Senate Report Calls for Robust Counternarcotics Strategy in Afghanistan; Warns That Taliban Transformation into Major Drug-Trafficking Organization Puts U.S. Mission at Risk
Jul 29 2010
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today announced the release of a report that calls for a robust counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan to address the threat posed by the Taliban’s transformation into a major narcotics trafficking organization.
The report, titled “U.S. Counternarcotics Strategy in Afghanistan,” states that the Taliban’s transformation into a drug cartel cannot be ignored because it provides the terrorist organization with a massive source of financing. This financing, in turn, helps it attack and kill American and allied troops and the people of Afghanistan.
“The Taliban has morphed into one-part terrorist organization, one-part drug cartel,” Senator Feinstein said. “This means they are tapped into the single largest source of income in Afghanistan – narcotics – which generates a staggering $2.8 billion a year in Afghanistan alone.
“Bottom line: There’s no question the drug trade is inextricably linked to terrorism. We must mount a robust counternarcotics strategy to meet this threat. If we ignore the drug problem in Afghanistan, we will fail in Afghanistan.”
The report was approved unanimously by the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. It will be posted online at: www.drugcaucus.senate.gov
Key Findings and Recommendations:
Finding: Drug trafficking is a worldwide problem that does not conform to international boundaries. The U.S. must engage international drug trafficking organizations wherever they operate and apprehend the leaders. In March 2006, as part of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act, the United States enacted Title 21 United States Code Section 960a. Known as the narco-terrorism statute, this law gives federal drug agents the authority to investigate narco-terrorism committed anywhere in the world if they can establish a link between a drug offense and a terrorist act or group. It has proven to be an effective tool and should be a priority for funding and action.
While the narco-terrorism statute can be applied worldwide, it stands out in Afghanistan as a significant tool due to the link between the drug trade and the insurgency.
Recommendation: Narco-terrorism investigations have resulted in the arrest and conviction of high value Afghan narco-terrorists and have gleaned collateral intelligence which has been used to protect the American and Coalition Forces. For these reasons, resources should be dedicated to finding the links between the Taliban and the narcotics trade in Afghanistan.
Afghan Vetted Units for Interdiction
Finding: Specially vetted units supported by U.S. personnel have proven to be very effective at conducting counternarcotics operations around the world. At this time there are only 360 members of the Afghan Counter Narcotics Police who have been vetted and work directly with U.S. personnel. Program managers have told the Drug Caucus staff that additional vetted officers are needed based on the scope of the drug problem in Afghanistan.
Recommendation: The U.S. government country team in Afghanistan should take the necessary steps to increase the number of vetted Afghan personnel for counternarcotics missions. Based on the current number of U.S. drug law enforcement personnel available to train and mentor the Afghan officers assigned to the National Interdiction Unit an additional 250 Afghan officers can be accommodated.
Finding: The number of helicopters dedicated to counternarcotics missions is insufficient. This issue will become paramount when the Department of Defense begins to scale down the American military presence in Afghanistan. The U.S. Government Accountability Office has identified that airlift requirements for counternarcotics operations are outpacing the original predictions and continue to grow. The U.S. counternarcotics mission in Afghanistan cannot be successful without air assets.
Recommendation: Recognizing the essential need to support combat operations in Afghanistan, flight time on U.S. government helicopters needs to be prioritized in order to properly support counternarcotics operations. The Department of Defense, State Department, and DEA need to establish protocols under a joint memorandum of understanding for the tasking of air assets so that the proper operational tempo is sustained.
Finding: The practice of eradicating illicit crops is supported by the U.S. in several countries around the world. The U.S. government counternarcotics program in Afghanistan should include crop eradication as an option. Crop eradication is a viable tool for narcotics suppression and, as such, should be incorporated into the overall U.S. counternarcotics strategy.
Recommendation: In order to have a comprehensive counternarcotics program in Afghanistan crop eradication should be used. Poppy crop eradication needs to be conducted in conjunction with the other counternarcotics programs such as alternative livelihood and interdiction.