U.S. Counternarcotics Strategy for Afghanistan

March 24, 2010


The United States’ March 2010 counternarcotics strategy helps secure the Afghan populace by working with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and other international partners to foster sustainable alternative licit economic opportunities and to develop increasingly self-reliant and effective counternarcotics law enforcement entities. Once territory is taken from insurgents and held, the GIRoA must provide government services for the local population and begin development. This will expand GIRoA control of its territory and make it more difficult for the insurgency to regain ground. This strategy focuses resources on those programs that will contribute directly to 1) breaking the narcotics-insurgency-corruption nexus and 2) helping to connect the people of Afghanistan to their government.

The U.S. Counternarcotics (CN) Strategy for Afghanistan supports the President’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy and the implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Strategy. It is integrated with the U.S. Government (USG) Agriculture Assistance Strategy for Afghanistan, which focuses on the re-development of the agricultural sector as an engine for job growth and higher incomes for rural families, enabling farmers to choose licit alternatives to poppy. The CN Strategy focuses on the interdiction of drugs, and precursor materials, stopping drug traffickers, capacity building, and arresting drug lords. As part of the USG’s "whole of government" approach to assisting the GIRoA in waging its counterinsurgency, the CN Strategy supports the United States Government Integrated Civilian-Military Campaign Plan for Support to Afghanistan and the United States Government Integrated Civilian-Military Campaign Plan for Support to Pakistan.

Goal 1: Counter the link between narcotics and the insurgency and significantly reduce the support the insurgency receives from the narcotics industry.

Counternarcotics in Afghanistan is not focused on simply stemming the flow of illegal drugs; it centers on stopping the stream of money to the Taliban and their allies and on denying anti-government elements the support structures created by the narcotics-insurgency symbiosis. Illegal narcotics are a significant - but not the sole - source of funding and support for insurgents and corruption. The narcotics industry undermines licit economic development, erodes government legitimacy, and threatens stability and security in Afghanistan and across the region.

Additionally, Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade is fueling a growing narcotics abuse and addiction problem in Afghanistan and across southwest and central Asia. The CN Strategy recognizes that massive job creation in the licit agricultural sector is an essential step in denying recruits to the insurgency. In particular, perennial horticultural crops offer a permanent replacement to illicit annual crops such as poppy, the sale of which helps to fund the insurgency.

Goal 2: Address the narcotics-corruption nexus and reinforce the Government of Afghanistan.

Corruption fueled by the narcotics trade reduces Afghans’ support for their government and slows capacity building at district, provincial and national government levels. The corrupting influence of drugs on the Government of Afghanistan is a strategic threat to USG policy and goals in Afghanistan.

What is different: The USG no longer funds or supports large-scale eradication of poppy fields (though we do not object to Afghan-led local eradication). Instead, our CN Strategy is directly linked to the counterinsurgency strategy undertaken in a “whole of government” approach. New CN strategy is focused on reducing the funding, support, intimidation, and corruption that fuels the insurgency in Afghanistan and the region. Indentifying and targeting key nodes in the nexus of insurgency, narcotics, corruption, and criminality will unravel the insurgency’s material support. Tackling the nexus will restrict insurgent capability, enabling Afghans to increasingly reject insurgent coercion and influence, and rapidly generate a more informed common operating picture of the nexus and targets for military or judicial actions.

What is continuing: The United States Government will: 1) continue to support the Afghan National Drug Control Strategy’s four priorities of disrupting the drug trade; developing licit agricultural livelihoods; reducing the demand for drugs; and building the capacity of GIRoA CN institutions; 2) put greater focus on programs that directly support U.S. and GIRoA counterinsurgency priorities, such as re-developing the agricultural sector to increase jobs and incomes as well as to increase public confidence in GIRoA through improved service delivery; and 3) de-emphasize programs that have proven ineffective or counterproductive in Afghanistan.

As stated in Afghanistan’s National Drug Control Strategy, the GIRoA will focus its efforts on four national priorities in order to make the most sustainable impact on the illegal drug trade in the near term:

  • disrupting the drugs trade by targeting traffickers and their backers;
  • strengthening and diversifying legal rural livelihoods, particularly through re-development of the agricultural sector with an emphasis on higher value crops and value-added processing;
  • reducing the demand for illicit drugs and treatment of problem users; and,
  • developing state institutions at the central and provincial level vital to delivery of our CN strategy.

Goals and Objectives

Goal 1: Counter the link between narcotics and the insurgency and significantly reduce the support the insurgency receives from the narcotics industry.

Objective 1: Disrupt and dismantle narcotics-insurgent-corruption nexus targets.

1.1: Enhance the capacity and sustainability of specialized investigative and interdiction units of the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNP-A) mentored by the DEA and other agencies.

1.2: Support the GIRoA’s threat finance efforts and enhance intelligence coordination among organizations within the country. Expand this capability to smaller, linked threat finance units throughout the region.

1.3: Develop counternarcotics intelligence collection, CN campaign planning, assessment, targeting, and fusion capabilities at the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Nexus (CJIATF-N).

1.4: Support the London-based Joint Narcotics Analysis Center (JNAC) to conduct strategic level analysis, studies on effects of the narcotics trade on security and governance, and provide reach-back support to the Interagency Operations and Coordination Center (IOCC).

Objective 2: Develop more capable, accountable, effective and self-reliant Afghan counternarcotics security forces.

2.1: Create an operational concept for the CNP-A and implement a comprehensive development plan for the provincial CNP-A, ANA CN Brigade, the Aviation Interdiction Unit (AIU), and CNP-A headquarters that is synchronized with and supports other elements of the Afghan National Police (ANP). This development plan will become part of the overall Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) development plan.

2.2: Within the context of a multinational effort to engage Afghanistan’s neighbors, support, enhance and sustain the Afghan Border Police and Customs, and continue to support the Border Management Task Force in its mission to secure ports of entry and the "green" border to significantly disrupt the export of narcotics from Afghanistan and the import of precursor chemicals into Afghanistan.

Objective 3: Fully integrate counternarcotics activities into civil-military campaign planning.

3.1: Develop a counternarcotics campaign plan that supports and is fully integrated into the civilian-military campaign plan, and is coordinated with the USG’s Agriculture Assistance Strategy.

Objective 4: Enhance and increase agricultural development and licit alternatives to poppy, in line with the objectives set forth in national and provincial development strategies.

4.1: Increase alternative development programs and enhance existing programs to provide sustainable licit alternatives to the narcotics industry.

4.2: Enhance community and provincial structures to foster agribusiness development and delivery of licit economic goods to market.

Objective 5: Increase support for GIRoA’s demand reduction and treatment programs.

5.1: Increase support for residential and outpatient drug treatment facilities.

Objective 6: Support sub-national supply reduction efforts.

6.1: Re-apportion U.S. Government-funded Poppy Eradication Force (PEF) assets to support CNP-A development or other initiatives.

6.2: Support provincial Afghan-led supply reduction efforts including anti-drug information campaigning and governor-led eradication.

6.3: Support the GIRoA’s Good Performers’ Initiative (GPI) and other provincial-level initiatives to provide more timely political incentives to influence provincial governors’ CN activities and reinforce consistent CN messaging at the local and provincial levels.

6.4: Strengthen GIRoA’s ability to meet immediate provincial needs for infrastructure and support projects as recognition for significant or sustained reductions in narcotics cultivation through GPI.

6.5: Improve provincial and local capacity to identify short-term development priorities and absorb funds available through incentive programs, such as GPI.

Objective 7: Improve counternarcotics strategic communications

7.1: Integrate counternarcotics communications and counter-propaganda planning and execution with other information and public diplomacy efforts. Increase coverage by international, national and local media outlets of successes connected to the counternarcotics effort, including arrests and seizures, and public service and development projects supported by GPI funding. Through collaboration with GIRoA and other Afghan opinion makers, actively work to improve the public perception of GIRoA and the international community’s counternarcotics and anti-corruption efforts.

7.2: Enhance the effectiveness of provincial level capacity-building for the Ministry of Counter Narcotics’ outreach and public information efforts.

7.3: Support GIRoA development of a comprehensive year-round public information pre-planting campaign, including but not limited to specific messaging for the pre-planting season.

Objective 8: Work with international organizations and Afghanistan’s regional neighbors to further disrupt the insurgency-narcotics network and prevent their safe-havens.

8.1: Enhance regional and international community support for Afghan-led counternarcotics efforts.

8.2: Coordinate USG counternarcotics and military assistance to Pakistan to support and reinforce USG efforts in Afghanistan.

8.3: Expand USG counternarcotics engagement with Afghanistan’s neighbors and regional actors.

8.4: Strengthen cross-border cooperation between Afghanistan and neighboring countries.

8.5: Work with Gulf States to enhance international threat finance capabilities.

Goal 2: Address the narcotics-corruption nexus and reinforce the Government of Afghanistan.

Objective 1: Develop institutional capacity in support of the overall Governance Strategy

1.1: Develop Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) institutional capacity.

1.2: Improve Ministry of the Interior (MOI) institutional capacity.

1.3: Further develop Attorney General’s Office (AGO) institutional capacity.

1.4: Further develop the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL).

Objective 2: Designate and prosecute major traffickers. Align law enforcement, justice and targeted financial measures and corrections development programs.

2.1: Continue to strengthen the operational capacity and capabilities of the Criminal Justice Task Force and the Central Narcotics Tribunal.

2.2: Continue to use all available legal vehicles, including multilateral conventions containing extradition provisions, to permit, where appropriate, the prosecution of drug network leaders in the United States.

Conclusion: Breaking the insurgency, reducing corruption and reinforcing the Afghan Government.

In cooperation with all the international partners, the U.S. Government will support Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics, Ministry of Interior and the Afghan National Drug Control Strategy. Afghanistan is the lead nation for counternarcotics in Afghanistan. This strategy is about dismantling the links among insurgency, drugs, corruption and criminality that plague the Afghan people. This will help achieve our national security objectives, especially to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies that threaten the people and Government of Afghanistan and reconnect the Afghan people to effective government institutions. Essential to this strategy is its integration with USG efforts to re-develop the agricultural sector, creating jobs and improving incomes of those who can choose planting, harvesting, and profiting from licit crops over growing poppy. By targeting the narcotics-insurgency and corruption-insurgency nexus, the USG links counternarcotics to the counterinsurgency strategy and ultimately helps the Afghan people rid their country of the pervasive cancer that is the narcotics trade.

Resource Allocation
(The following figures represent estimates of enacted resources only (as of 3/8/10))





2009 (total)

595 million

165 million

19 million

230 million

2010 (base)

510 million

208 million

19 million

18 million


1.1 billion

373 million

38 million

248 million