Kiwi Troops Destroy Opium In Afghanistan
Kiwi Troops Destroy More Than a Tonne of Opium in Afghanistan
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Sergeant Nick Bunker, Lance Corporal Chantelle Locke, Staff Sergeant Tony Laing and Major Phillip Misur preparing the opium for burning.
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New Zealand Defence Force
Te Ope Kaatua O Aotearoa
Thursday, November 9, 2006
KIWI TROOPS DESTROY MORE THAN A TONNE OF OPIUM IN AFGHANISTAN
They have only been in Afghanistan for three weeks but the new contingent of New Zealand Defence Force personnel serving in Bamyan province have already made an impression, destroying over a tonne of confiscated opium for local authorities.
The huge haul of opium, which had a potential street value of US$12 million, was confiscated on November 1 by a team of Afghan National Police after they caught up with smugglers on a deserted road in the neighbouring Yakawalang province.
Group Captain Kevin Short, commander of the NZDF personnel serving in the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (NZ PRT) in Bamyan, received a call from the province’s governor Habibi Serabi asking if his team could incinerate the drugs.
He agreed, calling upon NZ PRT Medical Officer Major Phil Misur and three other Kiwi troops to incinerate them. They burning of the drugs involved stacking wooden pellets filled with opium on top of each other, dousing them in petrol and setting them alight.
Major Misur said the experience was as satisfying as it was extraordinary.
“Working in the burn pit surrounded by millions of dollars worth of foul smelling opium, mixed with plenty of diesel and petrol, is an experience I’ll never forget.”
Police superintendent John Kelly, from Hamilton, said he had never seen such a large quantity of drugs in 30 years of police work.
“It’s certainly the biggest haul I’ve seen in my career and it’s a bit different from the average couple of pounds of cannabis you might turn over back home.”
He is working as part of the NZ PRT to help train Afghan National Police to help keep law and order and make seizures of drugs like this one.
Group Captain Short said although requests to incinerate opium were unusual, he and his 108-strong NZDF contingent were happy to help the local authorities out.
“While counter narcotics is not a core task, the PRT was able to make a valuable contribution in providing a secure venue and expertise to ensure the disposal was completed in a controlled and transparent manner.”
Afghanistan is the world’s biggest supplier of opium with the country’s southern Helmand province producing over 70 per cent of the world’s total production alone. The annual profit from opium of US$1.3 billion plays a significant part in the funding of the ongoing Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgency currently afflicting Afghanistan.
Currently 854 New Zealand Defence Force personnel are deployed on peacekeeping operations, UN missions and defence diplomacy activities in 19 missions across 15 countries.