Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence

Memorandum from Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit (ADIDU)


  1.  Despite a 21% reduction in opium poppy cultivation in 2005 (130,000 hectares in 2003-04 to 104,000 hectares in 2004-05), the drugs trade remains a significant challenge to Afghanistan's long-term security, development and effective governance. It undermines stability of the region and accounts for almost 90% of the world supply of opiates.

  2.  The Afghan Government has, with support from the UK as key partner nation for counter narcotics, recently reviewed and updated its National Drug Control Strategy. The Strategy focuses on four key priorities: disrupting the drugs trade by targeting traffickers and their backers; strengthening and diversifying legal rural livelihoods; reducing the demand for illicit drugs and treatment of drug users; and developing effective state institutions to combat drugs at the central and provincial level.

  3.  We believe that focusing on these priorities will make a greater impact on the drugs trade and sustain the reduction in cultivation we have seen in 2005. But sustainable drug elimination strategies take time—particularly when the challenges are as severe as those in Afghanistan. The UK remains committed to the challenge and to supporting the delivery of the National Drug Control Strategy.


  4.  The London Conference on Afghanistan held on 31 January-1 February saw the launch of three key documents: the Afghan Compact, the National Drug Control Strategy and the interim National Development Strategy. In recognition of the serious threat that narcotics pose to the broader reconstruction of Afghanistan, counter narcotics is included as a cross-cutting theme in the Afghan Compact between the Afghan Government and the international community and in the interim National Development Strategy. The Afghan Compact includes high level benchmarks to measure progess in the counter narcotics effort. These benchmarks are underpinned by the more detailed planning in the National Drug Control Strategy and the interim Afghan National Development Strategy.

  5.  The UK has helped to establish and provide training for the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) —the lead drugs law enforcement agency, headquartered in Kabul. The UK is also providing training for the Afghan Special Narcotics Force (ASNF), an elite and highly trained force, equipped to tackle high value targets across the country. Since January 2004, the CNPA and ASNF have seized approximately 165 tonnes of opiates, destroyed an estimated 317 drugs labs and made a significant number of arrests. We are also working with the international community to recruit and train a counter narcotics Criminal Justice Task Force (CJTF) of Afghan investigators, prosecutors and judges to work with the Counter Narcotics Police, to be able to push through successful drugs investigations and prosecutions. There are currently 80 specially trained members of the CJTF. Since May 2005, there have been over 170 prosecutions resulting in over 90 individuals being convicted.

  6.  The UK is also funding a £12.5 million (US$22 million) Institutional Development project to strengthen the Ministry of Counter Narcotics and other counter narcotics institutions in Afghanistan. Two Deputy Ministers have now been appointed to support the Counter Narcotics Minister. We are also helping the Afghans to build up a viable economy and rebuild Afghanistan's infrastructure through National Programmes (Micro-finance, the National Rural Access Programme and the National Solidarity Programme), to help develop Alternative Livelihoods. Through these programmes 7,000 kilometres of secondary roads have been rehabilitated, helping farmers get their produce to markets, and nearly $50 million of micro-credit has been made available to 264,000 people to invest in legal livelihoods. Over 10,000 Community Development Councils have been elected and over $161 million has been granted for over 16,000 projects to rehabilitate irrigation and small scale infrastructure.

  7.  Furthermore, the UK has also funded the development of five drug treatment centres. We are working with the Ministry of Counter Narcotics to determine how best to support activity in this area following the completion of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's survey on drug use within Afghanistan late last year. The survey identified 3.8% of the Afghan population as being drug addicts. We are also supporting the Poppy Elimination Programme by funding the salaries of Afghan staff charged with raising awareness of the illegality of the opium industry and monitoring Governor-led eradication in priority poppy growing provinces.


  8.  The Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit (ADIDU), operating out of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was created in February 2005, following approval by the Prime Minister. The Unit's role is to co-ordinate the Whitehall effort on Afghan counter narcotics. Meanwhile, the British Embassy Drugs Team (BEDT) manages the UK's counter narcotics work in Afghanistan. They work closely with law enforcement and intelligence agencies to support the Government of Afghanistan in the implementation the Afghan National Drug Control Strategy. Both ADIDU and BEDT include staff from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, HM Revenue and Customs, the Department for International Development, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence. ADIDU is overseen by a Stakeholder Group. This Group is chaired by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Director for Afghanistan and South Asia Directorate and comprises one member, mostly at Director level, from each of the Stakeholder departments and the Cabinet Office.

  9.  In September 2005, the UK announced new UK funding to be spent on counter narcotics activity supporting the Afghan Government in the delivery of their National Drugs Control Strategy. In total, we will provide more than £270 million over the next three years (financial years 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08). The Department for International Development will provide around £130 million of the funding, which will be spent on rural livelihoods and institutional development. The rest will come from other government departments including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and the Home Office. A top priority for this funding will be targeting traffickers and disrupting the trade.


  10.  The Counter Narcotics Trust Fund has been created to bring counter narcotics funding on budget; give the Afghans greater ownership over this important agenda; and ensure that assistance is targeted as effectively as possible. The United Nations Development Programme will administer the Fund, which will ensure transparency and accountability.

  11.  At the London Conference on Afghanistan, several delegations, including the US (US$2 million), Sweden (US$2 million) and the UK (at least £30 million (US$52.9 million) announced contributions to the Fund. The UK commitment of £30 million includes an initial £10 million from our Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit and £20 million from the Department for International Development (DFID). These contributions added to those already committed by Australia, New Zealand, the EC and Estonia (US$1.5 million. US$338k, US$18.4 million and US$50k respectively), giving a total of US$77 million pledged so far.


  12.  In November 2005, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) confirmed the poppy cultivation and production figures for 2004-05 from their annual survey. UNODC reported a 21% reduction in poppy cultivation from 131,000 hectares (ha) in 2004-04 to 104,000 ha in 2004-05. These overall percentages, however, mask significant variations between provinces. For example, Nangarhar (¸96%), Badakshan (¸53%) and Helmand (¸10%) saw the most significant decreases. But other provinces, such as Balkh and Farah, saw increases. The US Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) also publicly released its cultivation figures in November, which match those of UNODC.

  13.  UNODC also estimated that opium production in 2004-05 was around 4,100 metric tonnes (mt), a decrease of only 100 tonnes (2.4%) compared to 2004. Good weather and an absence of crop disease were responsible for a significant increase in yield in 2004-05.

  14.  While the UNODC and US figures were encouraging, we need to be cautious about the future. An early indication of this year's possible cultivation levels is reflected in the UNODC's Rapid Assessment Survey, which was released in March. The survey shows that overall cultivation levels are unlikely to decrease below 104,000 hectares in 2005-06. Trends indicate a possible increase in cultivation in 13 of 31 provinces (particularly in the south), a decrease in three, with 16 remaining stable. It seems that it is the areas where governance and access to livelihoods has improved where progress last year may have been consolidated. Whatever the overall cultivation figure this year, we need to build on these successes and ensure that the downward trend in cultivation is maintained in the long term.


  15.  The Senlis Council has put forward a proposal to promote the licensing of Afghan poppy farmers to produce the raw materials for the manufacture of diamorphine and codeine in their "Feasibility Study on Opium Licensing in Afghanistan for the Production of Morphine and Other Essential Medicines". The production of opium is contrary to Afghanistan's Constitution. The Afghan Government has expressed its opposition to licit cultivation in Afghanistan. When the Senlis Council presented its study in Afghanistan in September 2005, the Afghan Minister for Counter Narcotics, Habibullah Qaderi said, "The poor security situation in the country means there can simply be no guarantee that opium will not be smuggled out of the country for the illicit narcotics trade abroad. Without an effective control mechanism, a lot of opium will still be refined into heroin for illicit markets in the West and elsewhere. We could not accept this."

  16.  We share the view that licensing opium cultivation in Afghanistan is not a realistic solution to the problems of opium cultivation in Afghanistan, not least because it risks a high level of diversion of licit opium into illegal channels. It is clear from the feasibility study, as well as expert opinion that Afghanistan currently does not meet the prerequisites necessary to control licit cultivation. There is also a risk that prices would risk attracting new entrants into the illicit market.

Peter Holland

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

2 March 2006

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