Tajikistan shares a 749-mile border with Afghanistan, which produces nearly three-quarters of the world’s opium. Tajikistan is not a major producer of narcotics but is located on the primary trafficking route from Afghanistan to Russia and the rest of Europe. Drug trafficking has reinforced corruption throughout all levels of the Tajik government.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that annually about 25 percent of the heroin and 15 percent of the opium produced in Afghanistan is smuggled through Central Asia, with 85 percent of that amount passing through Tajikistan, totaling between 75 and 80 metric tons per year of heroin and between 30 and 35 metric tons of opium. Based on these estimates, Tajik law-enforcement agencies were on pace to seize just over one percent of the opiates trafficked through the country in 2013. Unofficial estimates of the percentage of the country’s economy linked to drug trafficking range from 20 to 30 percent.
Domestic consumption in Tajikistan is relatively low, with only 7,470 officially registered addicts, accounting for .09 percent of the population. However, UNODC and the Red Cross estimate that as many as 100,000 people in Tajikistan regularly use opiates, which would account for 1.2 percent of the population.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
In 2010, the Tajik government formally adopted a National Border Management Strategy (NBMS) focused on improving interagency cooperation. In 2013, the government established an interagency Secretariat that met regularly throughout the year to coordinate implementation of the Strategy.
With significant financial support from the United States, the Tajik Drug Control Agency (DCA) established a vetted unit in June 2013. The DCA vetted unit is the first such unit in Central Asia and is designed to pursue high-level drug traffickers. In August, the vetted unit achieved its first operational success with the arrest of a major local trafficker and the seizure of several kilograms of heroin and hashish.
The Tajik government advanced two major policy documents on counter-narcotics in the first six months of 2013: a “National Strategy on Combating Illicit Drugs, 2013-2020,” and a draft set of amendments and additions to the “Law on Narcotics, Psychotropic Substances and Chemicals.” In 2013, the Government of Tajikistan began implementation of a new five-year “National Program on Drug Prevention and Treatment.”
Tajikistan does not have an extradition agreement with the United States. Tajikistan is a signatory to multilateral legal instruments that could be used for cooperation on extradition and mutual legal assistance. However, Tajik authorities appear to lack capacity to readily use these formal agreements for meaningful assistance.
2. Supply Reduction
According to DCA statistics, during the first nine months of 2013, Tajik law-enforcement agencies seized 5,373 kilograms (kg) of illegal drugs, including 387 kg of heroin, 623 kg of opium, and 4.36 metric tons (MT) of cannabis. In addition, the DCA seized a small amount of synthetic and psychotropic drugs, including MDMA (ecstasy), barbiturates, and benzodiazepine.
Compared with the first nine months of 2012, these figures represent an increase of 6.8 percent in overall seizures, including a 34.2 percent increase for opium and 6.6 percent increase for cannabis, but a 17.9 percent decline for heroin. The drop-off in heroin seizures is even more dramatic when compared to 2008, when Tajik law-enforcement and security agencies seized 1.45 MT of heroin – 3.8 times more than in 2013. Likewise, despite the small increase in opium seizures from 2012, the 2013 figure represents a steep drop-off from 2008, when the Tajiks seized over 1.6 MT – 2.6 times more than in 2013.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs led all agencies in drug seizures, accounting for 45.6 percent of the total. The State Committee on National Security (GNKB) reported the second-highest seizure totals, with 27.8 percent of the total. The GKNB figure does not include the Border Guards, which are subordinate to GKNB and experienced a 20.8 percent decline in seizures from 2012. The Customs Service reported 133 kg in seizures, up from 61 kg in 2012, while DCA experienced a slight decline, from 595 kg in 2012 to 582 kg in 2013.
During the first nine months of 2013, the DCA opened 107 criminal cases, of which 66 went to court, with a total of 97 defendants.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health (MOH), there were 7,470 officially registered addicts in Tajikistan as of July 1, 2013, an increase of 3.3 percent over the beginning of the year. However, the total number of drug addicts in the country is presumed to be much higher. A study conducted by the Red Cross in 2011 estimated the total number to be between 60,000 and 100,000.
The MOH provides drug treatment services through a national rehabilitation center in Dushanbe and four regional centers. Psychological care and specialized out-patient drug treatment facilities exist in urban areas, but in rural areas only primary care is available.
As a matter of policy, the government does not encourage or facilitate illegal activity associated with drug-trafficking. Many believe, however, that significant amounts of narcotics move through Tajikistan with the support of corrupt law enforcement and government officials. Extremely low salaries for state officials, the scale of the profits to be made from drugs, and the dearth of other profitable activities in the country make drug trafficking an attractive undertaking for those positioned to facilitate it.
Arrests and prosecutions of major traffickers remained few, and those that did take place were presumed to target small independent operators rather than major traffickers.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
The United States continues to provide salary supplements to Tajikistan’s DCA, and will also support an elite DCA unit as part of the Central Asia Counternarcotics Initiative. Since 2003, the United States has provided $11.3 million to the DCA. The United States and the DCA support a Drug Liaison Office (DLO) in Taloqan, Afghanistan, where DCA officers work with Afghan officials to prevent drug smuggling from Afghanistan to Tajikistan. While DCA’s seizure rates declined in 2012, the efforts of the DLOs led to significant seizures and destruction of several drug laboratories in Afghanistan.
In July, the United States organized training for Customs officials operating U.S.-provided vehicle scanners at the Nizhny-Panj border-crossing point on the Tajik-Afghan border. Despite efforts to improve operator techniques and repair technical problems, the scanners remain underused and have produced negligible drug seizures. In June, the customs chief at Nizhny-Panj was arrested for corruption.
The movement on the NBMS and establishment of the vetted unit are positive developments, but continued deficiencies in interagency cooperation, limited investigatory capacity, poor utilization of some donated equipment, and corruption continue to hinder the success of counter-narcotics programs in Tajikistan. The long-term decline in opiate seizures also remains a concern. While the political will to tackle drug trafficking remains weak, the Tajik government is strongly committed to countering the infiltration of militants and extremists into the country. The United States hopes to build on this commitment to strengthen border security and counternarcotics efforts.