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Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control Holds Hearing on
U.S. Counternarcotics Strategy in Afghanistan

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Washington, DC –U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa) co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today held a hearing on the U.S. counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan.

Following is the text of Senator Feinstein’s prepared opening remarks:

I want to thank Senator Grassley, co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, and the other members of the Caucus who have joined us for this important hearing.

There is no question that Afghanistan is a significant source of opium.  According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghanistan supplies 90 percent of the world’s illicit opium. 

This opium is processed into heroin and sold across the globe. The impacts are broad. This trafficking creates new generations of addicts and helps fund Taliban violence against U.S. and NATO forces and innocent Afghan civilians.

An estimated 50 percent of all Afghan heroin is smuggled through Iran.  From there, it fuels drug epidemics in Western Europe and Russia --strengthening the criminal elements in those countries.

Although seen in only about 5 percent of the U.S. heroin market, Afghan heroin accounts for about 50 percent of the market in Canada, indicating Afghan heroin is a clear threat to the Western Hemisphere. 

Opium production in Afghanistan is on the rise. In 2001, the country produced a few hundred kilograms. Today, that number has grown to eight metric tons (8,000 kilograms.)

As a result, last December the U.S. Department of Defense changed its policy to enable U.S. armed forces to directly support the counternarcotics missions conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and their Afghan counterparts. The shift in Defense Department policy has led to a number of successful operations.

In May 2009, the DEA’s Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team (FAST), the Afghan National Interdiction Unit, the Afghan National Army, and a U.S. Special Forces team seized 18,164 kilograms of opium; 200 kilograms of heroin; 1,000 kilograms of hashish; 72,727 kilograms of poppy seed; chemicals used to make drugs; and a significant weapons cache of weapons including 44 blocks of Iranian C4, Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), mortar rounds, and other weapons used to attack Coalition Forces. 

U.S.-funded eradication efforts also have changed significantly.  In June, the United States revamped its strategy to include increased funding for the “Alternative Livelihood” crop substitution program. 

This program replaces the opium poppy crop with U.S.-supplied seeds for watermelon, wheat, and other alternatives.

The $300 million effort, led by the United States Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is ambitious. It encompasses a comprehensive approach to crop replacement while sustaining the Afghan farmer.

But this effort cannot succeed without security, without the ability to get supplies to the farmers, and without the ability to get the produce to market -- free of bribes and physical threats.  At the same time, we need to ensure that the aid goes to the farmers and not to corrupt Afghan government officials. 

Afghanistan’s judicial system is in the process of major reforms.   Yet there have been successful prosecutions of those involved in Afghanistan’s narcotics trade.  Under the federal narco-terrorism statute Title 21 USC 960a, which was enacted in March of 2006, several high-value narco-terrorists have been removed from Afghanistan to face justice in the United States.

  • Khan Mohammed was captured by DEA and Afghan Counternarcotics Police in Nangarhar Province in October 2006.  In May of 2008, Khan Mohammed became the first person convicted in U.S. federal district court of narco-terrorism (21 USC 960a) since the statute was enacted.  Khan Mohammed was sentenced to two life sentences.
  • In October 2008, Haji Juma Khan (HJK) was arrested in Indonesia based on an international arrest warrant stemming from a narco-terrorism (21 USC 960a) indictment.  HJK was placed into DEA custody and transported to New York where he awaits trial.  HJK is one of the world’s most significant heroin and opium traffickers, who provided direct support to the Taliban from his drug trafficking revenues.

The federal narco-terrorism statute has proven effective, not only in Afghanistan but against other terrorist organizations, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). It also has been tested and proven to be an effective tool in a court of law in the United States.

I look forward to hearing your ideas about other tools we might use to not only combat the Afghan drug trade but to improve an independent judiciary in this troubled country.

Afghanistan is a country with a significant illegal narcotics infrastructure, and a weak judicial and penal system. If we are to reduce the threat posed by the global heroin trade, we must address these critical problems.

Today’s hearing is designed to help us better understand the current state of Judicial reform and other pillars of the strategy in Afghanistan to hopefully allow the Afghan government to successfully arrest, prosecute, and imprison narco-terrorists while supporting Afghan livelihood and security.

I look forward to hearing from all the witnesses today about the current policies and direction of the U.S. counternarcotics effort in Afghanistan, and what can be done to improve that effort.