KABUL - A US military “kill or capture’’ list of 367 wanted insurgents in Afghanistan includes 50 major drug traffickers who give money to Taliban militants, US military commanders told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
US and NATO troops are attacking drug warehouses and militant-linked narcotics dealers in Afghanistan for the first time this year, a new strategy to counter the country’s booming opium poppy and heroin trade. NATO defense ministers approved the targeted drug raids late last year, saying the link between Taliban insurgents and the drug trade was clear.
According to a report to be issued by the committee this week, US commanders have no restrictions on the use of force against the targets, “which means they can be killed or captured on the battlefield,’’ the report states.
When the nexus between a drug trafficker and the insurgency is clear, the drug trafficker is put on a list of insurgent leaders wanted by US forces, said Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, the top US spokesman in Afghanistan. “The list of targets are those that are contributing to the insurgency, so the key leadership, and part of that obviously is the link between the narco industry and the militants,’’ Smith said yesterday.
Placement on this target list requires two verifiable human sources and “substantial additional evidence,’’ the report says.
The US military does not conduct operations against narcotics dealers who are not involved in the insurgency, because those individuals are dealt with by law enforcement agencies, according to Captain Elizabeth Mathias, a US military spokeswoman.
“It’s terrorists with links to the drug trade rather than drug traffickers with links to terrorism,’’ said Lieutenant Colonel Todd Vician, another US military spokesman.
The United States said in June it would no longer support the destruction of individual farmers’ poppy plants and instead would increase attacks on drug warehouses.