Warlords Using Heroin Cash to Buy Surface-to-Air Missiles
Starkey, Jerome, The Independent (London, England)
Taliban drug lords are using cash from Afghanistan's bumper heroin crop to try to buy Stinger missiles, the country's anti- narcotics chief has warned.
The surface-to-air missiles played a key role in driving out Soviet forces in the 1980s because they enabled mujahedin fighters to shoot down Russian helicopters.
General Khodaidad, the Counter-Narcotics Minister, said the Taliban was desperately trying to buy better anti-aircraft weapons, to undermine Nato's military advantage. He urged Nato leaders meeting in Bucharest to concentrate on eradicating the poppy crop, before the insurgents succeeded.
He said: "They are trying to get weapons to shoot down helicopters. They are trying to get Stingers and anti-aircraft guns.
"If they get them, they would limit the movement of helicopters and take away Nato's main advantage."
General Khodaidad has first-hand experience of the missiles. He spent seven years fighting the mujahedin as a member of Afghanistan's Communist army. Back then his enemies had Stingers supplied by the Americans and Blowpipe missiles from Britain.
He said: "Both of them are very effective. They cause a lot of casualties, they bring down the morale of the armed forces and they limit the movement of helicopters."
Nato has struggled to get more troops and helicopters from its member nations, which are reluctant to put soldiers in harm's way. Diplomats fear a few helicopter crashes would be enough to see some nations withdraw. Nato troops rely on helicopters to move around in hostile areas, because they are immune from ambushes and roadside bombs.
Some British outposts are so far inside Taliban territory that it is too dangerous to reach them by road, so everything from men to ammunition has to be flown in by helicopter. …