Thanks, in part, to the efforts of an RAF police officer there has been a six-fold increase in the disruption to narcotics production in Helmand province in the last year.
Squadron Leader Brian Daly deployed to Afghanistan in April 2010 for a 12-month tour. He has been mentoring the Helmand division of the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) based in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.
Between April 2009 and March 2010, the Helmand CNPA disrupted the production and distribution of heroin with a UK street value of £47m.
After Squadron Leader Daly helped to introduce new targeting strategies and intelligence development, this figure rose six-fold to £301m in the following year.
Over the same timeframes, intelligence-led operations also resulted in an increase in arrests, up from under 100 to nearly 160.
Despite the CNPA investigators facing an increased workload, the quality of their investigations also improved, achieving an impressive conviction rate of 94 per cent.
The CNPA is part of the Afghan National Police and the lead unit for countering narcotics in Helmand, where over half of Afghanistan’s opium is produced.
They target those who transport, refine and sell drugs (particularly opium and heroin) as well as those who smuggle the chemicals needed for the refining process.
From a counter-insurgency perspective, opium and its subsequent production into heroin is an essential source of funding.
Of those arrested by the CNPA for drug-related offences, nearly half were also charged with insurgent activity, whilst from a domestic perspective, over 90 per cent of the heroin found on UK streets originates in Afghanistan*.
Outlining his mission over the past 12 months, Squadron Leader Daly said:
My goal was to improve the capacity and operational capability of the CNPA, whilst complementing the counter-insurgency campaign. The huge leap forward taken over the past year reflects how the unit has enthusiastically embraced new ideas.
During my tour, I have been able to help them revamp their targeting strategy, delivered practical support to the unit’s intelligence-gathering team and provided specialist advice on collecting evidence.
On the role of the RAF Police in Afghanistan, he said:
As most RAF personnel in Afghanistan are based at either Kandahar or Camp Bastion, I suspect there is a certain degree of ignorance within the Service about the duties the RAF Police undertake in forward locations throughout Helmand.
RAF Police NCOs [non-commissioned officers] are often employed on counter-IED and Afghan National Police partnering teams on the front line and face the daily threat of insurgent attack.
From the comments I have received over the past 12 months from my Army colleagues, these NCOs have forged an excellent professional reputation for their policing and combat skills.
After his return to the UK, Squadron Leader Daly will take up his next post commanding the Special Investigations Branch, the RAF Police’s equivalent of the civilian CID, targeting criminal activity within the Services.
* Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report entitled ‘Afghanistan - Opium Survey 2010’. See Related Links.