Russian forces join ISAF in narcotics raid in eastern Afghanistan

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • James says:

    Indeed, this is good news.
    Maybe even better still is when we’ve got (or more of) India’s help in Afghanistan.

  • Tyler says:

    Indeed interesting. Especially in the wake of the reported presence of US Spec Ops soldiers working with FSB/Spetsnaz in Chechnya/Dagestan, hunting Al Qaeda-aligned.
    Perhaps the closest security cooperation between Washington and Moscow since the early days of the Yeltsin government.

  • GW says:

    What will the populace think when they hear that the Russians are back..? I imagine they won’t like it and that will hurt our efforts.

  • omar says:

    GW, the propaganda impact is not much different. All infidel forces are unwelcome for some Afghans. I think that your issue is a peripheral concern right now…

  • Tyler says:

    Depends. Moscow was an important sponsor of the Northern Alliance before and after 9/11.

  • Gerry says:

    Don’t get over excited. Only four FSKN (ruskies)officials were involved in the raid. No mention of spetznaz.

  • Shahid says:

    NATO should invite Russian and Indian armed forces into afghanistan with open heart. it will extend cooperation to an optimal extent.
    There is a strong need to Sideline Pakistan which is the core of all the problems. Russia and India should be brought to table to tackle the menace from Pakistan and Iran.

  • Lorenz Gude says:

    An interesting development that makes it difficult not to think that we are seeing significant moves in the ongoing ‘great game’ in Central Asia. Seems like real progress to me – going after the drugs and getting unlikely partners on board.

  • blert says:

    Karzai is screaming so bad that these targets look like they had his brother’s protection.
    Russia’s angle may be simply they don’t want Karzai & Co to vector ‘production’ up through the ‘stans.
    I also wouldn’t be surprised to find out that this huge stash is involved with the turmoil north of Afghanistan.
    That is, this inventory was held in Afghanistan to keep it out of Russia’s reach. It was supposed to finance a civil war against Russian Near Abroad Interests.

  • Rhyno327 says:

    This is a surprise. I guess the Russians wanted to make sure these spots were put outta business. I wouldn’t be surprised if Karzai was involved in some way. We should be asking for co-operation from others, the P-stani’s in particular. I bet they know where all the pieces on the “chessboard” are.

  • Zeissa says:

    Rhyno… no. There has been enough ‘cooperation’ with Pakistan. Your US needs to learn who can be worked with in the long run and who can’t. Russia and India can be reasonable, Pakistan more often than not cannot.


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