Orlando Sentinel, FL
October 18, 2005
FARAH, Afghanistan -- The bulging burlap sack gave off a pungent odor as Army Sgt. 1st Class Dan Westover peeled it open.
"That's the opium," Westover said. "This is heroin," he said, reaching his rubber-gloved hand into a large bag filled with bright white powder. "And that over there is the hashish."
In all, perhaps 300 pounds of narcotics -- some of it carried in sacks stamped "US food aid" -- were stuffed into the large black footlocker at the American compound outside the city.
"We don't have room for much more," said Westover of Vermont.
"What usually happens is we'll be running a random checkpoint along the road," said Maj. Andrew Harris of Chicago, who commands the small staff of Americans training the Afghans in Farah.
"You'll smell something funny, you'll open a couple of bags, and you'll find it. You ask them, 'What's this?' and they'll say, 'Oh, it's my opium.' "
Though the American mission here is not to interdict the drug trade, the soldiers seize what they can.
"Once we see it, we can't just look the other way," Harris said. "We have to take it."
The carriers are almost always armed, but they seldom resist.
"We're usually with 20 ANA [Afghan national army] soldiers, so they don't give us too much trouble," said Sgt. Rocky Burgraff of Tennessee.
"Sometimes we have to physically persuade them, though."