NATO-Russia counter-narcotics training reaches milestone

  • 19 Apr. 2012 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 19 Apr. 2012 16:51

A NATO-Russia Council (NRC) project to train counter-narcotics personnel in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia reached a significant milestone in April: 2000 officers have now been trained under this project, one of the most successful NRC initiatives to date.

Launched in 2006, the project is conducted in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Its aim is to provide much needed training in the area of counter-narcotics in order to help combat the rising problem of drug trafficking in the Central Asian region and contribute to building sustainable regional capacity.

The internalisation of criminal groups, new trends in drug trafficking, methods of concealment and new technologies used by criminals require cohesive efforts by law enforcement agencies in countries where drugs originate and the destination countries. Professional law enforcement personnel must be equipped with skills and expertise in different areas of drug enforcement in order to combat this.

The ability to conduct effective cross-border operations in conjunction with colleagues in the region and across the world is also a key factor in fighting the flow of illicit drugs. This NRC project aims to give counter-narcotics personnel the training they need to help stem the flow.

Spirit of cooperation

2012 marks 15 years since the NATO-Russia Founding Act was signed, laying the basis for bilateral cooperation between the Allianceand Russia. It also marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of the NATO-Russia Council. The driving force behind the NRC’s pragmatic spirit of cooperation is the realisation that NATO and Russiashare strategic priorities and face common challenges.

Afghanistan, including the trafficking of Afghan drugs, was identified as an area of shared concern by NRC leaders when they endorsed the Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges at their summit meeting in Lisbonin November 2010.

Seizing drugs

More than 90 of the officers trained have been promoted to executive positions within their national organisations. Some of the largest drug seizures are reported to have been made with the participation of the officers trained under the project.

The project has a clear focus on drug enforcement training. It comprises four competent training academies and instructors from the NRC member countries. In this capacity, the project is able to provide different courses for trainees of various levels and categories. The information provided during the classes is based on the latest cases, which were often investigated by the instructors themselves, combining theoretical approaches with practical exercises. One of the most important aspects of the project is providing an opportunity for trainees to establish a personal and professional network with their colleagues at national, regional and international levels.

The project is a joint endeavour of several countries of the NRC (Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdomand the United States), Finlandand Ukraineplus the project's beneficiary countries.

Currently, 94 training courses have been conducted, with a total of 1985 officers receiving training:


No. of officers trained





St Petersburg




Mobile training courses




Extending training

There are two types of training:

1) Fixed training, which takes place in one of four institutes in Turkey, Russiaor the United States. Each year, over a period of two weeks, 20 training sessions are held. Discussions are underway to extend the training offered to include canine trackers, as well as to increase the number of training facilities.

2) Mobile trainings, which are led by an NRC nation and are provided by instructors from NRC countries and Finland, provide one-to-two week training courses on selected specialised drug enforcement topics.

Project staff carefully monitor the training needs of the beneficiary countries. After consultations with the donor countries, the project was expanded to include training centres in Central Asia, Afghanistanand Pakistan. This will help to contribute to the self-sustainability of the training of law enforcement personnel.

Assistance will include support in the development of training programmes, the provision of training aid materials and equipment, an exchange of experience and study tours. In the first stage, one mentor visited the Academy of Anti-Narcotics Forces of Pakistan for two months. Next year, similar visits to the CounterNarcoticsTrainingAcademyin Afghanistanand Central Asiawill be organised.

“The NRC Counter Narcotics Training project is a flagship example of our cooperative regional approach to counter-narcotics,”said James Appathurai, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy. “The project’s goal is to build regional capacity, by not only training officers in counter-narcotics tactics but also providing valuable networking opportunities between counter-narcotics agencies across the region. This creates lasting links between the countries of the region that they can utilise to synergise future narcotics strategies.”

“Moreover, the project is unique in its cooperative approach bringing together target countries’ with source and transit countries, underpinned with guidance from the UNODC,”he added.

A second assessment of the project was completed at the end of 2011 by an independent evaluator (covering 2006-2012). The recommendations made will be incorporated in a new development plan, which will provide longer term perspectives for the project.