IN May last year, Afghan national army commandos backed by coalition forces made an eye-popping find when they raided an insurgent stronghold in the town of Marjah in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.
Along with a large stash of bomb-making materials, they stumbled on the biggest opium cache located in Afghanistan. There were 18,000kg of raw opium, 200kg of heroin, 1000kg of hashish, 72,000kg of poppy seed and more than 20,000kg of precursor chemicals used to process opium into morphine and heroin.
The discovery of the stash was proof of Afghanistan’s emergence as not only the world’s largest supplier of opium, responsible for more than 90 per cent of global stocks, but as a leading producer of processed heroin, which is flowing into Western markets including Australia.
The narcotics factory at Marjah was one of 25 drug laboratories discovered and destroyed in Afghanistan last year. Tonnes of narcotics have been burned, several big traffickers imprisoned and others extradited to face trial in the US.