Third Ministerial of the Paris Pact Initiative

William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Austria
February 16, 2012

First, I’d like to begin by expressing appreciation for Foreign Ministers Juppé and Lavrov, and Counternarcotics Minister Osmani for their leadership within the Paris Pact and for their support for a coordinated approach to Afghanistan’s regional security. I would also like to thank Secretary General Ban for his participation today, and to express our sincere gratitude to Executive Director Fedotov and Vice Chancellor Spindelegger for hosting this event.

The Challenge Before Us

We are gathered to confront a complex and entrenched problem—one that funds terrorism and violence, blocks the emergence of legitimate livelihoods, and ruins lives at every point in the supply chain. Were the drug trade easy to dislodge from Afghanistan, we would have done it already. And so we start with a dose of humility, befitting a daunting task.

And yet we know that if we dare to envision a different future for this region – re-establishing Afghanistan as a hub for regional growth and trade – then Afghanistan’s leading export can no longer be heroin.

Despite our best efforts, the metrics are not always heartening. In 2011, we faced the loss of several poppy-free provinces amid the highest opium prices in Afghanistan since 2004. A UNODC study last year found that traffickers and criminals around the world profited a shocking $61 billion from Afghan opiates, while placing almost 16.5 million people at risk, including in Russia, Central Asia, Pakistan, Iran, Europe, and – of course – Afghanistan itself.

While the Afghan drug trade begins in Afghanistan, its causes and consequences extend far beyond its borders. So must our responsibility for solving it. This is a global problem that demands a common response, rooted firmly in the full implementation of the three UN drug conventions. And to that end, I would like to say a few words about our multi-pronged approach to reduce production at the source, expand regional cooperation, target illicit financial flows, and invest in demand reduction and drug abuse prevention.

Reducing Opiates at their Source

While poppy cultivation remains high, we remain hard at work to reduce production at the source – and in some cases, we have real progress to show.

Across Afghanistan, USAID has invested $541 million over the past three years in alternative livelihoods assistance, including high-value crops, agricultural and agribusiness training, and agricultural credit. These programs serve over 300,000 rural households each year. In Helmand – the largest poppy-cultivating province – the Afghan government is driving forward an innovative Food Zone program that, with international support, has reduced cultivation by over 36 percent since 2009. More Afghan provinces than ever before lead their own law enforcement efforts today. The Ministry of Counter Narcotics’ Governor-Led Eradication program expanded into 18 provinces in 2011.

Regional Law Enforcement Action

When it comes to law enforcement, the Afghan National Security Forces, or ANSF, have also taken real strides. The Counter Narcotics Police now have highly-capable, vetted investigative and interdiction units that attack drug networks year-round. Afghan-led interdiction efforts benefit from the support of coalition forces and partners like the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency. These partners aim to help Afghan law enforcement authorities operate more independently in the years ahead.

While the challenge is formidable, so is our response. According to U.S. Department of Defense figures, over 500 operations by Afghan forces, ISAF, and law enforcement partners resulted in the seizure of over 82 metric tons of opium, 16 tons of morphine, 10 tons of pure heroin, and 178 tons of hashish in 2011 alone. The number of operations with international assistance resulting in drug busts in Afghanistan has increased nearly 400 percent since 2009.

In 2011, the ANSF, supported by coalition forces and the DEA, seized more than 116 tons of drug precursor chemicals flowing into Afghanistan—the same amount seized in the previous two years combined. We are pleased that the Paris Pact has called for a reinvigorated approach to regional precursor interdiction efforts under Operation TARCET, and we encourage UNODC and interested countries to rapidly develop a framework for future cooperation.

Of course, we all know that interdiction efforts inside Afghanistan are not enough. For years, the international community has provided training and equipment to the front lines of drug and precursor interdiction in Central Asia, including border guards, drug services, and police.

As the final Conference Declaration expressly states, one of our common objectives is to strengthen and implement regional initiatives to combat drug trafficking from Afghanistan. My government is exploring with other partners in the Central Asia region how we can better cooperate and coordinate law enforcement efforts. We want to build on existing institutions and facilitate sharing of law enforcement intelligence and sensitive operations. It is imperative that we work together to improve Afghanistan’s ability to attack drug production, neighboring states’ ability to attack drug distribution, and consumer states’ ability to address drug abuse.

Illicit Financial Flows

The United States is also working to combat illicit financial flows around the world, including those tied to Afghan narcotics. Through bilateral cooperation with countries like Russia, we are identifying the flow of illicit proceeds from Afghan drug trafficking through the international financial system. We are also working directly with the Afghan government to build its capacity to combat illicit finance. Through the Financial Action Task Force and its regional bodies, we are supporting efforts to help Afghanistan fill the existing gaps in its anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing regime. The United States has also publicly identified leading Afghan drug traffickers, as well as the institutions that support them, like the New Ansari Money Exchange Network, in order to cut off their access to the international financial system.

Drug Demand Reduction

Combating the narcotics trade also requires investments in scientifically-proven drug abuse prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services to safeguard our public health and to eliminate consumer markets. As an integral element of our counternarcotics assistance around the world, the United States provided $27 million to international demand reduction programs in 2011, supporting the development of innovative treatment protocols for drug-addicted children; promoting treatment that responds to the specific needs of women and other vulnerable populations; and developing common training standards for drug treatment practitioners across Latin America, Africa, and Asia. While the United States is not a major recipient of Afghan heroin, we have also worked since 2002 at the request of the Afghan government to help develop a national drug treatment system in that country. Since 2007, U.S. assistance has established 29 such centers across Afghanistan, serving over 8,000 adults, adolescents, and children each year.

The Way Forward

Our conversation today is fundamentally different than the ones we had in Paris in 2003 or Moscow in 2006, which I attended as U.S. Ambassador to Russia. The world has changed, both inside Afghanistan and around it. We have all seen how drug abuse weakens communities and economies and fuels instability and conflict. We no longer imagine what Afghanistan’s line ministries might look like, or how they might work together – today, they are our leading partners, often risking their lives as they implement Afghan-led solutions on development, security, justice, and public health.

And so the Paris Pact’s response today must rise to a new challenge. We should no longer debate the nature of the drug trade, or who is responsible – this threat is complex, respects no boundaries, and threatens us all. Instead, we need to ask and answer a more important set of questions: What do we intend to do about it? When we reach 2015, how will Afghanistan, its neighbors, and their international partners sustain this fight?

This will require all hands on deck—drawing on the goals and aspirations expressed in Kabul, Lisbon, Istanbul, and Bonn to ensure that counternarcotics is fully integrated into our 2012 agenda in Chicago, Kabul, and Tokyo.

A brighter future for the Afghan people is within reach. Afghans are taking responsibility for their own security, pursuing reconciliation, and planning for a stable economic future. And as they do, America will stand firmly by their side. Our work here together is critical to the aspirations of the Afghan people for a sustainable living and security for their families. We cannot waver from this fight; our enemies will not, and we must use all the tools at our disposal to stop them.

Thank you.