The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.

Challenges: Afghanistan is emerging from 40 years of conflict and lacks a strong foundation for counternarcotics and rule of law. Over the past fifteen years, Afghanistan has made improvements, but much remains to be done. Corruption is endemic and impunity continues to degrade the public trust and undermine the legitimacy and efficacy of the central government.  Despite the passage of a landmark 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women, gender-based violence remains pervasive and survivors continue to face challenges in accessing the formal justice system. Afghanistan has significant challenges with illicit cultivation, production, trafficking, and consumption of narcotics, all of which undermine good governance, the licit economy, and public health; fuel corruption and insecurity; and provide sources of revenue for the insurgency. According to a July 2019 UN report, the Taliban and other insurgent groups secured at least $29 million in taxes from the farm-gate value of opium and additional funds from the collection of ushr, a tithe of about 10 percent on agricultural produce. Afghanistan produces over 80 percent of the world’s illicit opium, which ultimately fuels a global opiate trade that generates tens of billions in profits for corrupt officials, drug traffickers, organized criminal groups, and insurgents across the globe.

U.S. assistance has improved Afghanistan’s capacity to prosecute serious drug offenses and uphold the rule of law. Despite gains made over the past fifteen years with INL foreign assistance support, Afghan rule of law institutions continue to face challenges in addressing pervasive corruption, including prosecuting high-profile offenders. Services for women and children, addressing illicit narcotic use, and protecting legal rights are limited or, in some areas of the country, non-existent. The Afghan prison infrastructure remains vulnerable to overcrowding, which complicates the proper physical classification of prisoners and accentuates the potential for external security threats.

Goals: Assistance programs managed by INL in Afghanistan are designed to address critical and complex U.S. national security objectives in one of the most difficult operating environments in the world. Within the context of broader U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, INL’s objective is to assist the Afghan government to assume and sustain basic responsibility for combating illicit narcotics and uphold the rule of law. Counternarcotics priorities include strengthening the Afghan government’s capacity to combat the drug trade as a critical element of securing and sustaining broader stability and security as well as denying revenue to anti-government actors. Rule of law priorities include improving and expanding access to the formal justice sector, increasing capacity of justice sector institutions, promoting gender justice, reducing corruption, and partnering with the Government of Afghanistan to develop a safe, secure, and humane corrections system that meets international standards and Afghan cultural requirements.

Accomplishments: INL has worked alongside the Afghan government to implement comprehensive initiatives and reforms with measurable achievements. Training, advising, and targeted programs have addressed key needs in counternarcotics and rule of law. 

Counternarcotics:

  • As a direct result of Department of Justice and INL support, Afghanistan has passed and enforces a robust drug law, administers a secure facility in which defendants are tried and held, and deploys highly trained legal practitioners to conduct the cases, resulting in over 2,355 appellate court convictions since 2009.
  • Specialized units of the Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan are now able to independently develop intelligence, and request and execute their own warrants. Evidence gathered through court-ordered surveillance operations has increased the number of large-scale drug trafficking and related corruption cases brought to the Counter Narcotics Justice Center.
  • INL-supported drug treatment centers provide residential, outpatient, vocational rehabilitation, and home-based assistance to over 28,000 persons per year, including specialized centers for women and children. INL also trains prevention and treatment professionals in the Universal Treatment Curriculum and the Universal Prevention Curriculum.
  • INL worked with the Government of Afghanistan to develop an anti-drug curriculum for Afghan schools. The curriculum has reached about 600,000 students, and approximately 1,900 teachers have been trained.

Rule of Law:

  • With INL support, justice and corrections institutions across Afghanistan are now using an online case management system (CMS) to track criminal and civil cases from arrest through sentencing to release. This database, which has more than 600,000 cases registered as of 2020, helps reduce corruption and increases transparency and efficiency across a range of government ministries.
  • INL partners with U.S. law schools to train the next generation of Afghan legal professionals through the establishment of the undergraduate law degree program at the American University of Afghanistan and scholarships for 121 Afghans to earn LLM or PhD degrees as of July 2020.
  • INL funds legal aid clinics in multiple provinces to educate low income or otherwise marginalized Afghan citizens about their legal rights, assist them in accessing the formal justice system, and provide legal and social services to women and children who are victims of or vulnerable to gender based violence or human trafficking. These clinics help approximately 10,000 Afghans each year. 
  • In partnership with the Department of Justice, INL builds the capacity of Afghan justice sector actors through high-level mentoring and training to investigate and prosecute complex cases involving corruption, major crimes, narcotics, money laundering, and threat finance and terrorism.
  • INL supports the capacity of the professional training departments of the Ministry of Justice, Supreme Court, and Office of the Attorney General to meet the on-going and long-term professional development needs of justice officials. 
  • INL supported the government of Afghanistan to reform its penal code and develop the law on elimination of violence against women and continues to support the training on and implementation of this legislation.
  • For women and children who have survived gender-based violence or trafficking in persons, INL funds protective services which provide legal advice, educational and vocational services and psychosocial counseling.  
  • Since 2012, INL has supported the Office of Prison Affairs (OPA), previously the General Directorate for Prisons and Detention Centers.  Support includes development of a classification and case management system, enabling inmate population tracking and management across the directorate.
  • INL’s Corrections System Support Program (CSSP) trains approximately 1,200 corrections officers per year on a variety of basic and specialized topics. Since December 2013, OPA has conducted its own pre-employment trainings at the National Training Center in Kabul.
  • INL also supports Afghan rule of law efforts through vulnerable populations programming in the corrections system. These programs improve conditions and future livelihood outcomes for juvenile offenders as well as female offenders—often accused or convicted of moral crimes—and their children. 
  • No OPA facilities were cited for human rights violations by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s 2019 report on Afghan prisons and detention centers.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future