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DEA, U.S. Army make largest heroin seizure ever in Afghanistan

December 17, 2016  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
DEA, U.S. Army make largest heroin seizure ever in Afghanistan

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A joint operation involving the U.S. DEA, American Special Forces, and an Afghan counternarcotics team back in October resulted in an unbelievable seizure of 20 tons of drugs, which officials stated was the “largest known seizure of heroin in Afghanistan, if not the world.”

The sting was kept quiet until a DEA official verified the contents of a field intelligence report that was acquired by ABC News but did not explain why a successful “superlab” operation — which agency veterans recognized is an unprecedented narcotics bust — was not formally announced.

“This drug seizure prevented not only a massive amount of heroin hitting the streets throughout the world but also denied the Taliban money that would have been used to fund insurgent activities,” Steven Bell, a spokesperson for the DEA, said in an interview with ABC News.

He also noted that the drugs were worth a conservative estimated street value was $60 million for the 12.5 tons of morphine, 134 kilograms of opium, 6.4 tons of heroin, 129 kilos of crystal heroin, and 12 kilos of hashish. The sting was conducted back on October 17th in the western Afghan province of Farah, which borders with Iran.

“If that were Pablo Escobar’s stash, that would be considered a lot of frickin’ heroin,” said one veteran of the DEA’s 11-year counternarcotics commission to blunt the country’s heroin trade. “That’s going to make a dent in the European market.”

Afghan farmers work on a poppy field in the Grishk district of Helmand province in this April 18, 2009 file photo.REUTERS/Abdul Qodus/Files

The successful operation is all the more remarkable, given that the footprint of the U.S. military in Afghanistan is now under 10,000 service members and the DEA’s numbers have decreased to a only handful. This downsizing also means that the DEA’s Foreign-Deployed Advisory Support Teams (FAST) in Afghanistan has been eliminated, which targets drug traffickers.

A Green Beret A-team assisted the agents in executing the search warrant. After a brief shootout with insurgents, the teams also discovered tons of chemicals in what one report referred to as a “superlab” used to make the poppy into heroin base.

The superlab was the first of its kind observed by DEA agents in Afghanistan, who described the establishment as “complex, sophisticated and well fortified,”

Along with the chemicals and drugs, they also recovered five AK-47s and nine motorcycles.

Throughout the 15-year war against insurgents from the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin, and ISIS, Afghanistan has continued to be the world’s number 1 supplier of heroin, which is cultivated from opium from poppies grown in fields that have become battlefields. A report released by the United Nations said that Afghanistan’s opium harvest had increased 43% compared to last year.

Most of the Afghan heroin is distributed in Europe, and some of the drugs find its way to the U.S., where officials are dealing with constant overdoses, many of which are fatal, in an apparent heroin epidemic. The proceeds from heroin trafficking have funded large portions of the Taliban’s fighters and weapons since being toppled from power after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In 2005, the DEA responded by forming 12-man FAST units, which were trained by U.S. Special Forces. The FAST units, made up of experienced DEA agents, initially worked with British Special Air Service commandos to destroy small opium manufacturing labs in remote areas of Afghanistan and eventually fostered support from the American Special Forces and SEAL Trident teams. Additionally, the American agents and operators are often assisted by Afghan Sensitive Investigative Unit and National Interdiction Unit officers.

The operation in October targeted the complex Hadimama drug trafficking enterprise, led by Abdul Rahman, “a suspected Taliban commander,” and Haji Janan, “a suspected Taliban facilitator and narco-trafficker.” The pair “were believed to be producing heroin in these labs to fund their insurgent activities,” the DEA revealed.

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