January 15, 2012:
NATO forces in Afghanistan concentrated on the drug gangs in 2011 and inflicted major damage. While the tonnage of drugs seized was not released, the increases for seizures over 2010 were. Over a hundred times more morphine, which is made from opium, was seized. Opium seizures were up only 13 percent. Because of the years of attacks on opium some drug gangs have switched to a more traditional drug: marijuana. Seizures of marijuana were up 12 times, and that of the concentrated form of marijuana, hashish, were up 59 percent.
A major effort was made to intercept delivery of the chemicals (which have to be imported) needed to convert opium into heroin and morphine. That was a success, as was the campaign to find and destroy the labs set up in the countryside to do the conversion. The increase in aerial surveillance was the key here, along with the larger variety of sensors on these aircraft. Despite increasing efforts to hide the labs, the UAV, satellite, and aircraft sensors could detect them when they were operating. There was always heat, and telltale chemicals, that could be spotted. Raids soon followed, usually via helicopter or just a smart bomb.
In 2010, the opium harvest had been hit hard by drought and a plant disease. But the 2011 harvest bounced back 61 percent, to 5,800 tons. That, plus a military crackdown on resurgent heroin production in Burma, has once more made Afghanistan the source of 90 percent of the world's heroin. Moreover, two Afghan provinces (Kandahar and Helmand), the heartland of the Taliban movement, account for about two-thirds of the world's heroin. So if you know anyone using heroin, you know someone who is financing the Taliban and attacks on NATO (most of them American) troops. The Taliban is eager to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe, but so far have been prevented from doing so because of the constant attacks by NATO troops. Most Taliban financing, which keeps their thousands of gunmen in action, comes from the drug gangs. Most of the armed resistance NATO troops run into when attacking drug facilities comes from the Taliban. For that, the Taliban receive several hundred million dollars a year.