Remarks at the Afghan Narcotics Rollout of the National Drug Action Plan

Heather Higginbottom
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources 
New York Palace Hotel
New York City
September 26, 2015

DEPUTY SECRETARY HIGGINBOTTOM: Good afternoon. Ambassador Tanin, thank you for your introduction, for moderating this event. Chief Executive Abdullah, I’d like to thank you and President Ghani for your leadership of Afghanistan. I’d also like to recognize Foreign Minister Rabbani, Deputy Foreign Minister Karzai, and all of the friends of Afghanistan who are here today.

On behalf of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, we welcome the Afghan national unity government’s commitment to promoting security, economic growth, democracy, and human rights. We know success in achieving these goals depends on many factors, including your work to develop and carry out a strong National Drug Action Plan. You and President Ghani have, through the unity government, brought the people of Afghanistan together in common cause to build a unified, stable, and increasingly prosperous nation. Your efforts in countering narcotics are a central component to your mission of peace and stability not just in Afghanistan but for the region and beyond. This is a global shared problem and it can only be addressed by support from around the world for a shared solution.

While opium poppy cultivation is done by a relatively small number of farmers, it is a major and direct threat to the Afghan people’s desire to live in peace. That’s why the balanced and comprehensive approach you are presenting here today is so critical. There are no quick and easy solutions to the complex problems of poppy cultivation and the production, trafficking, and use of narcotics. But we know from experience that a holistic approach targeting all these facets of the drug trade works. By using incentives such as alternative development assistance and deterrents such as eradication, interdiction, and vigorous prosecution, your plan maximizes its chances of long-term success.

With commitment, your National Drug Action Plan can work, and the Afghan people need it to work. Worldwide data shows clearly that countries that produce narcotics consume them, and that is true of Afghanistan, as Dr. Abdullah just said. Today Afghanistan is suffering a terrible loss of human potential as it faces one of the highest rates of drug use in the world – 3 million Afghans, or 1 in 10, are drug users. This is double the world average. Afghanistan generates more than 80 percent of the world’s opiate supply, so your efforts to stop production will save lives, save money, and promote public health in Afghanistan and across the world. We all have a stake in your success. Your National Drug Action Plan, created by and for the people of Afghanistan, comes at just the right time. The United States and the international community will be more than just your advocates for its implementation; we will be your active partners, for your success is our success.

We’re optimistic today. Through the hard work of many Afghans and the support of the international community, Afghanistan has made many advances, improving health care and prosecuting and incarcerating those who are poisoning your country. Today, under the leadership of President Ghani and CEO Abdullah, there are more trained law enforcement and counternarcotics officers than ever before, institutions and individuals bringing traffickers to justice, resources on the ground to fight drug addiction, and major improvements in infrastructure and equipment that increases the effectiveness of Afghan law enforcement. I saw many of these advances when I visited Afghanistan in February, and I salute the bravery and commitment of the Afghan law enforcement officers who are involved in this fight.

We know the fight is hard, and I want – we want – our Afghan colleagues to know that America and the international community are here to support you and are vested in your success. The United States alone has committed nearly $350 million to implement this plan and support Afghanistan’s counternarcotics efforts. The outcomes we seek require broad partnership. We encourage all those facing the threat of heroin and opiate addiction and trafficking, and those who are concerned about terrorism – so, in other words, all nations – to join us in helping the unity government implement this plan. We believe that more responsibility in the hands of an effective Afghan Government is the only long-term solution. In light of the renewed commitment this plan represents, we call upon all countries to join us in making concrete financial pledges to the needs outlined by the Afghan Government at this Paris Pact Policy Consultative Group meeting this December.

Afghanistan’s people and leaders have a vision of a united, secure, and sovereign Afghanistan. President Obama has been clear that the United States is and will remain the greatest supporter of this vision, and Afghanistan’s new National Drug Action Plan is a critical part of achieving it. So Dr. Abdullah, Ambassador Tanin, thank you for your leadership. And to all the nations and organizations who are represented here today, thank you. We thank you for all you’ve done and for your continued support in the future. Thank you. (Applause.)