KABUL — U.S. Marines and Afghan forces have found and destroyed hundreds of tons of poppy seeds, opium and heroin in southern Afghanistan this month in raids that a top American official said show the new U.S. counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan is working.
U.S. and NATO troops are attacking drug warehouses in Afghanistan for the first time this year, a new strategy to counter the country's booming opium poppy and heroin trade. NATO defense ministers approved the targeted drug raids late last year, saying the link between Taliban insurgents and drug barons was clear.
U.N. officials say Taliban fighters reap hundreds of millions of dollars from the drug trade each year, profits used to fund the insurgency.
The United States announced last month it would no longer support the destruction of individual farmers' poppy plants, and instead would increase attacks on drug warehouses controlled by powerful drug lords — a wholesale change in strategy.
U.S. Marines, British troops and Afghan forces supported by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have increasingly targeted drug warehouses in Helmand and Kandahar provinces — the largest opium poppy growing region in the world.
Richard Holbrooke, President Barack Obama's envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said early evidence indicated the new strategy was working.
"This administration set out to reverse the counter narcotics program by de-emphasizing crop eradication and emphasizing interdiction," Holbrooke said Saturday.
Seizures made this summer illustrate the huge quantities of drugs the military can destroy.
Marines in Helmand working with DEA-mentored Afghan police seized 297 tons of poppy seeds, 77 pounds (35 kilograms) of heroin and 300 pounds (135 kilograms) of opium in raids in mid July