Russian counter-narcotics police have joined Coalition and Afghan forces in the first combined raid of its kind against drug labs in eastern Afghanistan.
The raid took place yesterday in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar and targeted and destroyed three heroin labs and a morphine lab. More than more than 2,000 pounds “of high quality heroin” and 344 pounds of opium were seized, according to RIA Novosti. The drugs had a street value of more than $250 million.
A joint force consisting of 70 personnel from Afghanistan’s Counter-Narcotics Police, Russian’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), the US’ Drug Enforcement Agency, and the International Security Assistance Force carried out the raid early Thursday morning, according to a statement released by the US Embassy in Afghanistan. No casualties were reported during the counter-narcotics operation.
One of the drug labs that was targeted was in the district of Achin, a known location of an al Qaeda cell in eastern Afghanistan.
The raid was announced earlier today during a joint press conference held by Viktor Ivanov, the head of Russia’s Federal Anti-Narcotics Committee, and Eric Rubin, the Deputy Head of Mission for the US Embassy in Russia. The officials said the operation had been planned more than three months in advance.
Ivanov indicated that further raids with Russian police in participation are in the works.
“We have made a request to send more Federal Drug Control Service staff to investigate the situation on the ground,” Ivanov told reporters.
The counter-narcotics raid took place just three days after NATO announced it was exploring ways to increase Russian assistance in Afghanistan, to “include the contribution of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, possible Russian assistance in training Afghan national security forces, increased co-operation on counter-narcotics and border security, and improved transit and supply routes for Nato forces,” according to a report in The Guardian.
The US has sharpened its focus on counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan over the past year, as a large portion of the Taliban’s funding is estimated to come through the drug trade. Of the 367 people placed on a “kill or capture” list from 2009, 50 were top-level drug traffickers.
ISAF “had expanded authorities to go after counternarcotics targets that directly support the insurgency, the so-called narco-terrorism network nexus, where they fund or otherwise support the Taliban insurgency,” a defense US official told reporters in June 2009.
Drug smuggling has been linked to top Afghan officials, including the brother of President Hamid Karzai.
Earlier this week, the US designated two Afghan narcotics traffickers who operate in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand as Specially Designated Global Terrorists “for providing financial and logistical support to the Taliban,” according to a statement released by the US Treasury Department. “Haji Agha Jan Alizai, who has managed one of the largest drug trafficking networks in Helmand, and Saleh Mohammad Kakar, a narcotics trafficker who has run an organized smuggling network in Kandahar and Helmand Provinces, were both designated today pursuant to Executive Order 13224.”
Also, on Oct. 24, ISAF forces killed a Taliban commander named Faruk “during an operation to interdict narcotic smuggling in Reg-e Khan Neshin district, Helmand province.”
“With the close proximity to Pakistan, and his close ties to Taliban leaders there, he was able to facilitate weapons and explosives into the area from Pakistan using narcotics as payment,” ISAF stated.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.