DEA Congressional Testimony
March 17, 2005

Statement of

Michael A. Braun
Chief of Operations
Drug Enforcement Administration

Before the

Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives

March 17, 2005

“U.S. Counternarcotics Policy in Afghanistan: Time for Leadership”

Chairman Hyde, and distinguished members of the Committee on International Relations, on behalf of Administrator Karen Tandy, I appreciate your invitation to testify today regarding the Drug Enforcement Administration’s efforts in Afghanistan.


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is keenly aware that the continued production of opium in Afghanistan is not only a significant threat to Afghanistan’s future and the region’s stability, but also could have worldwide implications. In response to this threat, the DEA has undertaken an aggressive approach to combat the production of opium in Afghanistan. In fact, I am pleased to announce that our Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Teams (FAST) may initiate their first deployment in Afghanistan as early as March 30, 2005. These teams of DEA Special Agents and Intelligence Research Specialists will provide guidance and conduct bilateral investigations to identify and dismantle illicit drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. Our efforts, combined with those of our law enforcement partners, through a program known as Operation Containment, have resulted in significant opium and heroin seizures in the region. We are also providing training and assistance to law enforcement personnel in Afghanistan, and the DEA is directly involved in overseeing and advising U.S. Government and Afghan officials in counter narcotics programs and drug policy issues in Afghanistan. The DEA is confident that our efforts, along with those of our U.S. and foreign counterparts, will result in the reduction of drugs produced in Afghanistan, and will ultimately assist in the stabilization of Afghanistan and the region.

Opium Production in Afghanistan

Years of warfare, punctuated by the Soviet invasion and occupation throughout the 1980s and the civil strife of the 1990s, decimated Afghanistan’s economic infrastructure. During this period, the drug trade unfortunately emerged as Afghanistan’s largest source of income. In 2001, the Taliban banned the cultivation of opium, which temporarily resulted in a significant decrease in production, to an estimated 74 metric tons. However, since the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, production has increased substantially. Official U.S. Government estimates for 2004 indicate that Afghanistan had the potential to produce 4,950 metric tons of oven-dried opium, up from 2,865 metric tons in 2003, and 1,278 metric tons produced in 2002. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Afghanistan produced 87 percent of the world’s illicit opium supply in 2004, up from 75 percent in 2003. But in spite of these cultivation projections, there was not a commensurate rise in total opium yields. This was due to drought, disease, and the inexperience of new “farmers,” which depressed the total per hectare output of opium. Although opium cultivation will continue throughout 2005, early surveys suggest a possibly significant decrease in opium production.

Meanwhile, the Karzai Administration has announced that there will be 100 percent eradication in 2005. This sends a clear message to farmers and opium cultivators that no amount of opium production will be tolerated. At present, there are two concurrently operating eradication programs in Afghanistan. The first is a U.K. Government-supported Central Poppy Eradication Force (CPEF). CPEF is comprised of 500 security personnel and about 1,000 locally hired Afghans who travel throughout the country to conduct ground eradication. In 2004 CPEF managed to eradicate only about 4,000 hectares because of internal management issues and security concerns (some poppy growers laid explosive booby traps in their fields; 4 eradicators were killed). In 2005, CPEF intends to travel to Nangarhar and Helmand Provinces to strike the densest growth regions. The other eradication program is the governor-led eradication program. Although this program appears to be fraught with corruption issues (there are reports some governors are allowing opium growth in some areas, while eradicating the fields of political opponents), all governors in 2005 have pledged to support President Karzai’s eradication initiatives. The governors’ eradication program hires local militia, farmers, and police to destroy poppy fields.

The U.S. Government led the discussion in 2004, encouraging aerial eradication. However, the Afghanistan government is against such an approach for the time being.

The Production and Smuggling of Heroin and Morphine

Laboratories in Afghanistan convert opium into morphine base, white heroin, or one of several grades of brown heroin. The large processing labs are primarily located in southern Afghanistan, with smaller laboratories located in other areas, including Nangarhar Province. In the past, many opium processing laboratories were located in Pakistan, particularly in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP). These laboratories relocated to Afghanistan, to be closer to the source of opium and to avoid increasing law enforcement actions by the Government of Pakistan.

Opiates produced in Afghanistan are typically consumed or smuggled to markets within the region, and also are smuggled to markets in the West, with the majority of the opiate products in Europe originating in Afghanistan. Some small quantities of heroin produced in Afghanistan are smuggled to the United States.

Afghan heroin is trafficked via many routes, with traffickers quickly adjusting smuggling routes based on law enforcement and political actions, not to mention weather-related events. Traffickers in Afghanistan primarily rely on vehicles and overland routes to move drug shipments out of the country. A number of reports have been received indicating that large convoys of well-armed passenger trucks (up to 60 or more vehicles) loaded with opiates have been driven across western Afghanistan into Iran. Large freight trucks, known as “jinga” trucks are also loaded with drugs and sent toward Pakistan, while smaller shipments of drugs are sent through the northern Afghanistan border with Tajikistan. Afghan traffickers have become adept at using sophisticated concealment methods, such as traps and hidden compartments to hide opium, morphine, and heroin.

Also, reports indicate that heroin shipments moving north from Afghanistan through the Central Asian States to Russia have increased. Tajikistan law enforcement agencies report that approximately 80 percent of their drug seizures in Central Asia are opiates. Tajikistan is a primary transshipment location for opiate shipments destined for Russia. While some of the heroin is used in Russia, a portion transits Russia to other consumer markets in Western and Eastern Europe. Afghan heroin also transits India en route to international markets and continues to be trafficked from Afghanistan through Pakistan, with seizures frequently reported at Pakistan’s international airports. Some heroin is smuggled by sea on vessels leaving the port city of Karachi.

Morphine base is transported overland through Pakistan and Iran, or directly to Iran from Afghanistan, and then into Turkey, where Turkey-based trafficking groups convert the morphine base to heroin prior to shipment to European and North American markets. Shipments of Afghan-produced morphine base are also sent by sea from Pakistan’s Makran Coast. Smuggling routes north through the Central Asian States, then across the Caspian Sea and south into Turkey also are used.

Afghanistan produces no essential or precursor chemicals. Acetic anhydride (AA), which is the most commonly used acetylating agent in heroin processing, is smuggled into Afghanistan from Pakistan, India, the Central Asian States, China, and Europe.

Money Laundering in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s legitimate banking sector was decimated by a generation of war. The “hawala,” which is a centuries-old, sophisticated underground banking system used in Afghanistan and throughout Asia, was the only way refugees and residents could remit money domestically and internationally. This system provides a confidential, convenient, efficient, and inexpensive service in areas that are not served by traditional banking facilities. While there is virtually no external paper trail of any financial transfers, the “hawala” dealers (hawaladars) keep very meticulous internal records. Drug proceeds in Afghanistan are likely remitted overseas using this system.

In 2004, Afghanistan promulgated a number of laws to regulate the activities of the hawala system. It is generally accepted that Afghanistan will never rid itself of these “hawaladars” as long as they are an efficient and competitive substitute for legitimate banks. The Karzai Administration, however, has taken steps to ensure that a number of anti-money laundering statutes are enacted, including Know Your Customer and Terrorist Financing Laws.

The Five Pillar Plan

The DEA has joined with coalition partners, the State Department, and the Department of Defense (DOD) 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 in this plan falls under the “Interdiction Pillar,” where DEA will assist with the goal of destroying clandestine labs and seizing precursor chemicals, opium, and opiate stockpiles. To achieve that goal, the DEA is expanding its presence in Afghanistan by permanently stationing additional Special Agents and Intelligence Analysts to enhance that country’s counternarcotics capacity. The DEA also will continue lending its expertise by providing 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. The other two DEA components of the “Interdiction Pillar” are the Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Teams and Operation Containment.

DEA’s Presence in Afghanistan

The DEA’s Kabul Country Office reopened in February 2003, and it has made significant progress, while enduring difficult conditions. Security constraints, as well as other conditions in Afghanistan, initially severely limited our agents’ movements and their ability to conduct traditional drug enforcement operations. Fortunately, the DEA is now permitted to travel outside the Kabul city limits, if specific security criteria can be met. This expanded travel will greatly increase our ability to conduct operations and gather intelligence. We also have increased our staffing levels in Afghanistan to more effectively complete our mission. As of January 2005, the Kabul Country Office established permanent positions for a Country Attaché and two Special Agents. We included another four Special Agent positions on a temporary duty status (TDY), as well as three Intelligence Research Specialists (IRS) (TDY) and two Support Staff positions. One Intelligence Research Specialist is assigned to the Combined Forces Command – Afghanistan (CFC-A) Intelligence Fusion Center and another is assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force – 76 (CJTF-76) at Bagram Air Field. The other IRS is assigned to the Kabul Country Office. In addition to increasing our strength in the Kabul Country Office, the DEA responded to a request from the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, by detailing our Assistant Administrator for Intelligence to Afghanistan in August 2004, to serve as the head of the U.S. Embassy Office of Drug Control Policy in Kabul. This office is responsible for overseeing all U.S. Government counter narcotics programs in Afghanistan and advises both the U.S. Ambassador and the Afghanistan Ministry of Interior on drug policy issues.

The Kabul Country Office’s primary counterpart in Afghanistan is the Counter Narcotics Police – Afghanistan (CNP-A). The DEA has established the National Interdiction Unit (NIU), which is comprised of CNP-A officers who have been selected to work in narcotic enforcement operations with the Kabul CO. The DEA will assist the unit by supporting the U.S. Embassy’s plan to destroy clandestine labs and seize precursor chemicals, opium, and opiate stockpiles. With DEA advisory assistance, training, and mentoring, we anticipate the NIU will be capable of conducting independent operations within two years. These officers also will be working with the DEA’s newly initiated Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team Agents. Since October 2004, 77 Counter Narcotic Police-Afghanistan (CNP-A) NIU officers have graduated from their six-week training program and are operationally deployed. Included in this number are six female officers. The involvement of the female officers is of particular significance, due to cultural sensitivities, which prohibit women from being touched or searched by male law enforcement officers. These female officers will ensure that female suspects can be questioned, searched, and detained, if necessary. It is expected that, by April 2005, 100 NIU officers will have completed training and will work directly with the Kabul Country Office and other DEA entities.

Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Teams

In support of the “Five Pillars Plan,” we have initiated the Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Teams (FAST). As early as March 30th, the FAST groups may begin their initial deployment in Afghanistan. The FAST program directly improves the DEA’s work force and capabilities in Afghanistan by enhancing connectivity with its Afghan counterparts to identify, target, investigate, disrupt or dismantle transnational drug trafficking operations in the region. The FAST groups will 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 will help with the destruction of existing opium storage sites, clandestine heroin processing labs, and precursor chemical supplies.

Each of the five FAST groups will consist of a Supervisory Special Agent, four Special Agents and one Intelligence Research Specialist. The FAST groups, who have received specialized training, will be deployed in Afghanistan, two groups at a time, and will rotate every 120 days. The remaining three groups will remain at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia, where they will engage in training and provide operational support for the deployed teams.

Operation Containment

DEA’s participation in the Five Pillar Plan is an expansion of the DEA-led Operation Containment, which was initiated in 2002. The intensive, multi-national program known as Operation Containment was initiated in an attempt to place a security belt around Afghanistan, which would prevent processing chemicals from entering the country and opium and heroin from leaving. 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. This program involves countries in Central Asia, the Caucuses, the Middle East, Europe, and Russia and has the participation of 19 countries. 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.

The success of this multi-national cooperative program has been tremendous. Prior to the initiation of Operation Containment, in 2002, only 407 kilograms of heroin were seized. In FY 2004, Operation Containment resulted in the seizure of 14.9 metric tons of heroin, 7.7 metric tons of morphine base, 5.9 metric tons of opium gum, approximately 3.27 metric tons of precursor chemicals, 77 metric tons of cannabis, 11 heroin labs, and the arrest of 498 individuals, as well as the dismantlement or disruption of major distribution and transportation organizations involved in the Southwest Asian heroin drug trade. During the first quarter of FY 2005, Operation Containment resulted in the seizure of 2.4 metric tons of heroin, 985 kilograms of morphine base, 3 metric tons of opium gum, 152.9 metric tons of cannabis, and 195 arrests.

Drugs and Terrorism

In the past, terrorist groups derived much of their funding and support from state sponsors; however, with increased international pressure, many of these sources have become less reliable and, in some instances, disappeared altogether. As a result, terrorist groups have turned to alternative sources of financing, including fundraising from sympathizers and non-governmental organizations, as well as criminal activities, such as arms trafficking, money laundering, kidnap-for-ransom, extortion, racketeering, and drug trafficking. Both criminal organizations and terrorist groups continue developing international networks and establishing 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. As a result, the traditional boundaries between terrorists groups and other criminal groups have begun to blur.

Although the DEA has evidence that some terrorist groups are involved in drug trafficking, the drug trade continues to be dominated at all levels by traditional drug trafficking organizations. The DEA does not specifically target terrorist groups, except those that are involved as major drug trafficking or money laundering organizations (e.g., FARC and AUC). For example, the DEA has achieved stunning successes in investigating, indicting, and causing the arrest of high-level narco-terrorists in Colombia that are on the Department of State’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. Additionally, the DEA’s intelligence program is working very closely with law enforcement and the Intelligence Community to identify and anticipate emerging threats posed by the links between drugs and terrorism.

As of December 31, 2004, the DEA had identified 45 percent (18 of 40) of the organizations on the Department of State’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list as having possible ties to the drug trade. In addition, it is noteworthy as of February 18, 2005, 13 of the 42 organizations on the Department’s Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) list – the “Most Wanted” drug trafficking and money laundering organizations believed to be primarily responsible for our nation’s illicit drug supply – had links to these Foreign Terrorist Organizations.


The DEA continues to take an active leadership role in the multi-national efforts to combat the drug threat posed by Afghanistan. To date, our efforts have included increasing staffing levels in the Kabul Country Office and assigning our Assistant Administrator for Intelligence to lead the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Drug Control Policy in Kabul. In addition, the FAST groups are nearing their initial deployment in Afghanistan, and we will continue working with our law enforcement partners in Operation Containment. We are confident that these efforts, and those of other U.S. Government agencies, Afghan law enforcement, and our other law enforcement partners, will lead to a reduction of opium production, and ultimately, the stabilization of Afghanistan and the region.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for your recognition and assistance on this important issue and the opportunity to testify here today. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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