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Afghanistan: Counter-narcotics

Volume 684: debated on Thursday 13 July 2006

Following the launch of the national drug control strategy at the London Conference on Afghanistan in January, the UK continues, as partner nation, to support the Government of Afghanistan's counter-narcotics effort. This year's planting season predated the launch of that strategy and, although last year saw a 21 per cent decline in opium poppy cultivation across Afghanistan, this year it is likely that there will be a significant rise in cultivation. This is worrying and is due, in part, to a substantial increase in planting of opium poppy in the south of Afghanistan, including in Helmand province. But in areas where governance, security and levels of development have improved, there are signs that last year's cultivation reductions will be sustained. At the same time, the Government of Afghanistan's eradication effort has been more effective than in previous years.

The Government of Afghanistan's national drug control strategy offers the best means to tackle the opium trade at its source. We are determined to work with the Government and people of Afghanistan to sharpen delivery in order to achieve sustained impact on the ground. In particular they will be focusing their efforts on targeting the traffickers and their accomplices who profit most from the trade. We will be assisting by helping to establish the rule of law across Afghanistan, which is essential to counter-narcotics efforts and to the success of the broader reconstruction process. The UK is working with the Government of Afghanistan and with other donors to develop new intelligence structures and to build the capacity of counter-narcotics law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. These efforts are starting to show results. Since August 2005 we have seen the conviction of over 190 traffickers, and a significant increase in drugs-related seizures and the destruction of laboratories. These actions are helping to disrupt the trade, forcing traffickers to move and store drugs in smaller quantities.

The Department for International Development also continues to support Afghan national programmes focused on strengthening and diversifying legal rural livelihoods, including in Helmand province where my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Development (Hilary Benn) recently announced that the UK would contribute £30 million to livelihoods activity over the next three years. Since April 2003 more than 12 million labour days have been provided and more than 8,000 kilometres of roads rehabilitated. Almost $70 million micro-finance loans have been disbursed over the past two years and $180 million in grants approved to some 10,000 community development councils. In addition, since September 2005, more than 500,000 farmers have been provided with seeds and fertiliser.

On 5 September last year my honourable friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Dr Kim Howells) announced, in a jointpress conference with Afghan Counter-Narcotics Minister Qaderi, that the UK would spend a total of £270 million in support of the Afghan nationaldrug control strategy between 2005-08. This includes £130 million of DfID funding. In 2005-06 the UK spent the following in support of the eight pillars in the national drugs control strategy:

Pillar 1: Public Awareness—£649,000 in support of Afghan efforts to inform members of the population about counter-narcotics policies, legislation, operations and alternatives to poppy cultivation and to persuade farmers not to grow poppy.

Pillar 2: Demand Reduction—£1,112,000 on treatment, rehabilitation and harm reduction programmes.

Pillar 3: Law Enforcement—£20,787,000 on building the capacity and equipping the Counter-Narcotics Police of Afghanistan and the Afghan Special Narcotics Force.

Pillar 4: Criminal Justice—£1,112,000 to establisha counter-narcotics criminal justice task force of84 judges, prosecutors and investigators and high-security detention facilities.

Pillar 5: Institution Building—£5,177,000 to establish and staff a fully operational ministry of counter-narcotics (MCN) and to build capacity within the counter-narcotics division of the Ministry of Interior.

Pillar 6: Alternative Livelihoods—£37,520,000 to strengthen and diversify legal rural livelihoods.

Pillar 7: Eradication—£5,709,000 to support survey, monitoring, and verification of eradication; to target it where legal livelihoods exist.

Pillar 8: International and Regional Co-operation—£2,006,000 to support border control and other regional projects focused on disrupting the flow of illicit drugs and precursor materials across Afghanistan's borders.

The UK also contributed £9 million to the Government of Afghanistan's Counter-Narcotics Trust Fund and a further £1,500,000 to the Law and Order Trust Fund established to cover the cost of police salaries and equipment. A further £2,970,000 was spent on strategy, research and reviews, including support to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s annual poppy survey.