Nato-Russia Council

NRC Counter Narcotics Success: 10 Years 10 Stories Anniversary Feature

CNT Training
Counter narcotics officers during vehicle search training in Kazakhstan

The success of NRC counter narcotics' training

The NRC Counter Narcotics training project for Afghan, Central Asian and Pakistani personnel is one of the NRC’s most ambitious and successful projects. Working together with the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia as the project’s  executing agent, these ambitions have been translated into concrete results in the fight against illegal drugs trafficking since it began in 2006.

The project boasts an impressive list of accomplishments. In April this year the number of Counter Narcotics officers trained over the life of the project surpassed 2000. The total has now reached 2500. Over 1000 of these officers have been trained locally in the region through NRC mobile training courses. It is not only the training aspect of the project producing such impressive results. Counter Narcotics officers trained by the NRC have been involved in some of the largest drugs hauls in the region, including in 2008, the biggest seizure of heroin ever made by the Uzbek authorities(560 kg), and 550kg of heroin and opium seized in one single case in Tajikistan.

CNT Training
Techniques for controlling suspects during arrest

The NRC begins Counter Narcotics training

At a 2004 NRC meeting in Istanbul Foreign Ministers decided the NRC should investigate how they might contribute to the wider international effort against illegal trafficking of Afghan narcotics, which continues to pose serious security implications for all NRC nations. In 2006 a pilot project was launched initially aimed to provide high-quality professional counter-narcotics training to mid-level counter-narcotics officers. The project would provide mobile training courses on location in Central Asia as well as at fixed training centres in Russia, Turkey and the U.S. In 2008, after almost two years of the successful pilot project, NRC Heads of State and Government agreed at an NRC Summit in Bucharest to turn the project into an on-going NRC initiative. To date 21 NRC nations have contributed to the project along with two partner nations, Finland and Ukraine.

During its pilot and initial phase the Project provided training to counter narcotics officers from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  A decision was taken by NRC Heads of State and Government at their 2010 Summit in Lisbon to expand the Project and include Pakistan, who became the seventh beneficiary country. Since its expansion, the Project now also aims to provide technical and advisory assistance to training institutions, including Train-the-Trainers courses and mentoring, to assist with national capacity building in the region.. The UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia assists NRC experts in developing the curricula for mobile training teams, which now includes new specialised courses on ‘Organised crime Investigations Training’, ‘Surveillance techniques’ and ‘Crime Intelligence Analysis Training’. 

CNT Training
Drugs Seized by counter narcotics officers being burned at a ceremony in Ashgabad

2012 – the project’s busiest year to date

In 2012 the NRC Counter Narcotics Training Project conducted more training than ever before, with over 600 counter narcotics officers being trained on 35 separate courses. 2012 saw the introduction of a specialised course for Drug Units Commanders from Afghanistan. The Project has also started a forensic training component. The first mentoring project was launched, with the placement of a counter narcotics training expert at the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) Academy in Islamabad.

At the start of the year an independent evaluation of the NRC counter narcotics training project took place. It concluded that that the project remains highly relevant, is being implemented efficiently, and responds to the real counter narcotics training requirements in the region, as well as promoting beneficial professional networks among counter narcotics agencies. Representatives from the donor nations, the UNODC and the participating nations from the region came together in Tashkent, this June, for a High Level Steering Session. The meeting gave the participating nations a chance to share their views on the project and highlight their training needs going forward. These needs are being worked into plans for 2013.

CNT Training
Drug searching techniques, uncovering concealed drugs during training.

The UNODC’s perspective

Former head of UNODC Central Asia Regional Office, James Callahan gave his perspective on the inception and development of the project during his time at the UNODC:

"The UNODC Central Asia Regional Office took the project forward after the NRC requested UNODC to implement the project. UNODC was happy to do it and it fitted well with the office’s regional programming on counternarcotics. It was difficult in the beginning because the idea of putting together mobile training teams from different NRC countries was not easy to carry out. Ultimately, it worked best with one national team in the lead and other NRC trainers joining and teaching part of the curriculum. The fixed location training has never had any problems.

I was very pleased with both the success and progress of the project. While there has been a lot of training by various agencies and countries of Afghan Counter Narcotics officers, not so much was being done for Central Asians so this clearly filled a need and had the benefit of networking the Afghans, Central Asians and now the Pakistanis. This networking will be even more important post 2014.

The aim of the project was to increase training opportunities for Counter Narcotics officers in the region, promote networking and information sharing and to provide a vehicle for cooperation and joint training inputs by NATO and Russian trainers. The trainees are getting the skills needed to counter Central Asian drug trafficking, and I would say the project has met all three goals, based on the numbers, which are increasing annually, of trainees, the regional variety of trainees and increased instances of joint training by NRC members.

UNODC has a very large and varied global portfolio, the NRC Counter Narcotics training has great value from a visibility and political perspective. From a political standpoint and for UNODC’s visibility, I would classify it as one of the most important projects in the region".

CNT Training
Counter Narcotics Forensic Training

Counter narcotics officers trained by the NRC

The NRC website team was able to talk to Counter Narcotics officers who attended a recent forensic investigation course in Kazakhstan.

One officer described how useful the course had been for him:

"The course was very useful, talking to other experts in different fields gave me additional information. I think that these courses should be held often, every year. There’s so much new and interesting information to improve our work. I learnt a lot on the course, and these new skills will come in useful in my future work".

Two other officers commented on the value of the project in combating Central Asian drug trafficking and creating a network of counter narcotics forces in the region:

"Courses like this one help to combat the illegal drugs trade, an evil which must be fought jointly with all neighbouring states on drug-trading routes.

These courses help to combat the illegal drugs trade, since we enhance our knowledge and share experience with people from other law-enforcement departments".

Looking to the future

This is a unique project which brings together drugs trafficking source, transit and target countries to train counter narcotics officers. 2012 has been a hugely successful year with over 600 officers trained. The scope and ambition of the project has not diminished and 2013 will see it expand once more, with two new training facilities in Russia being introduced into the programme. The NRC will begin canine training for officers for the first time. The mentoring programme will also expand with plans to place mentors in Afghanistan and two Central Asian nations. Mobile training courses will increase, and in total 62 fixed and mobile training courses are planned for 2013, when the project also plans to introduce the first specialist courses for prosecutors and female Afghan Counter Narcotics officers.

This is truly a flagship project for both the NRC and UNODC, and an emphatic demonstration of the effectiveness of multinational cooperation in combating illicit drug trafficking.