Assistant Secretary Brownfield: CACI Has not been a resounding success

Central Eurasia

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a subcommittee hearing on U.S. Counternarcotics Operations in Afghanistan, with representatives from the State Department, Defense Department and Drug Enforcement Agency testifying. Since about 90 metric tons of Afghanistan produced heroin is smuggled through Central Asia each year, the U.S. has dedicated counternarcotics resources to the region to supplement its efforts in Afghanistan. However, the only witness to address Central Asia in her written testimony was Erin Logan, the Principal Director for Counternarcotics and Global Threats at the Defense Department. Logan stated, “Given these countries’ systemic lack of training, maintenance, and standardization, dating back to the Soviet era, DoD has provided modernized CN equipment, training, and facility investments.” Logan also noted, “DoD efforts also provide additional leverage points for negotiating agreements to the Northern Distribution Network in support of the war effort in Afghanistan.”

During the question and answer session, Representative Ted Deutch (D-PA) raised the issue of U.S. cooperation with Afghanistan’s neighbors on counternarcotics efforts. At that point, William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, used the opportunity to identify shortcomings with his Bureau’s own regional counternarcotics program, the Central Asia Counternarcotics Initiative (CACI).

Here is the Assistant Secretary’s full statement about CACI:

We began a systematic and structured effort to develop a regional program that involved the five central Asian republics . . . plus Afghanistan, the Russian federation, and ourselves, and the objective was to develop an initiative that would tie them all together in some way with the same database, the same information, the ability to coordinate operations. I launched this effort in 2011 with a trip through the region, and we called it the Central Asia Counternarcotics Initiative, or CACI. It has not yet been a resounding success, and I clearly misread several signals.

One signal was the extent to which the five central nations are comfortable cooperating with one another, and I discovered that in fact I thought there was more enthusiasm for that than there really was. Second, I misread what I thought would be a very attractive offer for the large nation to the North [Russia] to give them access to intelligence and operations in real time that [were] happening in Afghanistan and allow them to influence [them], and I found that they were not as enthusiastic about that as I hoped they would be.

So the initiative is still on the books, we still have a concept, and it is making step-by-step progress. We have, we are working with an organization that would serve as the coordinating center, called CARICC, or the Central Asian Regional Information Coordination Center. We are working with the United Nations organization that does drugs, UNODC, to provide training for specialized units. We are moving in the right direction, we’re not there yet.

Representative Deutch then asked the panel whether the Central Asian states and Russia are collaborating bilaterally with the U.S. on counternarcotics initiatives, to which Assistant Secretary Brownfield replied “some yes, some less yes for a variety of reasons.” He explained:

One or more country might feel that somehow it is separate from this problem, and therefore they don’t have to address it as intensely as others. Some may see that they have a national interest perhaps in trying to either absorb some of this traffic or direct it in some other way. Some are undoubtedly playing some degree of regional politics in terms of what they will do or what they will not do.

They all have a common interest. To my knowledge no serious democratic or even remotely democratic republic in the world wants to become a narco state, a country whose government is dominated or controlled by narcotics trafficking organizations, they all have that common interest. A couple of the seven are moving a faster speed than others, and I think I would answer your question that way. 

While such honest remarks from Ambassador Brownfield may be somewhat surprising, outside analysts have long found faults in U.S. and international counternarcotics, border security, and police reform efforts in the region. However, it is unfortunate that the Defense Department speaker, Erin Logan, did not have the opportunity to address Representative Deutch’s questions, since the Defense Department continues to contribute a much larger share of U.S. counternarcotics assistance to the region than the State Department.


This post was co-written with Transperancy and Accountability Intern Aleksandra Zaytseva