Washington Reassures NATO Partners US Rejects Afghan Death Patrols
The United States has issued guarantees that no Danish, German or other nation's ISAF forces will be ordered to kill Afghan drug producers. The move comes after a furious debate in Europe over a "guidance" issued by a top American general.
The Taliban is said to cream off some 70 million each year from drugs production in Afghanistan.
"No one has ever wanted Danish or any other ISAF soldiers to go out into the poppy fields and shoot at everything that moves," US NATO Ambassador Kurt Volker told Politiken.dk this week.
"All that we are talking about here is that those allied countries who want to, can provide soldiers to help the Afghan police combat the drug trade. And only in those cases where there is a clear connection between narcotics production and the Taliban," Volker said.
Volker's statements come in the wake of a Europe-wide political controversy following the disclosure in German media of plans from American General John Craddock to involve ISAF forces in what was being described as shoot first and ask questions afterwards death patrols against Afghan drug producers.
European allies have feared that Craddock's attempt to implement a political decision into military action, would further alienate the local population.
Craddock's letter came following a difficult debate in the Hungarian capital Budapest in October 2008, during which NATO defense ministers decided that the Alliance should increase efforts to stem the growing opium and heroin trade in southern Afghanistan. The Alliance says that the Taliban creams off some 70 million each year from the drugs trade, money which is used in its insurgency.
Danish Defense Minister Søren Gade and government officials from other Western countries reacted strongly to the Craddock letter, which suggested that NATO soldiers should attack all drugs producers, irrespective of whether they had ties with the Taliban.
But Gade and his 25 colleagues from other NATO countries, who are to meet in the Polish town of Krakow on Thursday, are expected to be reassured.
"The letter in question was an internal and unfinished document which, unfortunately, became the object of a bit too much of a public discussion," claimed NATO Spokesman James Appathurai.
"The final order clearly specifies that there must be documentation of concrete support from the drugs producers to the Taliban before we take action with the Afghan police," Appathurai added, saying that there are instructions as to how forces in Afghanistan can determine whether there is a connection between a drug laboratory and the Taliban. He was not willing to elaborate on these instructions.
US Has already Closed Labs
According to Politiken.dk sources, however, American forces have already carried out anti-drug operations independently of ISAF.
"We have already acted against several laboratories, without anyone being killed," an American diplomat said.
"Apart from drugs, we found hundreds of thousands of dollars, weapons caches and documents proving a direct relationship with insurgents," the diplomat added.
The BBC reported on Tuesday that 700 British and Afghan troops had raided four drugs factories in Helmand Province between February 6th and 11th and had seized narcotics wtih a street value of 56 million.
In what was labelled Operation Diesel, troops were also reported to have seized weapons and ammunition, including rifles, machine guns, three rocket launchers with additional warheads, and a motorbike modified for use in a suicide attack.
Edited by Julian Isherwood