Kyrgyzstan lies along a significant transit route for illegal drugs moving north from Afghanistan to Russia and other European countries. Illicit drugs are often smuggled from Tajikistan across un-demarcated borders through southern Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan’s geographic location, limited resources, and weak criminal justice system make it a prime transshipment location. There were no significant changes in the country’s domestic counternarcotics strategy or law enforcement and judicial capabilities in 2014. Systemic corruption and political stasis pose barriers to improved performance against drug trafficking in the country. In July 2014, the Kyrgyz government terminated the 2009 U.S.-Kyrgyz Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) under which significant counternarcotics assistance had been provided. Without a DCA, certain counternarcotics assistance is no longer available.
B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends
1. Institutional Development
President Almazbek Atambayev has stated that reducing drug trafficking remains a priority of his government. He has provided political support to narcotics agencies in the Ministry of the Interior (MVD), and the State Border Guard Service, and has emphasized improving the capacity of the State Service for Drug Control (SSDC), which is responsible for coordinating all counternarcotics activities in the country.
Kyrgyzstan is a member of the Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination Center (CARICC) which is mandated to promote regional information sharing and cooperative operations to combat transnational drug trafficking. On December 10, 2014, a senior Kyrgyz security services officer was selected as Director of the CARICC. Kyrgyzstan does not have an extradition agreement with the United States. However, Kyrgyzstan is a signatory to multilateral legal instruments that could be used for cooperation on extradition and mutual legal assistance, but has not used these agreements for meaningful assistance and has refused to extradite its own nationals.
2. Supply Reduction
The United States provided significant assistance in 2014 to train and equip Kyrgyz law enforcement bodies. In 2014, thanks in part to effective cooperation with U.S. counterparts, Kyrgyz authorities seized 158.1 kilograms (kg) of opium, 464.2 kg of hashish, 285.5 kg of heroin, and 8.9 metric tons of cannabis (hemp). Kyrgyz authorities conducted nine international counternarcotics operations in 2014.
Law enforcement agencies reported investigating 1955 crimes related to drug trafficking in 2014. Of these cases, 676 individuals were prosecuted. Because the technology used by the SSDC to identify and weigh narcotics remains rudimentary, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is currently partnering with the SDCS to improve the quality and capabilities of the SSDC main laboratory. The United States also contributed $263,000 to enhance the capacities of this laboratory in 2014.
No significant production of illicit drugs intended for international markets has been documented in Kyrgyzstan. The government has not passed legislation to prevent the diversion of precursor chemicals, but has cooperated with the EU Border Management Assistance Program to train law enforcement officers to detect and interdict precursor chemicals and illegal drugs. It was unclear at the end of the year whether this training would continue in 2015.
3. Drug Abuse Awareness, Demand Reduction, and Treatment
The Government of Kyrgyzstan pursues efforts to reduce demand for illegal drugs and improve treatment through partnership with international partners including the UNODC and the U.S.-sponsored Community Anti-Drug Coalitions. Programs are focused on improving the capacity of treatment professionals, as well as educating youth and communities on the dangers of illegal drugs. These programs are critical to the development of effective public health strategies. According to the UNODC, HIV rates continue to rise among intravenous drug users. This trend is most evident in the south where drugs are heavily trafficked and where prostitution and poverty loom large. Anecdotal information indicates that there are more than 50,000 drug users in Kyrgyzstan. The United States encourages the government to provide greater social services, including treatment centers, for both drug dealers and abusers. The Kyrgyz government does not fund needle-exchange programs or methadone substitution therapy for opioid addiction.
As a matter of government policy, the Government of Kyrgyzstan does not encourage or facilitate illicit drug production or distribution, nor is it involved in laundering the proceeds of the sale of illicit drugs. However, organized crime and corruption throughout the criminal justice system remain ongoing problems for the government. In recent years, several high ranking officials, primarily in the MVD, have been implicated in corruption cases. On June 9, U.S.-designated Kyrgyz drug kingpin Kamchy Kolbaev was released from a Kyrgyz prison in after serving 18 months of a three-year sentence for a non-drug related crime. He has not been prosecuted in Kyrgyzstan on narcotics charges.
C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives
United States policy objectives in Kyrgyzstan are to strengthen the existing capacity of law enforcement bodies, expand its ability to investigate and prosecute criminal cases, enhance anti-corruption efforts, and increase overall security in the country. In January, the government adopted a SSDC-developed national counter-narcotics program. The United States supported the development of the national plan through consultations facilitated by UNODC. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is currently working with the State Security Service and the Customs Service to finalize memoranda of understanding with both agencies, which is expected to be completed in early 2015.
The United States funded four trips for officers from Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies to train abroad in 2014. These trips introduced Kyrgyz officials to the importance of interagency cooperation in drug enforcement and encouraged networking with international counterparts, particularly in neighboring Central Asian states. These professional development opportunities included training in the United States, where members of the Financial Investigative Unit were directly embedded in DEA operations. Operational cooperation on financial investigations improved between DEA and Kyrgyz authorities subsequent to these trainings.
The United States also provided approximately $500,000 in equipment and $1.5 million in facilities to strengthen capacities of Kyrgyz law enforcement authorities in 2014. More than $1,000,000 worth of training was scheduled for FY2014, but due to the cancellation of the 2009 Defense Cooperation Agreement in July, only $300,000 was expended on training. DEA has continued to staff an office within SSDC headquarters to enhance SSDC capacity. Since the opening of this office in 2012, DEA has actively worked over 45 narcotics investigations with SSDC members, and the State Security Service. The United States funded a three-year UNODC project in support of the SSDC in the amount of $1,736,000 between 2012 and 2014.
In 2014, Kyrgyzstan also began a long-term project with the United States and UNODC to further professionalize all substance use treatment staff in the country through the dissemination of U.S.-developed treatment curriculum and international credentialing through the Colombo Plan’s International Centre for Certification and Education of Addiction Professionals.
Kyrgyzstan must address large drug trafficking networks operating within its borders or risk increased political influence by organized crime. The Prosecutor General and other government officials have requested assistance in their fight against criminal enterprises. In 2015, U.S. counternarcotics programs will continue to provide training to increase the capacity of the government to investigate high-level criminal groups domestically and abroad. U.S. funding for training and technical support is expected to remain stable in the upcoming year despite budgetary constraints.