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U.S. Counternarcotics In Afghanistan


A boy works at a poppy field in Jalalabad province. (FILE)

“The United States is successfully building Afghan capacity to implement and lead counternarcotics efforts."

“The United States,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield, “is successfully building Afghan capacity to implement and lead counternarcotics efforts."


The challenge counternarcotics efforts face in Afghanistan is significant. Afghanistan today produces well over 80 percent of the world's illicit opium, which undermines the country’s governance and public health, subverts its legal economy, fuels corruption and insecurity, and puts money in the hands of the Taliban. The United Nations estimates that the Afghan Taliban receives at least $155 million annually from narcotics-related activities, including taxation, protection, and extortion.

Despite these tough realities, U.S.-funded counternarcotics programs have had a number of successes. “There have been positive developments in areas such as prosecutions, interdiction, alternative livelihoods for Afghan farmers, and treatment services for substance abuse disorders," said Assistant Secretary Brownfield.

Supporting economic alternatives to poppy cultivation is critical. The Good Performers Initiative, or GPI, is designed to ensure that the United States encourages and rewards counternarcotics efforts on all fronts. The program provides development assistance to provinces.

The Counter Narcotics Justice Center, or CNJC, a fully Afghan facility with jurisdiction for the investigation, detention, prosecution, and trial of major narcotics cases, is another source of optimism for counternarcotics efforts. From March 2012 to March 2013, the CNJC’s Primary and Appellate Courts each heard the cases of over 700 accused. The CNJC Investigation and Laboratory Department processed cases involving more than 233 metric tons of illegal drugs – a 26 percent increase over the previous year.


These counternarcotics efforts have helped to stem the tide of poppy cultivation; today, poppy is grown on less than three percent of Afghanistan’s farmable land. Afghanistan’s legal economy has grown steadily. As a result, the potential net export value of opiates now make up a much smaller fraction of Afghanistan’s economy. In short, Afghanistan’s drug challenge may be formidable, but it is not insurmountable.
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