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Afghanistan: Counter-Narcotics

Volume 670: debated on Monday 28 February 2005

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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

The United Kingdom, as lead nation, salutes the determination of President Karzai and his government in implementing the 1384(2005) Counter-narcotics Implementation Plan. The plan is a framework for action to accelerate all our efforts over the coming year and sets out counter-narcotics (CN) activities ahead under eight pillars:

  • building institutions
  • information campaign
  • alternative livelihoods
  • interdiction and law enforcement
  • criminal justice
  • eradication
  • demand reduction and treatment of addicts
  • regional co-operation.
The adoption of this plan follows the successful holding by President Karzai in December 2004 of the first counter-narcotics national conference in Afghanistan. At that conference and since then, President Karzai has delivered powerful messages to reinforce his strong determination to act against all aspects of the narcotics trade.The UK welcomes this renewed commitment and joins with the wider international community in pledging our collective, increased support for the 2005 plan. There are some early signs that this year may see an overall reduction in opium poppy cultivation levels. However, as it is still early in the harvest cycle, we need to wait for the UN assessments later in the year on levels of cultivation and on how much of the crop in the fields has been destroyed.The UK has increased its spending to $100 million this year on counter-narcotics activities in Afghanistan. Specifically, we are stepping up activity in support of the 2005 plan in the following ways:

On creating alternative livelihoods for farmers who currently grow opium poppy

Following the visit of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development to Afghanistan in January 2005, the UK has pledged $125 million of support for alternative livelihoods in 2005–06; our alternative livelihoods commitment has more than doubled annually from 2002–03 to 2005–06. The UK is also leading the way in pressing some of the larger multilateral donors, such as the World Bank, to include counter-narcotics objectives in their programmes. Activities include:

substantial support to activities to bring short term, visible impact in 2005, building on the $5 million already made available for "cash for work";

support to a wide range of agricultural and off-farm income-generating activities in poppy-growing provinces;

increasing access to credit to rural areas, and developing products to address the specific problem of opium debt;

assessing opportunities to promote alternative products to opium poppy, and more favourable terms of trade for those products; and

improving the co-ordination and implementation of development and counter-narcotics programmes in Badakhshan, where the UK has already committed more than $7.5 million.

On law enforcement

The UK has mapped out and is co-ordinating the development of the Counter-narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA), working with other lead nations to establish the counter-narcotics capacity of all Afghan law enforcement institutions. As part of the CNPA development plan, the UK is establishing a further nine mobile detection teams (over 100 officers) in the next 18 months, capable of interdicting drug traffickers in Kabul and the provinces. We are also providing mentoring for intelligence and investigation units. We are looking to international donors to contribute to the CNPA development plan. We also welcome the recent results of the Afghan Special Narcotics Force (ASNF), for which the UK has provided advice and funding. The force has seized over 75 tonnes of opiates, destroyed 80 drugs labs and disrupted two drugs bazaars during the past year.

On developing the criminal justice system

The UK. working with the UN, has set up and completed the first phase of training and mentoring of the Counter-narcotics Criminal Justice Task Force of investigators, prosecutors and judges. The task force will be 80 strong by mid-2005. We have also funded UNODC (nearly $2 million) to establish a secure court and prison facility for counter-narcotics.

On eradication of the opium crop

This will be carried out in 2005 by the US-supported Central Poppy Eradication Force (CPEF) and by governors and police chiefs at local level. The UK is working closely in both these areas and has established a planning and monitoring cell to ensure that eradication by CPEF is targeted in a way which takes account of alternative livelihoods. We are also helping CPEF with salaries and equipment and are the major donor for verification and assessment of the eradication campaign to ensure it is carried out: over $1 million to establish 30 ground-based verification teams (240 people) and satellite imagery. The first 15 verification teams should produce preliminary results by March.

On building the institutions necessary to support long-term Afghan commitment

The UK is helping to build central and provincial capacity in a number of key government institutions, including the new Counter-narcotics (CN) Ministry under Minister Qaderi, the counter-narcotics function within the Ministry of the Interior, the Rural Reconstruction Ministry, the Office of the National Security Adviser, the Civil Service Commission and the Cabinet Secretariat.

On lobbying

My right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the development Secretary have now launched a substantial lobbying campaign to encourage international partners, including the G8, the EU, the US, neighbouring countries of Afghanistan and other Berlin conference participants, to support the plan and help establish the new Counter-narcotics Trust Fund. The aim of this fund will be to pull together donor support for the Afghan Government's counter-narcotics priorities. The April 2005 Afghan Development Forum will be an important opportunity for the Afghan Government to seek additional support for alternative livelihoods.

The UK is also working with Afghan and international partners:

to raise public awareness of the risks to Afghanistan of the drugs trade and the dangers to health from addiction associated with growing opium poppy through proactive and comprehensive information campaigns and drug treatment activities; and

to increase regional co-operation to tackle the drugs trade across borders through implementation of the April 2004 Berlin Declaration on Counter-narcotics within the framework of the Kabul Good Neighbourly Relations Declaration of December 2002. In 2004–05, the UK provided around $2.5 million of assistance to increase counter-narcotics capacity on Afghanistan's borders with Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan, the three main routes for opiates being smuggled out of Afghanistan. Further such assistance is planned for financial year 2005–06.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (Mr Jack Straw) visited Kabul on 16 February, the day President Karzai launched the 2005 CN implementation plan. They agreed on the crucial importance of working together in support of the plan to mobilise international assistance so that narcotics do not destroy Afghanistan's potential for stability, reconstruction and a thriving licit economy. The 2005 plan therefore represents an important opportunity. We share the resolve of the Afghan Government to achieve the sustainable elimination of opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2005 and beyond.

Copies of the plan are being placed in the Library of the House.