Senate Narcotics Caucus Hearing: Counternarcotics in Afghanistan has Failed, Work with Russia and Iran To Stop the Heroin Boom
January 17, 2014 • 12:03PM

The Jan. 15 hearing on Afghanistan narcotrafficking by the U.S. Senate Narcotics Control Caucus, chaired by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.) and Co-Chair Senator Grassley (R-Ia) presented damning testimony and statements about the historic heroin boom taking place under the nose of NATO's costly 13-year presence in the country. Sen. Feinsten opened with the proposal the U.S. work with Russia and Iran to tackle the problem. Feinstein made caucus recommendations to the witnesses, with point one being "internationalize the narcotics effort." Russia has a large addict population being the main market for trafficking Afghan opiates, so, "the United States and Russia might, and should, work together in combating this drug trade.... Iran has a major impact; my understanding is that thousands of Iranian Border Guards have been killed trying to enforce the Iranian border. We may have many areas of disagreement with Iran, but there is one area where we should agree, and counternarcotics is that area." Her second point was using the model of the Helmand Food Zone project, which combined eradication of the poppy crop with alternative crops while also creating manufacturing.

The first three witnesses — Deputy Secretary of State for International Narcotics Brownstein, Chief of Operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) James Capra, and a director of the office of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats, Erin Logan — all gave pre-written standard accounts of their activities within Afghanistan. Ms. Logan, after describing U.S. military and DEA work creating Afghan counternarcotics and intelligence units and plans to now build a counternarcotics hub in Bahrain, essentially acknowledged that something is going wrong within Afghanistan. She described the new hub as a "reachback" facility, and welcomed working with Russia, but urged "caution," regretting that the "Russians have often been not more willing, then, to talk about drugs coming out of Afghanistan, but, we can continue to work with them."

John Sopko, the Congressionally-appointed Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) then popped the bubble, stating that everything just discussed, in fact has failed over the last two years. The Pentagon's own recent "1230 Report" documents that, he said. Narcotic production is up, narcotics money profit is up, seizures of drugs are down, seizures of precursor chemicals for producing heroin are down 71%, etc. During his recent trip, nobody at the U.S. Embassy or NATO-ISAF could explain how, despite the "strategies," any of the existing and shrinking counternarcotics efforts could stop the heroin explosion.

In response to a question from Senator Grassley on drug legalization, DEA's James Capra broke profile, almost apologizing to have to emotionally say: I have been 27 years with DEA, I've got 6 kids, serving my country since I was 18, I have to tell you, going down the path to legalize is "reckless and irresponsible." The long-term impact, it scares us, the treatment people... Everywhere this experiment has been tried it has failed — everywhere in the world. It is wrong; you will get your door knocked on in 10 years about the consequences. At the International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC) in Moscow this summer, with planning and ops law enforcement people, with 100 different nations, almost everyone asked, why are you doing this? You have been pointing your finger at us, and now? I have no answer! I apologize; it is a bad bad experiment. It will cost us with criminality, social and health costs.