Heroin Production:

Southwest Asia (Afghanistan)

OSI-00-12R: Published: Jun 21, 2000. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 2000.

Additional Materials:


Robert H. Hast
(202) 512-3000


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on heroin production, focusing on: (1) the reason for the discrepancy between the published production estimates of Afghanistan's 1999 opium poppy crop by the U.S. government and the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP); (2) whether Afghanistan heroin is being shipped to the United States; and (3) whether the Netherlands is a transshipment site for drugs destined for the United States.

GAO noted that: (1) the U.S. government and UNDCP 1999 production estimates for the Afghanistan opium poppy crop were 1,700 metric tons and 4,600 metric tons, respectively; (2) the discrepancy in the production estimate figures occurred because the two entities use different methodologies to estimate the number of hectares under cultivation as well as different average yield factors to compute crop cultivation per hectare; (3) the opium poppy crop that is smuggled out of Afghanistan crosses the country's borders in all directions; (4) according to UNDCP and Europol officials, drug traffickers use many routes out of Afghanistan; (5) those most used are the northern route (the Karachi, Pakistan route) and the Iran/Turkey truck route; (6) the opium poppy crop is processed into heroin in underground laboratories in Afghanistan and its bordering countries and then shipped to Western Europe and Russia through these routes; (7) UNDCP was unable to provide information regarding large amounts of heroin being smuggled out of Afghanistan to the United States; (8) UNDCP and Europol officials estimate that 50 percent of the opium produced in Afghanistan is consumed in Afghanistan and its bordering countries; (9) UNDCP officials estimated that 50 percent of the heroin produced from the remaining opium poppy crop is exported through the northern route; (10) according to UNDCP officials, the Karachi, Pakistan, transshipment route uses cargo containers that are shipped via air or sea; (11) this route also uses ports in African countries as intermediate stops; (12) drugs shipped this way are going to Western Europe, and possibly to North America; (13) the Iran/Turkey truck route has an established infrastructure to support the shipment of heroin; (14) therefore, the heroin can be disbursed with very little worry about seizures; (15) from Turkey, the heroin moves into Western Europe through Italy to Hungary and Germany or through the Balkans; (16) UNDCP officials stated that it is still a time-honored tradition for some Customs officials to accept payoffs for not inspecting the trucks; (17) UNDCP estimates that 4 percent of Afghanistan heroin has been seized worldwide and that Iran has seized approximately 55 percent of that amount; (18) the new synthetic drug ecstasy is fast becoming a major problem for the world, and the Netherlands is a major producer of the drug; and (19) according to Europol officials, the Netherlands is currently the major supplier of ecstasy to the United States.

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