Chairman Hunter, Ranking Member Skelton, distinguished members of the Committee: on behalf of the men and women of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), I appreciate your invitation to testify today regarding the DEA counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan. I appreciate the efforts and support this Committee has shown for the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, and look forward to today’s discussion.
The large scale
production of opium in Afghanistan is not only a significant threat
Afghanistan’s future and the region’s stability, but also has worldwide
implications. In response to
this threat, the DEA has undertaken an aggressive approach to combat the production
of opium in
Afghanistan. The DEA has opened and staffed our Kabul Country Office, initiated
Advisory and Support Team program, and has begun to establish an aviation presence
Afghanistan and expand our regional presence.
Opium Production in Afghanistan
The Golden Crescent Region of Southwest Asia - Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran
- has long
been known as an illicit opium source area. Years of warfare in Afghanistan,
including the Soviet
invasion and occupation throughout the 1980s, and the civil strife of the 1990s,
country's economic infrastructure.
DEA’s Presence in Afghanistan
The DEA’s Kabul Country Office was fully reopened in January 2004, and it has made significant progress under difficult conditions. DEA also has enhanced staffing levels in Afghanistan to more effectively complete our mission.
Working with the CNP-A and the Department of Defense (DoD), the DEA has established the National Interdiction Unit (NIU), which is comprised of CNP-A officers who have been selected to work on major narcotic enforcement operations with the Kabul Country Office. Through assistance, training, and mentoring, DEA’s goal is to make the NIU capable of conducting independent operations. Five classes of the NIU have graduated from a six-week training program that was sponsored by the U.S. Government. All NIU graduates are operationally deployed and work bi-laterally with DEA’s FAST teams. Presently, there are approximately 100 NIU officers with a total force of 125 expected this summer.
The Five Pillar Plan
The DEA has joined with coalition partners, the State Department in the U.S. Embassy Kabul Counternarcotics Implementation Plan. This “Five Pillar Plan” provides the DEA opportunities, as never before, to reduce heroin production in Afghanistan and contribute to the stabilization and rebuilding of this war-torn country. Our primary role falls under the “Interdiction Pillar,” where DEA is responsible for dismantling drug trafficking organizations. To achieve that goal, the DEA has expanded its presence in Afghanistan by permanently stationing additional Special Agents and Intelligence Analysts to enhance that country’s counternarcotics capacity. The DEA also provides drug enforcement training to our counterparts in the Counternarcotics Police- Afghanistan (CNP-A). This effort will build Afghanistan’s institutions of justice and strengthen internal counternarcotics capabilities.
To help achieve our goals in Afghanistan, DEA has established specially trained, Foreigndeployed Advisory Support Teams (FAST). FAST is a key tool by which DEA advances its enforcement and training operations. FAST consists of five teams of six specially trained agents and analysts who deploy to Afghanistan for 120 days at a time to assist the Kabul Country Office and CNP-A in the development of their investigations. They advise, mentor and train our Afghan counterpart.
Department of Defense Support
The Department of Defense is funding and constructing a FAST and NIU base camp in Afghanistan which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of FY 2007. This facility will be capable of housing and providing mission support for our deployed FAST teams and their NIU counterparts. FAST personnel currently are being housed at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and at the Bagram Air Field until this base camp is completed.
The Department of Defense is providing the Afghan Ministry of Interior with eight MI-17 helicopters dedicated to counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan, which also will provide needed mobility for DEA FAST Team personnel. On June 10, 2006, the first two MI-17 helicopters arrived in Kabul and will be operational by mid July. The remaining six helicopters are scheduled to arrive every six weeks until there are a total of eight helicopters in country. An additional two MI-17s are located at Ft. Bliss to facilitate the training of future Afghan pilots and crews. On June 2, 2006, the first of these crew members graduated from the MI-17 pilot training program at Fort Bliss, Texas. DOD also is assisting counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan by funding the construction of the NIU training facility, the purchase of equipment and training for Afghan counternarcotics officers, the construction of hangars for DEA and Afghan aviation assets; and other support. A DOD funded clam shell hanger for the DEA air wing was completed on June 22, 2006. The DEA King Air and crew departed Addison, Texas enroute to Afghanistan on June 23rd and is scheduled to arrive in Kabul on July 7, 2006.
Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Teams
In support of the Administration’s “Five Pillar Plan,” DEA initiated the Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Teams. The first two FAST teams arrived in Afghanistan in April 2005. The FAST program directly improves the DEA’s work force and capabilities in Afghanistan increasing time spent with the NIU to identify, target, investigate, disrupt or dismantle transnational drug trafficking operations in the region. The FAST groups provide guidance to their Afghan counterparts, while conducting bilateral investigations aimed at the region’s trafficking organizations. The FAST groups, which are supported and largely funded by the Department of Defense, also help with the destruction of existing opium storage sites, clandestine heroin processing labs, and precursor chemical supplies directly related to our investigations.
The FAST groups, who received specialized training, will be deployed in Afghanistan, two groups at a time, and rotate every 120 days. The non rotating three groups remain at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia, where they engage in training and provide operational support for the deployed teams in Afghanistan.
DEA’s participation in the Five Pillar Plan is an expansion of the DEA-led
Operation Containment, initiated in 2002. This program was necessary due to
the lack of fully developed institutional systems for drug enforcement in Afghanistan,
such as courts and law enforcement agencies. Through Operation Containment,
in May 2003, the DEA was also able to establish a 25- member Sensitive Investigative
Unit (SIU) in neighboring Uzbekistan, a country critical to containing the
threat of Afghan opium entering Central Asia for further transit to Russia
and Western Europe. On April 19, 2006, the DEA funded Uzbekistan SIU executed
a search warrant in Sarosivo District, Surkhandarya Region, Uzbekistan resulting
in one arrest and the seizure of approximately 129.5 kilograms of heroin.
Corruption is widespread throughout Afghan society. The Kabul Country Office
has received numerous reports of corruption at all levels of government
to include civil, legislative, and law enforcement components. Other reports
indicate that officials are indirectly involved or are willfully blind
to the illicit activities of traffickers who operate within their areas
Security Situation in Helmand Province
The southern Afghan provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Nimroz present a number
of common challenges that adversely affect DEA’s ability to operate
there. The key challenge is force protection for our DEA agents and NIU
counterparts. For example, in 2005, two NIU investigators were lured to
Helmand Province, kidnapped and then murdered by anti-coalition elements.
Tribal conflicts, institutionalized drug production, and anti coalition
activities have hindered our efforts. The ongoing military operations along
the Afghan-Pakistan border and the spike in violence have impeded our ability
to work in the south.
Drugs and Terrorism
In the past, terrorist groups derived much of their funding and support from state sponsors of terrorism. With increased international pressure, many of these funding sources have become less reliable and, in some instances, have disappeared altogether. As a result, terrorist groups have turned to alternative sources of financing, including fundraising from sympathizers and nongovernmental organizations, and criminal activities, such as arms trafficking, money laundering, kidnap-for-ransom, extortion, racketeering, and/or drug trafficking. This trend is true not only in Afghanistan, but around the world, and increasingly blurs the distinction between terrorist and drug trafficking organizations. Both criminal organizations and terrorist groups continue to develop international networks and establish alliances of convenience. In the new era of globalization, both terror and crime organizations have expanded and diversified their activities, taking advantage of the internationalization of communications and banking systems, as well as the opening of borders to facilitate their activities.
DEA’s investigative approach focuses on the utilization of credible, corroborated, confidential sources whose activities are closely directed and monitored by Special Agents to identify, penetrate, disrupt, and hopefully dismantle these organizations. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, DEA has developed a cadre of reliable sources of information and developed many valuable relationships.
Because DEA is concerned with the nexus between terrorist activity and its association with narcotics trafficking, DEA personnel are directed to solicit information of assistance in the global war on terror at all informant debriefings. These relationships have yielded actionable intelligence of ongoing anti-coalition activity, and information gathered through DEA human intelligence sources have thwarted hostile acts against U.S. personnel and interests inside of Afghanistan.
The DEA continues to take an active leadership role in the multi-national efforts to combat the world-wide drug threat posed by heroin production in Afghanistan. To date, DEA has increased staffing levels in the Kabul Country Office, deployed our FAST teams in Afghanistan, mentored and trained the Afghan NIU, targeted high value trafficking organizations and their leaders, achieved the first extradition from Afghanistan and coordinated Afghan based investigations with our law enforcement partners in Operation Containment. Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on this critical topic. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.