EXCLUSIVE: 'DON'T DESTROY OPIUM' ORDERS
24 September 2006
By Rupert Hamer Defence Correspondent
PARAS who found a £500,000 crop of opium in Afghanistan were ordered NOT to destroy it.
They discovered between 50 kilos of the raw material for heroin in a village during operations in lawless Helmand Province but were told to leave it alone. And they revealed it has never been their job to stop opium production. A senior intelligence officer said: "It is rubbish to say that we are here to destroy drugs or poppy fields."
Opium production has actually risen in Afghanistan since British troops were sent there.
(The public version is) the policy has come about because poppies are the main source of income in Helmand. Senior officers fear removing them would plunge thousands of people into poverty and into the arms of the Taliban.
A Para source said: "The whole 'burning poppy fields' and 'destroying drugs caches' is a complete myth. We were never meant to do that. Our role is to provide some kind of security so the reconstruction of Helmand can take place. "We are also training the Afghan National Army and it will be their job to clamp down on the drugs warlords. It may be frustrating for some of the lads, but those are our orders."
Adds evidence to the theory that the Taliban were removed partly because they opposed the drug trade...