In order to ensure standardized implementation of project activities as well as a cost effective and holistic approach, the Project Implementation Team (PIT) will be established. The PIT foresees following longerterm project staff:
• TNTD/BSMU ( Vienna): Project Co-ordinator, Project Assistant;
• OSCE PCUz (Tashkent): National Project Officer/ Procurement Officer, National Project Assistant/Financial/Administrative Assistant/Driver
The project team will closely coordinate the project activities with relevant partner organizations such as the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia. Particular attention will be given to border related activities envisaged under the UNODC’s Regional Programme for Central Asia (2022-2025) and the Border Liaison Offices established by UNODC in the region.
The Central Asian Border Management Initiative Conference (CABMI) conference annually organized by TNTD/BSMU will create an additional forum for the exchange of information between border security and management agencies in Central Asia and relevant international and regional partners such as EU-BOMCA, IOM, UNODC and UNOCT.
The Objective of the project will be to increase existing capacities of the border and customs services of Uzbekistan to effectively address cross-border challenges emanating from Afghanistan through provision of tailored training and technical equipment for border, customs officers and private sector personnel working at the border checkpoints and the logistic terminal “Termez Cargo Center” of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Activity 1.1 Regional coordination on addressing cross-border challenges emanating from Afghanistan.
Activity 1.2 Comprehensive training programme in combatting illicit trafficking of SALW, ammunition and explosives
Activity 1.3 Targeted equipment assistance programme in combatting illicit trafficking of SALW, ammunition and explosives
Activity 1.4 Canine assistance programme in combating illicit trafficking of SALW, ammunition and explosives
1.5 Supporting cooperation measures and expert networking in preventing and combatting illicit trafficking of SALW, ammunition and explosives
Activity 2.1 Establishment and training of National Mobile Training Team of Instructors (NMTT) specialized on the identification of FTFs/criminals at the borders of Uzbekistan.
Activity 2.2. Deployment of NMTT
Activity 2.3. Procurement, installation and training on use of specialised technical equipment for selected BCPs
Activity 3.1. Facilitating free and secure movement of goods through the Uzbek- Afghan border
Activity 3.2 Procurement of equipment for automatization of processes for the humanitarian cargo destined for Afghanistan for the logistic terminal of the Termez Cargo Center.
Restrictions of international travel and local gatherings as part of social distancing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 that would impact delivery of training and effective transfer of practical skills and knowledge.
Procured technical assets / equipment is not used effectively and efficiently in support of combatting illicit trafficking of SALW, ammunition and explosives
Developed training courses through OSCE project work are not integrated into mainstream training / educational curricula within the formalized training systems of SCBP and SCC thus reducing the level of sustainability of project results
The Central Asian region is being severely challenged and tested by an ever-widening array of serious transnational threats related to the illicit trafficking of drugs, SALW, ammunition and explosives and human beings, as well as the cross-border movement of FTFs and other criminals. These and other forms of cross-border organized crime are rapidly expanding and threaten the security of the wider OSCE area
Moreover, the destabilizing accumulation and uncontrolled spread of SALW and ammunition, the situation in Afghanistan presents an increased risk of illicit trafficking of SALW, ammunition and explosives from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan and other OSCE Central Asian participating States. According to International Center for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) with the collapse of the central government in Afghanistan, nearly 600,000 small arms and their ammunition supplied to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are being unaccounted for. These figures are rough estimates on the basis of open source research data. Real figures may be much higher. This risk is coupled with the proliferation of expertise related to use of SALW or explosives in combat situations and technologies such as in the field of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and drones.
In addition, according to a UNODC Report, in 2021 the total opium production has been above 6800 tons in Afghanistan and income from opiates in Afghanistan amounted to some $1.8-$2.7 billion. However, much larger sums are accrued along illicit drug supply chains outside Afghanistan. According to the 2022 World Drug Report (WDR) the first to feel the effects of expanded production would be countries neighbouring Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic of Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia already suffer from high rates of opiate prevalence and are exposed to what are possibly the largest quantities of opiates trafficked worldwide. This is a major health and security threat for Afghanistan and its borders countries (Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, I.R of Iran and Pakistan). Furthermore, according to the 2022 World Drug Report (WDR) a combination of decreased socioeconomic development and gaps in government resources and skills to control drug production and trafficking (with or without the political will to combat drug-related crime), will be leading to a drastic or gradual but significant increase in opium production. The 2022 WDR report also states that “about 2 percent of global seizures of heroin and morphine in 2020, runs from South-West Asia to Central Asia and Transcaucasia and onward to the Russian Federation or Western and Central Europe”
At the same time, the economic relations between Central Asian countries have greatly improved in recent years, mostly due to the opening and transformation taking place in Uzbekistan. Cooperation also with Afghanistan and Pakistan greatly improved. The introduction of a number of trade agreements that have removed or reduced trade barriers has resulted in a marked increase in trade throughout the region. However, while the volume of trade handled at the border crossing points and dry ports in Central Asian countries has increased, there has been no corresponding expansion in the level of law enforcement in these locations. The rail networks link a number of dry ports in Central Asia and play a vital role in the region. In recent years, the Central Asian rail network has been extended to Afghanistan. It is also known that the railway transportation is used for drug smuggling, as highlighted in another UNODC study.
Regardless of the results of the integration efforts, the increased opium cultivation in Afghanistan and corresponding illicit drug production will continue to be a threat for Central Asian participating States as the level of poverty and humanitarian crisis has been deepening in Afghanistan. This will cause an increase in drug production, human trafficking as well as irregular migration out from Afghanistan and an increase in crime rates within Afghanistan. Consequently, this will create higher pressure at border check points especially between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan.
Furthermore, Afghanistan will likely remain the preferred location for many terrorist groups. According to Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the UN, “more than 10,000 foreign fighters are Afghanistan representing 20 groups including Al-Qaeda and ISIL. The link between the Taliban and these transnational terrorist groups is stronger today than at any point in recent times.” Thus, there will be a need for a more effective border control mechanism along the borders between Afghanistan and Central Asian states. During the 16th Central Asian Border Management Initiative (CABMI) Conference co-organized by the OSCE, the Federal Republic of Austria, and the Federal Republic of Germany, on 8-9 November 2021 in Vienna (Austria) a number of speakers stressed the importance of strengthening international and regional border security co-operation in identifying, countering and mitigating cross-border threats, ranging from drug and arms trafficking, to trafficking in human beings, to illegal crossings and smuggling of cultural property, to cross-border movement of foreign terrorist fighters.
Whether the Taliban regime is directly engaged or recognized by the international community, there is also a serious chance of continued internal conflict between the Taliban and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) in Afghanistan. According to the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) “The Taliban have not been able to stem the expansion of ISIL-K, which is increasingly active, stepping up attacks from 60 in 2020 to 334 in 2021, and has gained ground across all provinces” .The opposition groups (mainly non-Pashtun groups) are currently in conflict with the Taliban regime. The level of the conflict could increase and widen across the entire country in the future. If this happens, it might prompt further parts of the population to move towards neighbouring countries. Furthermore, Afghanistan will remain preferred location for many terrorist groups including IS, Haqqani Network and Al-Qaeda. To be able to identify the above mentioned cross-border crimes it is also crucial to integrate a gender perspective into the training curricula of all activities under this project. Considering the worsening situation of women’s rights in Afghanistan, the oppression, loss of access to education as well as the isolation they may face, the probability of young women and girls being radicalized online increases. They might try to leave Afghanistan and to cross borders as FTFs, seeking empowerment among other things. Due to existing gender inequality in Afghanistan, Afghan women are more affected by poverty. As poverty is one of the push factors to join organized crime groups, it is likely that women will engage in drug trafficking, putting their health, lives and liberty at risk
Thus, it is important for border security agencies to understand existing gender roles and gendered bias and stereotypes around FTFs and organized crime in general and the fact that both women and men can be victims of these crimes and also take active roles as perpetrators.