made a number of public
statements characterizing involvement in opium cultivation and trafficking as shameful and
stating that provincial and district leaders would be held accountable by the central government
for failure to combat drug activity in areas under their control.
Afghan authorities developed a national drug control strategy (NDCS) in 2003 in consultation 66
with experts and officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the UNODC. The
strategy declared the Afghan government’s commitment to reducing opium poppy cultivation by
70% by 2008 and to completely eliminating poppy cultivation and drug trafficking by 2013. In
2005, the Afghan government released an implementation plan for the strategy that outlines
specific initiatives planned in five policy areas, as well as for regional cooperation, eradication, 67
and public information campaigns. New implementation plans to replace those outlined in the
2005 document remain under consideration. The government also issued a new counternarcotics
law to clarify administrative authorities for counternarcotics policy and establishes clear
procedures for investigating and prosecuting major drug offenses.
In January 2006, the Afghan government released an update of the NDCS to incorporate changes
in the structure of the government and lessons learned from previous counternarcotics efforts and
65 “Afghan Religious Scholars Urge End To Opium Economy,” Associated Press, August 3, 2004.
66 Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, National Drug Control Strategy, May 18, 2003.
67 Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, The 1384 (2005) Counter Narcotics Implementation Plan, February 16, 2005.
interagency and inter-governmental initiatives. 68 Unlike the original NDCS, the latest version
refrains from setting firm elimination targets or deadlines and identifies more general,
overarching goals. The fundamental objective, as outlined in the updated strategy, is “to secure a
sustainable decrease in cultivation, production, trafficking, and consumption of illicit drugs with a
view to complete and sustainable elimination.” Four priority areas outlined in the report focus on
the disruption of the drug trade (including high-level traffickers), the strengthening and
diversification of legal rural livelihoods, the reduction of the demand for and consumption of
illegal drugs, and the development of central and provincial level counternarcotics institutions.
Afghan authorities plan to complete a full review of the NDCS in 2007 and release a new strategy
sometime in 2008.
In October 2002, then-Interim President Hamid Karzai announced that the Afghan National
Security Council would take responsibility for counternarcotics policy and would oversee the
creation and activities of a new Counternarcotics Directorate (CND). The CND subsequently
established functional units to analyze data and coordinate action in five areas: judicial reform,
law enforcement, alternative livelihood development, demand reduction, and public awareness.
Following its establishment in late 2002, the CND worked with other Afghan ministries, local
leaders, and international authorities to develop counternarcotics policies and coordinate the
creation of counternarcotics institutions and the training of effective personnel. The CND was
transformed into a new Ministry of Counternarcotics (MCN) in December 2004. Habibullah
Qaderi resigned as Afghanistan’s Minister for Counternarcotics in July 2007. Former deputy
minister General Khodaidad currently serves as acting minister. According to the updated NDCS,
the MCN will prepare quarterly and annual reports summarizing interagency progress on
implementing the strategy.
Counternarcotics enforcement activities have been directed from within the Ministry of Interior
since 2002. General Mohammed Daud was named Deputy Ministry of Interior for
Counternarcotics in December 2004. General Daud and his staff work with U.S. and British
officials in implementing the Afghan government’s expanded counternarcotics enforcement plan.
In November 2006, the World Bank and UNODC warned that a lack of progress in reforming the
Ministry of Interior in relation to other ministries such as the Ministry of Defense has left Afghan 69
police and counternarcotics officials more vulnerable to corruption. Other relevant ministries
include the Ministries of Agriculture, Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Justice, National
Defense, Education, Foreign Affairs, Provincial Administrations, Finance, and Information.
The Ministry of Interior supervises of the following Afghan counternarcotics and law
• Counternarcotics Police-Afghanistan (CNP-A). The CNP-A consists of
investigative and enforcement divisions whose officers work closely with U.S.
and British counternarcotics authorities. CNP-A officers continue to receive U.S.
training to support their ability to plan and execute counternarcotics activities
68 Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - Ministry of Counternarcotics, National Drug Control Strategy: An Updated Five-
Year Strategy for Tackling the Illicit Drug Problem, January 2006.
69 Buddenberg and Byrd (eds.), Afghanistan’s Drug Industry, World Bank/UNODC, November 2006.
• National Interdiction Unit (NIU). The NIU was established as an elite element
of the CNP-A in October 2004 and continues to conduct significant raids across
Afghanistan. Approximately six 50-member NIU teams have received U.S.
training and over 125 officers now operate in cooperation with DEA Foreign
Advisory Support Teams (FAST teams, for more see below).
• Central Eradication Planning Cell (CPEC). The CPEC is a U.K.-supported
targeting and intelligence center that uses sophisticated technology and surveying
to target poppy crops and monitor the success of eradication operations. The
CPEC provides target data for the Central Poppy Eradication Force (CPEF).
• Afghan Eradication Force (AEF). The U.S.-supported AEF conducts ground-
based eradication of poppy crops based on targeting data provided by the Central
Eradication Planning Cell (CPEC). The force is made up of approximately 800
trained eradicators and is supported by security personnel. Afghan and U.S.
officials prioritized so-called “governor led” eradication efforts supported by
Poppy Elimination Program supervision teams for 2006, after the AEF failed to
meet its targets for 2005.
• Afghan Special Narcotics Force (ASNF). The elite ASNF, or “Force 333,” has
received special training from the British military and carries out interdiction
missions against high value targets and in remote areas. The U.S. military
provides some intelligence and airlift support for the ASNF. According to the
Ministry of Counternarcotics, the ASNF destroys approximately 150 MT of
opium annually and has raided over 190 drug laboratories.
• Border Police, National Police, and Highway Police. Approximately 62,000
Afghan police have graduated from U.S.-sponsored training facilities, including
over 7,000 border police. Elements of all three forces have received training,
equipment, and communications support from British, German, and U.S.
authorities to improve their counternarcotics enforcement capabilities. The
number of fully trained and equipped police cited by U.S. officials in September
In spite of limited efforts on the part of Afghan, U.S., and international authorities, the land area
used for opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s corresponding opiate output
has increased substantially from late 2001 through 2006. Although public awareness of
government opium poppy cultivation bans and laws outlawing participation in the narcotics trade
is widespread, until recently, counternarcotics enforcement activities have been hindered by the
Afghan government’s tactical inability to carry out nationwide, effective eradication and
interdiction campaigns as well as a lack of adequate legal infrastructure to support drug-related
prosecutions. International development agencies have made positive, but limited, efforts to
address structural economic issues associated with rural livelihoods and drug production, such as
household debt and the destruction of local agricultural market infrastructure. Such efforts were
not centrally coordinated or linked directly to counternarcotics goals and initiatives until late
Substantial growth in opium poppy cultivation and narcotics trafficking from 2001 through 2004
led U.S. officials, in consultation with their Afghan and coalition partners, to develop a more
comprehensive, complementary plan to support the implementation of Afghanistan’s national
counternarcotics strategy. The evolving policy initiative currently being implemented by U.S.
agencies consists of five key elements, or pillars, that mirror Afghan initiatives and call for 70
increased interagency and international cooperation. The five pillars of the U.S. initiative are (1)
public information, (2) judicial reform, (3) alternative livelihood development, (4) interdiction,
and (5) eradication.
According to U.S. officials, new initiatives to improve the results of existing counternarcotics 71
policies will be implemented over the coming 12 months. Highlights of the new plans include
the enlargement of existing financial and development rewards to poppy-free provinces and the
introduction of new development awards for provinces contributing to significant interdiction or
prosecutions. Eradication rewards on a per hectare basis also are planned. Resources devoted to
interdiction activities are to be doubled, and airlift and intelligence operations in support of
interdiction and eradication efforts are to be expanded. The three strategic goals for the new
initiatives are as follows:
• “dramatically increasing development assistance to incentivize licit development
while simultaneously amplifying the scope and intensity of both interdiction and
• “coordinating counternarcotics (CN) and counterinsurgency (COIN) planning
and operations in a manner not previously accomplished, with a particular
emphasis on integrating drug interdiction into the counterinsurgency mission;
• “encouraging consistent, sustained political will for the counternarcotics effort
among the Afghan government, our allies, and international civilian and military
Afghan and U.S. authorities have initiated public information campaigns to reach out to ordinary
Afghans and raise public awareness about the threat of narcotics and the danger of participation 72
in the illegal drug trade. The efforts build on the Afghan government’s public awareness
strategy, which enlists local community and religious leaders to support the government’s
counternarcotics policies and encourages them to speak out in their communities against drug use
and involvement the opium trade. As noted above, Islamic leaders from Afghanistan’s General
70 David Shelby, “United States to Help Afghanistan Attack Narcotics Industry,” Washington File, U.S. Department of
State, November 17, 2004.
71 For detailed information see, U.S. Counternarcotics Strategy for Afghanistan, August 2007, available at
http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/rpt/90561.htm; Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics
and Law Enforcement Affairs Schweich News Briefing on the Counternarcotics Situation in Afghanistan, August 29,
2007; and Ambassador William Wood’s Remarks at the Third Annual National Counter Narcotics Conference, August
Council of Ulema have supported this effort by publicly condemning poppy cultivation and 73
involvement in the drug trade.
The UNODC/MCN 2005 Opium Survey found that farmers across Afghanistan were well aware
of the government’s ban on opium poppy cultivation and that many farmers who declined to
cultivate opium poppy did so because they feared eradication or incarceration. An earlier survey
also reported that farmers in provinces where opium poppy cultivation was found to have
increased believed that the government could not or would not enforce the ban. The
UNODC/MCN’s 2006 and 2007 surveys reported that Islamic prohibitions on involvement with
narcotics also was influential among Afghans, particularly those that had not yet been involved
with cultivation or trafficking.
The U.S. campaigns supplement existing public information efforts designed to reduce demand
for illegal drugs within Afghan society and spread awareness of the Afghan government’s opium
poppy cultivation bans and drug laws. The newly launched strategic initiative will expanded U.S.
officials’ participation in targeted local outreach campaigns.
State Department (INL office) and Justice Department personnel are undertaking judicial reform
efforts to further enable Afghan authorities to enforce counternarcotics laws and prosecute
prominent individuals involved in narcotics trafficking. A Criminal Justice Task Force (CJTF) has
been developed and granted jurisdiction over significant narcotics cases under presidential decree.
The CJTF features integrated teams of prosecutors and investigators that are being specially
trained to handle complex, high-profile cases. U.S. federal prosecutors participate in CJTF
training activities in Afghanistan, and the training program is set to be expanded as part of the
new strategy launched in August 2007. The CJTF prepares cases for the Central Narcotics
Tribunal (CNT) under the jurisdiction of fourteen specially trained judges. The U.S. Defense
Department supported the construction of a secure court facility and has contributed to the
construction of a maximum-security wing at the Pol-e Charki prison near Kabul to hold offenders
prosecuted by the Task Force.
Afghan and coalition officials are currently working to identify targets for prosecution, although,
according to U.S. officials, political concerns and security considerations will play a role in the
targeting of individuals. The April 2005 arrest of Haji Bashir Noorzai by U.S. officials and the
transfer of Haji Baz Mohammed raised concern about the readiness and ability of Afghan
authorities to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate drug suspects independently. According to an
Afghan Interior Ministry official, “Afghan police had no role in [Noorzai’s] arrest,” and Afghan 74
authorities were constrained because of “a lack of concrete evidence against him.”
With U.S. and coalition support, the government of Afghanistan drafted and issued a new
counternarcotics law in December 2005 that clarifies administrative authorities for
counternarcotics policy and establishes clear procedures for investigating and prosecuting major
drug offenses. The Afghan Parliament has proposed amendments to the law that remain pending.
U.S. officials have called on the Afghan authorities “to start prosecuting corrupt officials” and “to
73 “Afghan Religious Scholars Urge End To Opium Economy,” Associated Press, August 3, 2004.
74 Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal. “Afghan Drugs Kingpin Seized by US was Untouchable in
Afghanistan: Experts,” Agence France-Presse, April 27, 2005.
start building cases that will stand up in court” under the new law.75 Former Counternarcotics
Minister Habibullah Qaderi conceded in September 2006 that to date Afghan authorities were
“not going after the people who matter,” although some observers expect that corrupt officials
and higher level narcotics traffickers may be prosecuted under the new law as planned anti-
corruption initiatives move forward. President Karzai has named a new Chief Justice for
Afghanistan’s Supreme Court and a new Attorney General, who, according to the State
Department is “an anti-corruption activist” and is “pursuing corruption investigations against
politically sensitive targets.”
In order to provide viable economic alternatives to opium poppy cultivation and drug production,
U.S. officials have developed a three-phased plan that directly links development initiatives to
overall counternarcotics efforts through a comprehensive program targeted to opium producing
areas. The first phase of the alternative livelihoods plan accelerated existing agricultural
development initiatives, including improvements to agricultural market infrastructure, farmer
education programs, and micro-credit lending systems to support rural families. The new efforts
build on existing USAID programs to develop integrated systems of crop processing facilities,
storage areas, roads, and markets, and to restore wheat and other cereal crop production levels.
Work began on phase one projects in early 2005 and continued through 2006.
The second phase of the plan consists of an “immediate needs”/ “cash-for-work” program that
continues to sponsor labor-intensive work projects to provide non-opium incomes to rural
laborers and to rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure. The program began in December 2004 and
continued through 2007. USAID personnel design “immediate needs” projects in consultation
with local councils and tribal leaders in districts where crop eradication has been planned or 77
where farmers have agreed to cease poppy cultivation. According to USAID, in main opium
producing provinces, USAID-sponsored alternative livelihood cash-for-work programs have paid
$19.6 million in salaries to 214,000 farmers who otherwise may have engaged in or supported
opium poppy cultivation. Over 6,200 km of irrigation canals, drainage ditches, and traditional
water transportation systems have been repaired and cleaned in a number of provinces, improving
irrigation and supporting high value agriculture on an estimated 290,000 hectares of land. More
than 650,000 farmers have received seeds or fertilizer (or both) in conjunction with 78
counternarcotics information across Afghanistan since late 2005.
The third, “comprehensive development” phase of the plan began in six key poppy-producing
provinces during 2005 and is scheduled to be implemented through 2009. Current and planned
projects include long-term infrastructure development for urban and rural areas, credit and
75 Thomas A. Schweich, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law
Enforcement Affairs, quoted in Pamela Constable, “A Poor Yield For Afghans’ War on Drugs,” Washington Post,
September 19, 2006.
76 USAID information available online at http://www.usaid.gov/locations/asia_near_east/countries/afghanistan/
77 USAID has established a “Good Performer’s Fund” to reward districts that end cultivation with high visibility
infrastructure development projects.
78 Anne W. Patterson, Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Testimony before
the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related
Programs, September 12, 2006; USAID, Alternative Livelihoods Update: Issue 13, August 2006; and, author
consultation with USAID Afghanistan Desk Office, January 2006.
financial services expansion, agricultural diversification, and private investment support. The
Afghan government requested that USAID expand alternative livelihood programs into the
provinces of Ghor, Dai Kundi, Konar, Farah, and Uruzgan, and USAID personnel have consulted
with contractors and security officials and initiated preliminary projects in some of those
Table 3. Alternative Livelihood Proposed Spending Targets by Province, FY2005-2007
2004 Province Share
Province Immediate Needs Comprehensive Development of Nationwide Poppy
Nangarhar and Laghman $18 $110 21.1%
Helmand and Kandahar $19 $120 34.2%
Badakhshan and Takhar $1.5 $60 8.6%
Source: USAID, Alternative Livelihoods Update: Issue 2, March 16-31, 2005.
Accountability standards have been built into the USAID alternative livelihood programs,
including seed and fertilizer distributions and cash-for-work programs. Seed and fertilizer
recipients, including government officials, are required to agree in writing not to grow poppy in
exchange for program support. Cash-for-work program participants must make similar
commitments, and program staff monitor participant activities outside of the program to ensure
compliance. According to USAID, all alternative livelihood program assistance is 100% 79
conditional on the reduction of poppy cultivation within one year of the receipt of assistance.
Positive incentives also are provided via a multi-million dollar “Good Performers Fund,” which is
scheduled to be expanded as part of the new U.S. implementation plan announced in August
2007. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID plans to
contribute over $245 million (£130 million) to development and alternative livelihood programs 80
as part of the UK’s counternarcotics program from 2005-2008.
Reflecting on the absence of effective counternarcotics institutions and authorities in post-Taliban
Afghanistan, international authorities led by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA) established a series of cooperative interdiction initiatives in countries neighboring
Afghanistan beginning in early 2002. The primary U.S.-led effort, known as “Operation
Containment,” is designed to “implement a joint strategy to deprive drug trafficking organizations
of their market access and international terrorist groups of financial support from drugs, precursor 81
chemicals, weapons, ammunition and currency.” Operation Containment has continued since
early 2002 and currently involves “nineteen countries from Central Asia, the Caucasus, Europe 82
and Russia.” According to the DEA, Operation Containment activities in FY2005 were
79 Author consultation with USAID Afghanistan Desk Office, January 2006.
80 Dr. Kim Howells, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for the Middle East, “Afghanistan: Counter
Narcotics,” House of Commons Hansard Ministerial Statements for July 13, 2006, (Pt. 0134).
81 DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy, House Committee on Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice,
Drug Policy and Human Resources, February 26, 2004.
responsible for the seizure of “11.5 metric tons of heroin, 1.3 metric tons of morphine base, 43.9
metric tons of opium gum, 248 drug labs, and 146 investigations including efforts that led to the 83
arrest of alleged drug lords Haji Bashir Noorzai and Haji Baz Mohammed. A similar
multinational DEA-led effort named Operation Topaz has focused on interdicting acetic
anhydride—a primary heroin production precursor chemical—to Afghanistan.
According to U.S. officials, resources devoted to interdiction efforts will be doubled over the
period from September 2007 to September 2008. In addition to ongoing international narcotics
and precursor interdiction initiatives, U.S. officials provide support to Afghan government
interdiction efforts through intelligence cooperation, training programs, equipment transfers, and
joint operations. The DEA has significantly expanded its presence in Afghanistan since January
2003, although in the past DEA officials have cited restrictions on the capabilities and freedom of
movement of their staff in Afghanistan due to a general lack of security outside of Kabul and
difficulty in securing air mobility assets (see discussion of security and mobility issues below).
DEA Foreign Advisory and Support Teams (FAST) have been deployed to Afghanistan “to
provide guidance and conduct bilateral investigations that will identify, target, and disrupt illicit
drug trafficking organizations.” The FAST teams receive Defense Department transportation and
construction support and are currently conducting operations and serving as mentors to officers of
the Afghan National Interdiction Unit. The DEA received new FY2006 funding to expand its
operational presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia, including support for FAST teams,
Operation Containment activities, and new field officers. In December 2006, House International
Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde announced a reported change in policy that will
allow DEA agents to accompany U.S. military forces on operational raids of narcotics-related 84
sites in Afghanistan.
Current Defense Department directives state that U.S. military forces in Afghanistan do not and
will not directly target drug production facilities or pursue drug traffickers as a distinct 85
component of ongoing U.S. counternarcotics initiatives. Current rules of engagement allow U.S.
forces to seize and destroy drugs and drug infrastructure discovered during the course of routine
military operations carried out in pursuit of conventional counterterrorism and stability 86
missions. U.S. forces continue to provide limited intelligence and air support to Afghan and
British forces during interdiction missions, including the destruction of heroin laboratories and
opiate storage warehouses. U.S. initiatives that supply Afghan police with tents, boots,
communication equipment, mobility support, infrastructure improvements, and training are
expected to continue. Defense Department and military personnel plan to focus future efforts on
further improving Afghanistan’s border security and providing greater intelligence support to
Afghan law enforcement officials through joint military/DEA/Afghan “intelligence fusion 87
centers” located at U.S. facilities in Kabul and the Afghan Ministry of Interior.
83 DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy Statement Before the House Committee on Armed Services, June 28, 2006.
84 The Department of Defense and the Drug Enforcement Administration did not comment publicly. “Hyde Praises
Department of Defense Support for Drug Enforcement Administration Efforts in Afghanistan,” House Committee on
International Relations News Advisory, Thursday, December 07, 2006.
85 Defense Department response to CRS inquiry, November 12, 2004.
86 Testimony of Thomas W. O’Connell, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-intensity
Conflict Before House International Relations Committee, February 12, 2004; and Defense Department response to
CRS inquiry, November 12, 2004.
87 Statement of Lennard J. Wolfson, Assistant Deputy Director for Supply Reduction, Office of National Drug Control
Policy, Committee on House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human
Resources, May 10, 2005.
British forces currently contribute to a central targeting operation that identifies opiate
warehouses and processing facilities for destruction. British Customs and Excise authorities also
work with Afghan officials through mobile heroin detection units in Kabul. British and other
troops in the key opium-producing province of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan are
under the NATO-led support security and counternarcotics operations but do not have a role in 88
directly targeting high-level narcotic traffickers.
Some critics have cited growth in opium poppy cultivation figures as evidence that manual
eradication campaigns have failed thus far to serve as a credible deterrent for Afghan farmers.
Plans developed by the State Department, in consultation with Afghan authorities, called for early
and more robust opium poppy eradication measures for the 2004-2005 growing season to provide
a strong deterrent to future cultivation. The Afghan Central Poppy Eradication Force (CPEF)
carried out limited operations with support from U.K. intelligence officers, U.S. advisors, and
international contractors in early 2005. Field reports indicated that CPEF personnel met violent
resistance from farmers in some instances and largely failed to meet their eradication targets for 89
the 2004-2005 season. State Department officials identified the failure of 2004-2005 eradication
activities as one factor behind the surge in poppy cultivation that occurred during the 2005-2006
season, and made similar judgments with regard to the 2006-2007 crop.
The centrally organized and executed eradication plan in 2004-2005 marked a departure from
previous eradication campaign strategies, which largely relied upon governors and local
authorities to target and destroy crops. Most governors pledged to support President Karzai’s
eradication initiatives in 2005, and U.S. officials report that areas where governors and local
leaders embraced and enforced the central government’s eradication demands saw significant
reductions in poppy cultivation. In response to these trends, “poppy elimination programs”
(PEPs) have been established in select Afghan provinces as part of a change toward “governor-
led” and centrally monitored eradication. The PEPs consist of 7-member Afghan and international
teams that direct and monitor locally led and administered counternarcotics activities, including
public information campaigns eradication, and will advise the central government on any needed
Central government and governor-led eradication efforts during the 2005-2006 season tripled the
amount of eradicated poppy (15,713 hectares, roughly 10% of the total national poppy crop).
Expanded dual-track eradication further increased the eradicated area in the 2006-2007 season
(19,047 hectares, a 24% increase). U.S. officials have stressed the importance of early season,
locally executed eradication in order to minimize violent farmer resistance and give Afghan
farmers time to plant licit replacement cash crops. A persistent problem remains the targeting of
eradication on the fields of non-influential and smaller scale landowners and farmers. U.S.
officials emphasized in August 2007 the need for non-negotiated, equitable eradication to
strengthen the effect of current efforts.
88 “Troops deployed as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)—including British forces
deployed as part of the Helmand Task Force—are authorized to provide support to Afghan counter-narcotics forces,
including training, and they will help the Afghans create a secure environment in which economic development and
institutional reform—both essential to the elimination of the opium industry—can take place.” Des Browne, UK
Secretary of State for Defense, House of Commons Hansard Record, Written Answers to Questions, July 24, 2006.
89 Author conversation with DEA official, Washington, DC, May 2005.
New methods and technologies for future eradication activities also are under consideration,
including the introduction of manual herbicide spraying to improve eradication teams’ efficiency.
In January 2007, President Karzai announced that any herbicide-based eradication efforts would
be delayed until 2008 at the earliest. Coalition partners such as the United Kingdom have refused
to provide security support to eradication programs in the absence of more widespread economic
development and alternative livelihood assistance.
Experts and government officials have warned that narcotics trafficking may jeopardize the
success of international efforts to secure and stabilize Afghanistan. U.S. officials believe that
efforts to reverse the related trends of opium cultivation, drug trafficking, corruption, and
insecurity must expand if broader strategic objectives are to be achieved. A broad interagency
initiative to assist Afghan authorities in combating the narcotics trade has been developed, but
officials argue that the full effectiveness of new U.S. efforts will not be apparent until capacity
building efforts are complete and all elements of the strategy are advanced simultaneously.
Regional insecurity and corruption also present formidable challenges.
Primary issues of interest to the Congress include program funding, the role of the U.S. military, th
and the scope and nature of eradication and development assistance initiatives. The 108
Congress addressed the issue of counternarcotics in Afghanistan in intelligence reform proposals, th
and the 109 Congress considered new counternarcotics policy proposals in relation to FY2006 th
and FY2007 appropriation and authorization requests. During the term of the 110 Congress, the
full effectiveness of the U.S. five-pillar plan should become apparent—Administration officials
have argued that, to date, insecurity in key opium poppy producing areas, delays in building and
reforming Afghan institutions, and widespread local Afghan corruption have prevented its full
implementation. According to Administration officials, the new U.S. implementation plan
announced in August 2007 is designed to capitalize on achievements to date and improve
performance in weaker areas.
As noted above, narcotics trafficking and political instability remain intimately linked across
Afghanistan. U.S. officials have identified narcotics trafficking as a primary barrier to the
establishment of security and consider insecurity to be a primary barrier to successful
counternarcotics operations. Critics of existing counternarcotics efforts have argued that Afghan
authorities and their international partners remain reluctant to directly confront prominent
individuals and groups involved in the opium trade because of their fear that confrontation will
lead to internal security disruptions or armed conflict with drug-related groups. Afghan
authorities have expressed their belief that “the beneficiaries of the drugs trade will resist attempts
to destroy it,” and have argued that “the political risk of internal instability caused by
counternarcotics measures” must be balanced “with the requirement to project central authority 90
nationally” for counternarcotics purposes. Conflict and regional security disruptions have
accompanied efforts to expand crop eradication programs and previous efforts to implement
central government counternarcotics policies.
90 National Drug Control Strategy, Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, May 18, 2003.
U.S. officials have identified rural security and national rule of law as prerequisites for effective
counternarcotics policy implementation, while simultaneously identifying narcotics as a primary 91
threat to security and stability. Although an increasing number of Afghan police, security forces,
and counternarcotics authorities are being trained by U.S. and coalition officials, the size and
capability of Afghan forces may limit their power to effectively challenge entrenched drug
trafficking groups and regional militia in the short term. Specifically, questions remain as to
whether Afghan security and counternarcotics forces alone will be able to establish the security
conditions necessary for the more robust eradication, interdiction, and alternative livelihood
programs planned by U.S. and Afghan officials. As of September 2007, new U.S. initiatives were
planned to strengthen Afghan force protection capabilities.
From a political perspective, U.S. officials maintain that parliamentary and provincial elections
contributed to the political legitimacy of the central government and, by extension, its
counternarcotics initiatives. However, the creation of sufficient political and military stability for
effective counternarcotics operations is likely to remain a significant challenge. Local police and
officials are considered to be the best positioned to create conditions of security necessary for
“full spectrum” counternarcotics activity. They also are considered to be the most susceptible to
narcotics related corruption. The death of several local contractor employees working on USAID
alternative livelihood projects in May 2005 brought renewed urgency to concerns about the
provision of security as a prerequisite for non-enforcement related counternarcotics programs.
In pursuing counterterrorism objectives, Afghan and coalition authorities also must consider
difficult political choices when confronting corrupt officials, militia leaders, and narcotics
traffickers. Regional and local militia commanders with alleged links to the opium trade played
significant roles in coalition efforts to undermine the Taliban regime and capture Al Qaeda
operatives, particularly in southeastern Afghanistan. Since late 2001, some of these figures have
been incorporated into government and security structures, including positions of responsibility 92
for enforcing counternarcotics policies. According to Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin, “the
empowerment and enrichment of the warlords who allied with the United States in the anti-
Taliban efforts, and whose weapons and authority now enabled them to tax and protect opium 93
traffickers,” have provided the opium trade “with powerful new protectors.”
Pragmatic decisions taken since 2001 to prioritize counterterrorism operations and current plans
to enforce counternarcotics policies more strictly may conflict with each other, forcing Afghan
and coalition authorities to address seemingly difficult contradictions. “Tactical” coalition allies
91 “Poppy cultivation is likely to continue until responsible governmental authority is established throughout the
country and until rural poverty levels can be reduced via provision of alternative livelihoods and increased rural
incomes.... Drug processing and trafficking can be expected to continue until security is established and drug law
enforcement capabilities can be increased.” Department of State, INCSR, March 2005.
92 See Syed Saleem Shahzad, “U.S. Turns to Drug Baron to Rally Support,” Asia Times, December 4, 2001; Charles
Clover and Peronet Despeignes, “Murder Undermines Karzai Government,” Financial Times, July 8, 2002; Susan B.
Glasser, “U.S. Backing Helps Warlord Solidify Power,” Washington Post, February 18, 2002; Ron Moreau and Sami
Yousafzai, with Donatella Lorch, “Flowers of Destruction,” Newsweek, July 14, 2003; Andrew North, “Warlord Tells
Police Chief to Go,” BBC News, July 12, 2004; Steven Graham, “Group: Warlords to Hinder Afghan Election,”
Associated Press, September 28, 2004; and Anne Barnard and Farah Stockman, “U.S. Weighs Role in Heroin War in
Afghanistan,” Boston Globe, October 20, 2004.
93 Rubin, “Road to Ruin: Afghanistan’s Booming Opium Industry,” October 7, 2004.
in militia and other irregular forces with ties to the drug trade may inhibit the ability of the central
government to extend its authority and enforce its counternarcotics policies. According to the
2007 UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey, “in the provinces bordering with Pakistan, tacit
acceptance of opium trafficking by foreign military forces as a way to extract intelligence
information and occasional military support in operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaida
undermines stabilization efforts.” At the same time, U.S. and Afghan officials have been
increasingly adamant is stating that the Taliban resurgence that has unfolded since early 2006 has
been supported in part by narcotics proceeds.
These issues may weigh strongly in decision concerning the feasibility and prospects for success
of continuing counterterrorism and counternarcotics operations. One senior Defense Department
official has argued that U.S. counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan must recognize “the impact
the drug trade has on our other policy objectives, while complementing (and not competing with) 94
our other efforts in furtherance of those objectives.” Striking such a balance may continue to
create challenges for the United States and its allies.
Some observers have argued that U.S., coalition, and NATO military forces should play an active,
direct role in targeting the leaders and infrastructure of the opiate trade. Following the
announcement of record poppy cultivation and opium production in 2005-2006, UNODC
Director Antonio Maria Costa called for direct NATO military involvement in counternarcotics
enforcement operations in Afghanistan, which is precluded under the NATO agreement governing
the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Although U.S. Central Command
(CENTCOM) officials have indicated that “the DoD counter-narcotics program in Afghanistan is 95
a key element of our campaign against terrorism,” military officials have resisted the
establishment of a direct counternarcotics enforcement role for U.S. forces. Former NATO
Commander U.S. General James Jones supported the idea that counternarcotics enforcement is
“not a military mission,” stating that “having NATO troops out there burning crops, for example, 96
is not going to significantly contribute to the war on drugs.”
Other opponents of a direct enforcement role for U.S., coalition, or NATO forces claim that such
a role may alienate forces from the Afghan population, jeopardize ongoing counterterrorism
missions that require Afghan intelligence support, and divert military resources from direct
counter-insurgent and counterterrorism operations. The House report on the FY2007 Defense
authorization bill argued that the Department of Defense “must not take on roles in which other
countries or other agencies of the U.S. Government have core capabilities” with regard to
counternarcotics in Afghanistan. According to the Department of Defense, U.S. military forces
currently are authorized to seize narcotics and related supplies encountered during the course of
normal stability and counterterrorism operations. Similarly, at present, NATO forces provide
94 Testimony of Mary-Beth Long, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics before the House
Committee on International Relations, March 17, 2005.
95 “U.S. CENTCOM views narcotrafficking as a significant obstacle to the political and economic reconstruction of
Afghanistan... Local terrorist and criminal leaders have a vested interest in using the profits from narcotics to oppose
the central government and undermine the security and stability of Afghanistan.” Major Gen. John Sattler, USMC, Dir.
of Operations-US CENTCOM before the House Committee on Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal
Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources, April 21, 2004.
96 Lolita C. Baldor, “NATO to Provide More Afghanistan Troops,” Associated Press, September 20, 2006.
support for Afghan and coalition counternarcotics initiatives but refrain from direct involvement
Current U.S. policy calls for an expanded role for U.S. military forces in training, equipping, and
providing intelligence and airlift support for Afghan counternarcotics teams, but stops short of
elevating narcotics targets to a direct priority for U.S. combat teams. Section 1021 of the Defense
Authorization Act for FY2004 (P.L. 108-136) added Afghanistan to the list of countries eligible
for transfers of non-lethal Defense Department counternarcotics equipment authorized under
Section 1033 of the Defense Authorization Act for FY1998 (P.L. 105-85). The FY2005 and
FY2006 supplemental appropriations acts (P.L. 109-13 and P.L. 109-234) further authorized the
provision of individual and crew-served weapons, ammunition, vehicles, aircraft, and detection,
interception, monitoring and testing equipment to Afghan counternarcotics forces. To date, .50-
caliber machine guns have been provided along with night vision equipment and a range of other
supplies. Afghan counternarcotics forces have requested further weaponry in response to attacks
by well armed and supplied trafficking groups. The FY2007 Defense Authorization Act (P.L. 109-
364) reauthorized provision of .50-caliber and lighter crew-served weaponry and ammunition
The conference report (H.Rept. 109-360) on the Defense Authorization Act for FY2006 (P.L. 109-
Section 1033) that would have authorized the Defense Department to provide a range of technical
and operational support to Afghan counternarcotics authorities under Section 1004 of the Defense
Authorization Act for FY1991 (P.L. 101-510). The Senate version would have authorized “the use
of U.S. bases of operation or training facilities to facilitate the conduct of counterdrug activities in
Afghanistan” in response to the Defense Department’s request “to provide assistance in all
aspects of counterdrug activities in Afghanistan, including detection, interdiction, and related 97
criminal justice activities.” This would have included transportation of personnel and supplies,
maintenance and repair of equipment, the establishment and operation of bases and training
facilities, and training for Afghan law enforcement personnel.
Options for improving the mobility and reach of Afghan forces and U.S. advisors also have been
considered and addressed since 2004. In response to calls for greater airlift support, Defense
Department officials agreed in March 2005 to provide limited airlift assistance (four operations
per month) to U.S. and Afghan interdiction teams using U.S. Blackhawk and Soviet-era Mi-8
helicopters. Successful interdiction operations in remote areas have been carried out on this basis
since mid-March 2005, and further helicopter leasing and pilot training arrangements have been
made that will supply a total of 8 MI-17 helicopters to Afghan forces by the end of 2006. Training
efforts for MI-17 pilots and crew are ongoing at Ft. Bliss in Texas. The Department of Defense
prioritizes counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations when considering requests for U.S. 98
military airlift assistance by other entities. The State Department operates ten Huey-II
97 S.Rept. 109-69.
98 Prior to 2006, Defense Department airlift support to DEA and Afghan authorities was minimal. From January to June
2006, the Defense Department supported 12 of 17 airlift missions requested by DEA. As mentioned above, in
December 2006, the Department of Defense reportedly agreed to allow DEA agents to ride along on select missions to
helicopters that provide medical evacuation, re-supply, transportation, reconnaissance, command
and control, and security for Afghan counternarcotics operations. A fixed-wing aircraft and two
further helicopters also provide higher altitude and higher capacity airlift support. For other
FY2007 equipment, weaponry, and mobility considerations, see below.
Proponents of swift, widespread eradication argued that destroying a large portion of the 2004-
2005 opium poppy crop was necessary in order to establish a credible deterrent before opium
production in Afghanistan reaches an irreversible level. Critics of widespread, near-term
eradication argued that eradication in the absence of existing alternative livelihood options for
Afghan farmers would contribute to the likelihood that farmers would continue to cultivate opium 99
poppy in the future by deepening opium based debt and driving up opium prices. U.S. and
Afghan authorities maintain that the Central Poppy Eradication Force and governor-led
eradication programs were effective in deterring and reducing some opium poppy cultivation in
2005. However, given recurrent clashes between eradication forces and farmers and accounts of
selective, politicized eradication efforts by local authorities, some observers and officials have
expressed concern about the safety and effectiveness of current ground-based eradication efforts.
During the 2006 season, “poppy elimination program” teams were partially introduced to key
opium poppy growing provinces to monitor and direct early season, locally-executed eradication
activities. This strategy was designed to minimize violent farmer resistance to central government
forces and give farming families time to plant replacement cash crops. Eradication increased
three-fold from 2004-2005 to 2005-2006, but results varied drastically based on location and local
political and security conditions. In many areas, small farms have been targeted for eradication by
local authorities rather than larger plantations associated with influential or wealthy individuals.
In August 2007, U.S. officials identified non-negotiated, large-scale eradication operations as a
goal and cited the need for better force protection capabilities and political will on the part of the
Policy makers are likely to engage in further debate concerning options for using herbicides for
manual or aerial poppy eradication and their possible risks and rewards. Afghan and U.S.
authorities discussed the introduction of aerial herbicide-based eradication to Afghanistan in late
2004, but decided against initiating a program in early 2005 due to financial, logistical, and
political considerations. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has expressed his categorical opposition 100
to the use of aerial eradication, citing public health and environmental safety concerns. The
narcotics relevant locations. Sources: Author consultation with Defense Department officials, September 2006; and,
House Committee on International Relations.
99 A September 2004 British government report argues that “if not targeted properly, eradication can have the reverse
effect and encourage farmers to cultivate more poppy to pay off increased debts.” Response of the Secretary of State
for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (UK) to the Seventh Report from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs
Committee, September 2004.
100 Office of the Spokesperson to the President—Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, “About the Commitment by
the Government of Afghanistan to the Fight Against Narcotics and Concerns About the Aerial Spraying of Poppy
updated 2006 Afghan national drug control strategy also states that “The Government has also
decided that eradication must only be delivered by manual or mechanical ground based 101
means.” U.S. officials have argued for more widespread and non-negotiated eradication
operations and have stated that while herbicides may be efficient and safe, U.S. officials will
follow the decisions of Afghan officials concerning their potential use.
Proponents of aerial eradication argue that the large amount of rural land under poppy cultivation
in Afghanistan and poor road infrastructure makes ground-based eradication inefficient, subjects
eradication teams to unnecessary security threats, and raises associated costs. Critics of aerial
eradication argue that the mixed-crop cultivation patterns common throughout Afghanistan will
expose legitimate food crops to damage and warn that aerial spraying may produce widespread,
possibly violent resistance by villagers with vivid memories of centrally directed Soviet military
campaigns to destroy food crops and agricultural infrastructure. The Senate report on the FY2005
supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 1268) specified that “none of the funds recommended by
the Committee may be available for aerial eradication programs within Afghanistan absent a
formal request by the President of Afghanistan seeking such support.” Manual herbicide spraying
by Afghan eradication teams may be under consideration for future introduction as a means of
Herbicide-based eradication, whether aerial or manual, remains politically sensitive. Reports of
unauthorized aerial spraying in eastern Nangarhar province in mid-November 2004 angered
Afghan officials and led to an investigation by the Afghan Ministries of Agriculture and Health of
claims that crops had been sprayed with herbicides by unidentified aircraft. The government
investigation reportedly revealed that unidentified chemicals were present in soil samples, that
non-narcotic crops had been destroyed, and that an increase in related illnesses in local villages
had occurred. Afghan officials cited U.S. control of Afghan airspace in their subsequent demands
for an explanation. U.S. and British officials have denied involvement in the spraying and assured 102
Afghan authorities that they support President Karzai’s position. In early December 2004, then-
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad suggested that “some drug-associated people”
may have sprayed the crops “in order to create the sort of distrust and problem between 103
Afghanistan and some of its allies.” Observers noted that the vocal negative reaction of the
Afghan population and government to an alleged isolated spraying incident illustrates the type of
popular opposition that may accompany any future herbicide spraying eradication program. In
January 2007, President Karzai announced that any herbicide-based eradication efforts would be
delayed until 2008 at the earliest, and presidential spokesmen repeated their criticism of
herbicides in September.
Afghan government officials would have to approve any future herbicide spraying operations
undertaken by U.S. or Afghan personnel in Afghanistan. Any future aerial eradication in
Afghanistan also would require significant funding and the introduction of airframes and military
support aircraft that exceed current U.S. capabilities in the region. Herbicide-based eradication
programs, if employed in the future, could feature the use of the glyphosate compound currently
101 Afghanistan Ministry of Counternarcotics, Updated NDCS, January 2006, p. 21.
102 See David Brunnstrom, “Afghans Committed to Drug War But Against Spraying,” Reuters, November 19, 2004;
and Stephen Graham, “Afghan Government Concerned at Spraying of Opium Crops by Mystery Aircraft,” Associated
Press, November 30, 2004.
103 Carlotta Gall, “Afghan Poppy Farmers Say Mystery Spraying Killed Crops,” New York Times, December 5, 2004,
and “U.S. Says Drug Lords May Have Sprayed Afghan Opium,” Reuters, December 2, 2004.
approved for use in Colombia. The use of mycoherbicides, or fungal herbicides, also has been
discussed. Opium poppy-specific mycoherbicide has been developed with U.N., U.K., and U.S.
support at the Institute of Genetics and Experimental Biology, a former Soviet biological warfare 104
facility in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Mycoherbicide tests continue, including efforts by USDA’s
Agricultural Research Service , although USDA officials and others have expressed various 105
concerns about the use of mycoherbicides for counternarcotics purposes.
Several legislative initiatives in the 108th and 109th Congresses sought to address the 9/11
Commission’s recommendation on expanding the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan’s security and
stability, including U.S. counternarcotics efforts. Section 7104 of the Intelligence Reform and
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-458) stated the sense of Congress that “the President
should make the substantial reduction of illegal drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan a
priority in the Global War on Terrorism” and called on the Administration to provide a secure
environment for counternarcotics personnel and to specifically target narcotics operations that
support terrorism. The act also required the submission of an interagency report that described
current progress toward the reduction of poppy cultivation and heroin production in Afghanistan
and provided detail on the extent to which drug profits support terrorist groups and anti-106
government elements in and around Afghanistan. The report was completed in October 2005.
To date, Department of Defense authorizations for counternarcotics activities in Afghanistan have
been provided via reference to Section 1033 of the Defense Authorization Act for FY1998 (P.L.
510, as amended). Both acts have been amended on a semi-annual basis to extend existing
authorizations into subsequent fiscal years, and, as written, require reauthorization to extend
beyond the end of FY2006. The FY2007 Defense Authorization Act(P.L. 109-364) restated the
existing authorizations and reauthorized the Secretary of Defense to provide non-lethal
counternarcotics assistance to Afghanistan and a number of its neighbors (and other countries)
through FY2008. The act also allows the transfer of crew-served weapons of .50-caliber or less to
Afghan counternarcotics forces. The act also requires annual reporting on overseas counterdrug
activities, and Section 1025 required the Secretary of Defense to submit an interagency-
coordinated report by December 31, 2006, updating “the interagency counter-narcotics
implementation plan for Afghanistan and the South and Central Asian regions, including
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, India,
104 See Nicholas Rufford, “Secret Bio-weapon Can Wipe Out Afghan Heroin,” Sunday Times (London), May 26, 2002;
Antony Barnett, “UK in Secret Biological War on Drugs,” Observer (London), September 17, 2000; Juanita Darling,
“Fungi May Be the Newest Recruits in War on Drugs Colombia,” Los Angeles Times, August 30, 2000.
105 According to a USDA official, “The Department of Agriculture, as an agency, is opposed to the idea [of using
mycoherbicides in Afghanistan]: The science is far from complete; There are real environmental and possible human
health negative implications; There are very real image problems ... the use of any agent like this would be portrayed as
biological warfare.” USDA response to CRS inquiry, October 19, 2004.
106 Report on Counter Drug Efforts in Afghanistan—October 18, 2005, as required by Sec. 7104, Section 207 (b) of the
Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, 2004 (P.L. 108-458); House Committee on International Relations,
Ex. Comm. 4575.
Funding for U.S. counternarcotics operations in Afghanistan consists of program administration
costs and financial and material assistance to Afghan counternarcotics authorities. On September
7, 2006, the Senate adopted an amendment to the Defense appropriations bill for FY2007
(S.Amdt. 4897 to H.R. 5631), which would make available up to an additional $700 million for
Defense Department interdiction and counter-narcotics activities “to combat the growth of
poppies in Afghanistan, to eliminate the production and trade of opium and heroin, and to prevent
terrorists from using the proceeds for terrorist activities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.” The
conference report on H.R. 5631 (H.Rept. 109-676) did not contain this provision but provides
$100 million to “expedite” the Defense Department’s non-construction related counternarcotics
efforts in FY2007. The conference report requires the Department of Defense to submit “a
detailed execution plan” on the use of the $100 million to the congressional defense committees
prior to obligating any of the funds. The conference report also required the Department of
Defense to submit an interagency report on the Administration’s plan to address drug production,
drug smuggling, and narco-terrorism financing in the Central Asian region to the congressional
appropriations committees no later than March 1, 2007.
The House version of the FY2007 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (H.R. 5522) would
have limited the obligation of Economic Support Fund (ESF) assistance to Afghanistan to $225
million until the Secretary of State certified to the Appropriations committees that the Afghan
government “at both the national and local level” was fully cooperating with U.S.-funded poppy
eradication and drug interdiction efforts. The Senate version of the FY2007 foreign operations
bill did not contain this provision. An identical certification condition was included in the 2006
Foreign Operations Appropriations Act (P.L. 109-102) that provided waiver authority to the
President if he deems it necessary to preserve the vital national security interests of the United
States. The Administration waived its certification requirement for FY2006 ESF appropriations 107
for Afghanistan on May 22, 2006.
FY2007 regular Foreign Operations funding for Afghanistan programs is provided under the
terms of a continuing appropriations resolution (H.R. 5631/P.L. 109-289 Division B, as amended
by H.J.Res. 20, P.L. 110-5 on February 15, 2007), which sets funding levels for major Foreign
Operations aid accounts. Country allocations based on those levels were released in June 2007
(see Table 4 below)..
The Senate and House-approved conference report on H.R. 1591 (H.Rept. 110-107), the FY2007
Emergency Supplemental Appropriations act, directs $465 million in funding for counternarcotics
activities in Afghanistan and surrounding countries. President Bush vetoed H.R. 1591 on May 1,
2007. However, the subsequently adopted supplemental (H.R. 2206/P.L. 110-28) contains general
provisions that incorporate the text of the conference report (H.Rept. 110-107). Section 1306 of
the act limits the amount of counternarcotics support that may be provided to Afghanistan and
Pakistan to $60 million in addition to funds already appropriated. The act also required the DEA
Administrator to submit a report by July 31, 2007 that includes a plan to target and arrest Afghan
drug kingpins in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
107 U.S. Department of State Public Notice 5486, “Determination To Waive the Certification Requirement that the
Government of Afghanistan Is Cooperating Fully with U.S.-Funded Poppy Eradication and Interdiction Efforts in
Afghanistan,” May 22, 2006. Federal Register, Volume 71, Number 153, August 9, 2006.
The FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161, H.R. 2764) limits the obligation of
FY2008 ESF assistance to Afghanistan to $300 million until the Secretary of State certifies to the
Appropriations committees that the Afghan government “at both the national and local level” is
fully cooperating with U.S.-funded poppy eradication and drug interdiction efforts. The report
provides for a presidential waiver of this provision, subject to a reporting requirement. The act
also states that no funds “shall be made available for eradication programs through the spraying
of herbicides.” The act provides $2,000,000 in emergency funds for non-personnel resources for
the DEA FAST teams operating in Afghanistan.
The House report on H.R. 2765 (H.Rept. 110-197) directed the Secretary of State to initiate a
pilot crop substitution program in “an area in which poppy production is prevalent.” The report
also required the Administration to report on “the use of aerial assets to include fixed and rotary
wing aircraft in coordination with and in support of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
counternarcotics operations,” and “the extradition status of Afghan drug kingpins and narco
terrorists, the destruction of Afghan heroin laboratories, local Afghan prosecutions of heroin-
related crimes, and illegal border crossings by foreign nationals from Pakistan into Afghanistan.”
See the tables below for more detail on Foreign Operations and Defense funding requests for
FY2007 and FY2008.
Table 4 displays the core counternarcotics funding requests for Afghanistan for the State
Department, USAID, and the Department of Defense for FY2007-FY2008.
Table 5 describes the Administration’s planned use for requested supplemental counternarcotics
funding for the Department of Defense for FY2008.
Table 6 displays the State Department/USAID Foreign Operations FY2008 request by program
Table 7 displays the funding appropriated for U.S. counternarcotics activities in Afghanistan and
related regional programs from FY2002 through FY2006.
Table 8 describes the United Kingdom’s spending on counternarcotics programs in Afghanistan
Table 4. U.S. Counternarcotics Funding and Requests for Afghanistan, FY2007-FY2008
Agency FY2007a FY2007 Supplemental P.L. 110-28 FY2008 Request FY2008 Defense Appropriation P.L. 110-116 FY2008 Supplemental Request
State/USAID $318.74 $210.70c $326.90 - $16.00d
Defense Department $119.69b $254.67 $27.69 $24.05e $263.51f
Sources: U.S. Department of State, Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations Requests, FY2007 and FY2008, available at http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/
cbj/; U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, FY2008 Program and Budget Guide - South Asia, available at http://www.state.gov/
p/inl/rls/rpt/pbg/93286.htm; U.S. Department of Defense - Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller), FY2007 and FY2008 Justification Materials, available at
http://www.dod.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2008/index.html; and, Office of the Secretary of Defense communication to CRS, December 4, 2007.
a. FY2007 regular State/USAID funding for Afghanistan is provided under the terms of a continuing appropriations resolution (H.R. 5631/P.L. 109-289 Division B, as
amended by H.J.Res. 20, P.L. 110-5 on February 15, 2007), which sets funding levels for major Foreign Operations aid accounts. Total account allocations based on
those levels were released in June 2007. The FY2007 column above shows the sum of the agreed allocation for the International Narcotics Control and Law
Enforcement (INCLE) account and the original narcotics-related Economic Support Funding (ESF) request for Afghanistan.
iki/CRS-RL32686b. Includes $100 million in Title IX funds provided by the conference report on H.R. 5631 (H.Rept. 109-676) to “expedite” the Defense Department’s non-construction
g/wrelated counternarcotics efforts in FY2007. The conference report requires the Department of Defense to submit “a detailed execution plan” on the use of the $100
s.ormillion to the congressional defense committees prior to obligating any of the funds.
leakc. Includes $155 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) for rural development, $47 million in International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) funds, and
$8.7 million for special USAID operating expenses in Afghanistan.
://wikid. Includes $16 million in supplemental funds requested for special USAID operating expenses in Afghanistan.
e. Includes $4.65 million in appropriated funds planned for use in Turkmenistan, Krygyzstan, and Tajikistan.
f. Includes $94.8 million in supplemental funds requested for use in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.
Table 5. Defense Department Planned Use of FY2008 Appropriated and Supplemental Funds
Proposed Purpose FY2008 Defense Appropriation P.L. 110-116 FY2008 Supplemental Request
National Interdiction Unit (NIU), Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) Support $6.296 $97.775
Intelligence Fusion Center $5.100 $2.175
Counternarcotics Border Police Support - $17.546
Intelligence and Technology Efforts [inspection, imagery, technology support] - $51.200
Other Program Support $8.000 -
Other Nation Support [CENTCOM AOR] $5.466a $94.818b
Total $24.862 $263.514
Source: U.S. Department of Defense - Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller), FY2007 and FY2008 Justification Materials. Drug Interdiction and Counter
Drug Activities, Defense FY2007 and FY2008 Emergency Supplemental Requests - CN Supp OP-5, available at http://www.dod.mil/comptroller/defbudget/fy2008/
iki/CRS-RL32686fy08GWOT.html; and, Office of the Secretary of Defense communication to CRS, December 4, 2007.
g/wa. Includes appropriated funds planned for use in Turkmenistan, Krygyzstan, Tajikistan, and “other countries” in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.
s.orb. Includes supplemental funds requested for use in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.
Table 6. State Department/USAID Foreign Operations FY2008 Request by Program
Program Element Request
Alternative Development and Alternative Livelihoods $118.61
Drug Demand Reduction $3.00
Program Support (Narcotics) $1.99
Source: U.S. Department of State, Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations Request, FY2008,
available at http://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/cbj/.
Table 7. U.S. Counternarcotics Funding for Afghanistan by Source, FY2002-FY2006
FY2002 FY2003 FY2004 FY2005 FY2006
Approp. P.L. 107-Approp. P.L. Approp. P.L. 108-P.L. 107-Approp. P.L. 109-Approp. P.L. 109-
Funds 206 Funds 108-11 Funds 106 38 Funds 13 Funds 234
Dept. of $3.00a $60.00 $3.00a $25.00 - $170.00b $50.00c $89.28 $260.00 $232.65 -
Dept. of - - - - - $73.00 - $15.40 $242.00 $27.80h $141.87g
DEAd ($0.58) - ($2.92) - - ($3.96) - ($7.67) $7.65 $17.60e $9.20
USAIDf - $9.99 $14.29 - $53.55 - - $95.69 $248.50 $90.50 -
Annual $73.57 $45.21 $350.51 $966.19 $519.62
iki/CRS-RL32686Sources: U.S. Agency for International Development - Budget Justifications to the Congress, Department of State - Congressional Budget Justifications for Foreign
g/wOperations, Office of the Secretary of Defense - Defense Budget Materials, Office of Management and Budget, and Legislative Information System.
leaka. $3 million funding for Southwest Asia Initiative counternarcotics programs in Pakistan partially designed to restrict the flow of Afghan opiates.
b. Of the $170 million in supplemental funds, $110 million was channeled toward police training and judicial reform programs.
://wikic. Reprogrammed funds appropriated as part of $40 billion Emergency Response Fund established in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.
d. On May 8, 2002, Congress approved a reprogramming of 17 positions and $15,125,000 in Violent Crime Reduction Program prior year funds to support the Drug
Enforcement Administration’s ‘Operation Containment,’ which targets heroin trafficking in Southwest Asia. The figures for FY2002-FY2005 reflect annual expenditure
of the reprogrammed obligated funds. (DEA response to CRS request, October 2004.)
e. FY2006 funds include $7.72 million for Operation Containment, $4.3 million to support Foreign Advisory Support Teams (FAST) teams, and $5.58 million for DEA
offices in Kabul and Dushanbe, Tajikistan. New funds were not appropriated for the creation of a DEA office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates authorized in H.Rept.
f. USAID figures for FY2002-FY2005 reflect funds applied to USAID’s “Agriculture” and “Agriculture and Alternative Livelihoods” programs (Program #306-001).
g. Reflects supplemental funds earmarked for use in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan, and Tajikistan.
h. Author consultations with Defense Department officials and appropriations committee staff, June 2005 and September 2006. Appropriated fund totals reflect funds
requested and obligated to continue programs in the entire U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility, including countries along the Arabian Sea
littoral, the Horn of Africa, and Central Asia.
Table 8. United Kingdom Counternarcotics Funding 2005-2006
Pillar/Program Area $ million £ million
Public Awareness $1.225 £0.649
Demand Reduction $2.100 £1.112
Law Enforcement $39.251 £20.787
Criminal Justice $2.100 £1.112
Institution Building $9.775 £5.177
Alternative Livelihoods $70.847 £37.520
International and Regional Cooperation $3.788 £2.006
Counternarcotics Trust Fund Contribution $16.994 £9.000
Law and Order Trust Fund Contribution $2.832 £1.500
Strategy, Research, and Reviews $5.608 £2.970
Total $154.520 £81.833
Source: Dr. Kim Howells, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister for the Middle East, “Afghanistan:
Counter Narcotics,” House of Commons Hansard Ministerial Statements for July 13, 2006 (Pt. 0134).
Doris Buddenberg and William A. Byrd (eds.), Afghanistan’s Drug Industry: Structure,
Functioning, Dynamics, and Implications for Counter-Narcotics Policy, World
Bank/UNODC, November 2006.
Jonathan Goodhand, “From Holy War to Opium War: A Case Study of the Opium Economy in
North Eastern Afghanistan,” Peacebuilding and Complex Emergencies Working Paper Series,
No. 5, University of Manchester, 1999.
Frank Kenefick, and Larry Morgan, “Opium in Afghanistan: People and Poppies—The Good
Evil,” Chemonics International Inc. for USAID, February 5, 2004.
David Mansfield, “Coping Strategies, Accumulated Wealth and Shifting Markets: The Story of
Opium Poppy Cultivation in Badakhshan 2000-2003,” Agha Khan Development Network,
——, “Alternative Development in Afghanistan: The Failure of Quid Pro Quo,” International
Conference on the Role of Alternative Development in Drug Control and Development
Cooperation, January 2002.
——, “Exploring the ‘Shades of Grey’: An Assessment of the Factors. Influencing Decisions to
Cultivate Opium Poppy in 2005/06,” Report for the Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit of
the Government of the United Kingdom, December 2005.
David Mansfield and Adam Pain, “Opium Poppy Eradication: How to Raise Risk When There is
Nothing to Lose?” Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, August 2006.
Adam Pain, “The Impact of the Opium Poppy Economy on Household Livelihoods: Evidence
from the Wakhan Corridor and Khustak Valley in Badakhshan,” Aga Kahn Development
Network, Badakhshan Programme, January 2004.
UNODC, Strategic Study Series #1-6, June 1998-June 2000.
Christopher M. Blanchard
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs