1 June 2009 - The rapid increase in opium poppy cultivation observed in Afghanistan since 2001 has gone hand-in-hand with the emergence of the illicit production of heroin in the country. The estimated 725 tons of heroin produced during 2008 required over 10,000 tons of chemicals used in the manufacture of heroin. While some success has been achieved in Afghanistan in identifying and dismantling illicit laboratories for these chemicals, similar successes have not been achieved in identifying the methods and routes used by traffickers to bring these large amounts of chemicals into the country.
Because of this, on 12 and 13 May 2009, the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia and the Country Office in Afghanistan convened a High-Level Planning Session to launch Operation TARCET II, an anti-trafficking initiative to prevent the smuggling of chemicals to Afghanistan for use in the illicit manufacture of heroin.The session was attended by over 60 delegates from 19 countries and international and regional organizations.
Operation TARCET I, a time-bound activity focusing on identifying and intercepting consignments of
precursor chemicals being smuggled into Afghanistan for use in the illicit manufacture of heroin, was implemented in support of the Paris Pact initiative particularly with a view to operationalizing the Red Paper of the Rainbow Strategy. Following the successful implementation of operational activities in 2008, participants in the debriefing session proposed launching a similar activity in 2009. Activities also support Security Council resolution 1817.
The purpose of the planning session was to identify further proactive and practical activities in Afghanistan and its neighbours that would lead to the identification and interception of smuggled chemicals destined for use in the illicit manufacture of heroin. As in 2008, UNODC would provide a platform for coordination, guidance and operational/technical assistance to Governments in precursor related issues in order to develop their capacity to utilize advanced investigative techniques such as backtracking and controlled delivery.
The overall aim will be to ensure regional and inter-regional cooperation as well as the development of Governments' own capacities to organize and launch intelligence-driven operations.
Representatives of the Governments of Afghanistan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan also provided an overview of TARCET-related activities in their countries during 2008. A focus was placed on interceptions and seizures carried out by agencies during the operational timeframe. The Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC) informed participants of the Centre's experiences as the operational coordination unit for activities.
All participants in the meeting voiced their support for further operational activities during 2009, with Afghanistan and its neighbours agreeing to conduct a further time-bound operation to be supported by UNODC and interested Paris Pact partners. Links with Project Cohesion, led by the International Narcotics Control Board, were also recognized and steps are to be taken to ensure full integration with Project Cohesion and Operation TARCET II, especially with regard to communication channels with CARICC. Support was also voiced for the overall strategy as proposed in the document "Operation TARCET II Draft Plan of Action and Standard Operating Procedures", which had been provided to all participants.
UNODC will prepare the operational master plan based on the discussions held during the policy session. This document will serve as a guide for the national plans to be developed by each State prior to the operation commencing. The scope for addressing the regional character of Operation TARCET II would be included in the master plan with cross-border operations being planned and coordinated through national contact points during the operational timeframe.
Training to be provided under Operation TARCET II has also been divided into three distinct categories. These categories are: (a) basic precursor training at the national level; (b) regional training on the use of specialized equipment; and (c) international training on advanced interdictions and investigative techniques. Furthermore, the use of international partners and the conducting of training workshops in participating countries, followed by the deployment of the operational teams together with international partners, immediately prior to the launch of the operation will be conducted similarly to TARCET I.
The standard operating procedures employed during TARCET I were also found to be satisfactory and are to be applied in TARCET II. As an additional measure, for the duration of the operation, UNODC precursor project staff will be available as an "advisory expert team" to provide immediate technical support and on-site guidance to national authorities in the event of interceptions and/or seizures of precursor chemicals. The possibility of utilizing the I-24/7 secure communication system of INTERPOL for information exchange in accordance with the standard operating procedures will also be examined further.