MOSCOW (AP) — U.S. and Russian special forces have raided drug labs in Afghanistan in an unprecedented collaborative military operation, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said Friday, destroying what a Russian official said was $250 million worth of heroin and morphine.
Afghan forces also were involved in the raid on four laboratories near the Pakistan border, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson said on customary condition of anonymity.
"This operation significantly damaged heroin manufacturing capabilities … and at the same time demonstrated the will of the Afghan nation and those allies who are impacted by drug trafficking to take necessary steps to bring stability to the country," the spokesperson said in e-mailed comments. "This was a very significant operation which could not have been done by one nation alone."
Three of the labs produced heroin, while the fourth manufactured morphine for a long-established drugs route into Pakistan and beyond that had been worth an estimated $1 billion to the drug trade, RIA Novosti cited Russia's anti-narcotics chief Victor Ivanov as saying. Ivanov said up to 200 million doses of heroin were seized.
No date was given for the operation, news of which comes a week after Ivanov gave an interview to The Associated Press in Washington saying the U.S. has failed to dismantle heroin labs, despite specific information on the labs provided by Russia.
Leaders of the Cold War foes hail Afghanistan as a place of cooperation, with both countries concerned with wiping out terrorism and choking drug supply routes.
But that cooperation has mostly been limited to Russia providing its territory for U.S. military transit. The U.S. and NATO have pushed Russia to provide helicopters and training for pilots as a contribution to the Afghan war effort, and also to train counter-narcotics police.
Ivanov, who was in Washington for a meeting of a commission on drugs set up by the U.S. and Russian presidents to improve cooperation, says that months ago he provided U.S. officials in Kabul with the coordinates of 175 laboratories where heroin is processed.
He says U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials there have told him they are awaiting U.S. military approval to take down the labs.
Russia long has complained that the U.S. and NATO refusal to put in place poppy eradication programs in Afghanistan is contributing to a flood of Afghan heroin into Russia. U.S. officials have argued that destruction of poppy fields would drive Afghan farmers into the arms of the Taliban.