Army probes US troops’ drug use and ‘distribution’ after deaths in Afghanistan
The US army has investigated 56 soldiers in Afghanistan on suspicion of using or distributing heroin, morphine or other opiates during 2010 and 2011, according to newly obtained official data.
The US Army Criminal Investigation Command said at the weekend that eight soldiers died of drug overdoses during that time.
The cases represent only the criminal investigations conducted by the investigators involving US soldiers in Afghanistan during those two years, so they are almost certainly the tip of the iceberg.
Broader drug use statistics released by the US army earlier this year reported nearly 70,000 drug offences by roughly 36,000 soldiers between 2006-2011.
The number of offences increased from about 9,400 in 2010 to about 11,200 in 2011.
Judicial Watch watchdog president Tom Fitton said the numbers revealed the need for the military leadership to be more vigilant about warning troops in Afghanistan against drug abuse.
He said the worry is that “the danger, including the danger of dying, hasn’t been fully acknowledged by the military and it needs to be.”
Opium is a key revenue source in occupied Afghanistan, both for the farmers and criminal syndicates, which can make huge profits selling, transporting or processing the drugs.
According to a UN report, revenue from opium production in Afghanistan soared by 133 per cent in 2011, to about $1.4 billion – or about one-tenth of the country’s GDP.
In February 2001 – eight months before the US-led invasion started the war – a 12-member team from the UN drug control programme said the Taliban regime had nearly wiped out opium production.