Russian state-controlled Channel One TV has broadcast a report containing allegations that US forces are involved in drug-trafficking from Afghanistan to Europe. It also highlighted the problem of drug abuse in the British army.
The channel's weekly news roundup "Voskresnoye Vremya" on 10 February noted that, according to the UN, the amount of opium being produced in Afghanistan has more than doubled since the coalition troops entered the country.
The report went on to show former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair visiting the country at an unspecified time. It said that he had met almost 800 British troops during the visit. "This is either a coincidence or the working of cruel fate, but this is the exact number of soldiers that the British army loses each year because of drug abuse. This is more than the total combat losses of the royal army in Iraq and Afghanistan," the correspondent noted.
The report then featured an extract from a BBC news website story saying that the British army loses a whole battalion of troops a year because of drug abuse (Research revealed that the story was published on 14 December 2007).
The report went on to look at the wider problem of how to reverse the trend of increasing opium production in Afghanistan.
Aleksandr Mikhaylov, the head of the department of interdepartmental and informational activity at the Russian Drugs Control Agency, was shown saying that economic measures to tackle the problem are foundering on local corruption. "The local authorities draw up seriously forged lists in which an amount is recorded for the amount destroyed and, in fact, the crop has not been destroyed at all. The theft of the money to combat narcotics is going on and is flourishing," he said.
The accusation that US forces are involved in drug-trafficking came from Geydar Dzhemal, chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia. "Without the control and connivance on the part of the special services none of these things are possible. For example in Afghanistan, the CIA and the special services are quite brazen. Under the protection of the American army they meet the necessary people. They collect the stuff, go to the Bagram airbase and they hand in a large consignment of narcotics, which is then taken away," he said.
The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government – the government that our soldiers are fighting and dying to protect.
The report went on to say that heroin reached the Balkans via Turkey, which "has been a member of NATO since 1952 and is the USA's closest ally in the region". It said it is "another amazing coincidence" that Kosovo hosts the largest NATO base in Europe. The correspondent added that there is a "secret Interpol post" next to this base. "Here they speak almost openly about Afghan heroin in American planes," he noted.
A man captioned as Marko Nicovic, Interpol employee, explained that 90 per cent of heroin goes through the Albanian mafia, which is now more powerful than the Sicilian mafia. He also alleged that members of this mafia bribe European parliamentarians to support the independence of Kosovo.
The report went on to link high levels of drug crime in Russia with the US invasion of Afghanistan. "Since the Americans unleashed war on the Taliban, Russian crime labs have been working non-stop," the correspondent observed over footage of a drugs raid and packages of drugs being opened.
Aleksandr Mikhaylov, the head of the department of interdepartmental and informational activity at the Russian Drugs Control Agency, was shown saying that the production of narcotics in Afghanistan is getting more professional and that drugs have taken a real stranglehold on the Afghan economy. "The situation today is that narcotics have become a substance used for barter in Afghanistan," he observed.
"For as long as heroin remains the only hard currency in the country and until NATO and its military coalition do not resolve their own issues, the agricultural proclivities here will hardly change," the correspondent concluded.