Aaron Huey

EDITORIAL ARCHIVE: AFGHANISTAN DRUG WAR

These images show poppy eradication in Nangarhar Province, East of Jalalabad and also outside Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan Province.

They also show an ambush that occured when Jon Lee Anderson and I (on assignment for The New Yorker) accompanied a team of Afghan Eradication Forces (protected byDyncorp mercenaries) on their first ever attempt at drug eradiction in the hostile Taliban controlled province of Oruzgan. The rolling abmush lasted 4.5 hours and claimed 2 lives in the AEF, and resulted in over a dozen enemy casualties. Separated from the Americans for most of the ambush we ran through abandoned villages and crawled through poppy fields under heavy fire. Our truck was blown up by a hellfire missile and these ambush photos that were in the cameras around my neck are all that survived from that mission.

To fight a Taliban insurgency flush with drug money for recruits and weapons, the Bush administration now recognizes that it must also combat the drug trafficking it had largely ignored for years. But plans to clear poppy fields and pursue major drug figures have been frustrated by corruption in the Afghan government, and derided by critics as belated half-measures or missteps that are unlikely to have much impact.

Poppy growing is endemic in the countryside, and Afghanistan now produces 92 percent of the world's opium. But until recently, U.S. officials acknowledge, fighting drugs was considered a distraction from fighting terrorists.

A heroin user in Kabul
  
A Dyncorp mercenary stands guard over a field of opium poppies in Oruzgan province, while Afghan Eradication Forces destory the crops with sticks.
  
A heroin user in Kabul
     
  
A child gathers raw opium in a field outside of Tarin Kowt, Oruzgan province, Afghanistan.
  
Poppy harvesters outside Tarin Kowt collect raw opium with their fingers then scrape it off into a large metal bowl.  The raw opium will be refined into heroin, and will fund the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.
  
A campaign of manual drug eradication using day laborers and sticks outside Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan.
     
  
A heroin user in Kabul
  
  
     
  
A campaign of manual drug eradication using day laborers and sticks outside Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan.