Top NATO Commander Orders Troops to Kill All Opium Dealers

Gen. Craddock Determined to Turn War On Taliban Into War on Drugs

The German magazine Der Spiegel has obtained classified documents in which NATO top commander and US General John Craddock, a long time advocate of steering the international forces in Afghanistan toward fighting the drug export industry, issues a “guidance” advising NATO troops to use deadly force against those involved in the drug industry, even if there is no evidence that the person being killed is actually involved in the insurgency.

In what at the time seemed like an uncharacteristically harsh outburst, General Craddock lashed out at NATO allies in October for their reticence in approving military raids on the drug industry. At this point little of what the general says about Afghanistan, particularly where it involves the drug trade surprises anyone: he seems intent on turning what President Obama is styling as a central front in the war on terror into part of an ill-conceived war on dirt-poor opium farmers in rural Afghanistan.

Indeed, when Gen. Craddock was pushing this plan in the first place the primary concern of those NATO members was that exactly something like this would happen: that engaging the drug trade at all would inevitably divert attention from fighting the insurgency and turn it toward killing random drug dealers and calling them legitimate military targets: alienating the civilian population and creating new enemies.

Even as President Obama looks to escalate the war by doubling the military’s presence, the Taliban has taken over a growing portion of the nation and the international forces are struggling to hold them at bay. It seems hard to imagine that these forces will have either the time or the inclination to launch a separate war on drugs in the midst of what is by most accounts an unmitigated disaster.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.