The United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US) Governments military invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. As of 11th October 2015, a total of 456 British forces personnel or Ministry of Defence civilians have died while serving in Afghanistan since start of the war. Of these, 405 were killed as a result of hostile action. (49 are known to have died either as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents, or have not yet officially been assigned a cause of death pending the outcome of an investigation).

Whilst opening a new front, fighting a dubious war on ‘terror’, the war on drugs continued, wasting the lives of UK service personal. Failure, war, corruption, abuse of human rights and the needless deaths of 1000’s of innocent civilians – This is what the UK government and its allies have brought to Afghanistan.

The UK government openly admits failure in attempting to stop the illicit supply of the world’s biggest producers of heroin at its source:

“Opium production still remains a very serious problem in the region. The UK has played a role in trying to tackle the drugs trade, including helping Afghan authorities to eradicate poppy fields. We have also helped farmers to grow alternative legal crops. But results have been varied, with the worst results to date reported in 2013 (United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime report, 2013). Tackling the narcotics trade will be a long, uphill battle.”….

…. “After 2014 we will continue to help the Afghan government develop its law enforcement capabilities. Afghan counter narcotics police have already tripled their drugs seizures in recent years. We will also work with partners to disrupt supply networks.”

With the tripling of seizures, do we see the tripling in a reduction the amount of illicit heroin to the market? Of course not, we see the exact opposite.

Has the destruction of poppy fields worked and the supply network been disrupted? Clearly not, the United Nations World Drug Report of 2015 presents clear and unequivocal evidence of the dismal performance for the drug policy of prohibition that has no impact on the illicit market.

“… opium poppy cultivation in 2014 reached the highest level since the late 1930s. This was mainly attributable to the fact that opium poppy cultivation reached historically high levels in the main country in which opium poppy is cultivated, Afghanistan, where potential production of opium also continued to increase. Global opium production reached 7,554 tons in 2014, also the second highest level since the late 1930s, though global seizures of opium, heroin and illicit morphine decreased by 6.4 per cent from 2012 to 2013

The UN and all governments involved with the war on drugs have systematically missed any of the targets and objectives of the war, it could never be won when it was started and will never be won in the future.

Why are we allowing the governments of the world conduct a war that causes more death, destruction, corruption and mayhem than any drug use could ever achieve? Drug prohibition is no deterrent to people producing, selling or using drugs.

The Royal Navy (RN) often gets praised for its contribution to the war on drugs, but the Royal Navy Finance Department does not routinely analyse and collate the costs of the involvement of RN assets in counter narcotic operations. The department is not required to provide this information and does not have to provide reports on the costs for this type of ‘defence’ activity.

Why this is classed a ‘defence’ activity and why is there no methodology or process in place within the Department to do this? Surely the government has a responsibility to the tax payer to understand how effective and how much it’s spending on its policies.

In the past 5 the UK government has no idea about the arrests or how many convictions have been made in connection to any of the drug seizures. This is because the majority of the RN’s counter narcotic operations happen as part of Atlantic Patrol Tasking (N).

Under this construct the RN works with US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDET). It means that all arrests and prosecutions happen under US jurisdiction. This means the UK are not privy to the outcome of any interdictions in the form of arrest and/ or prosecution within another State.

Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ship deployments involving counter narcotics in the past 5 years

Table 1

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
RFA Wave Ruler

HMS York

HMS Westminster

HMS Dauntless

HMS Northumberland

RFA Wave Knight

HMS Lancaster

HMS Argyll

RFA Wave Knight

HMS Somerset

HMS Argyll

HMS Richmond

RFA Lyme Bay

HMS Severn

HMS Somerset

(with UK Boarder Force)

HMS Mersey


Of those deployments the operations with a foreign Navy or Coastguard are as follows:

  • RFA Wave Ruler on Joint Interagency Task Force (South) JIATF(S)
  • HMS Lancaster with LEDET
  • RFA Wave Knight with LEDET
  • HMS Argyll with LEDET
  • RFA Lyme Bay on JIATF(S)
  • HMS Mersey on JIATF(S)

The following are the excerpts taken from…/second-royalnavy-mediterranean-drugsbust-in-a-fortnight and…/141208-argylldrugbust.

The propaganda of the war is in full flow with the reports of drugs seizures and praising the crews.

If we dissect these statements, which inevitably get exaggerated and when reported in the main stream media, we see the war on drugs is propagated with stories from the military presented as fact.

There is very little, if any, investigative journalism or challenge to the statements being made to challenge these so called facts and so the merry go round of the war continues.

Second Royal Navy Mediterranean drugs bust in a fortnight (10/12/2015)

‘The Royal Navy has carried out its second drugs bust in the Mediterranean in as many weeks with HMS St Albans seizing around 320kg of cannabis.

Having left Portsmouth on a nine month deployment less that a fortnight ago the Type 23 frigate stopped the drug smugglers during a routine security patrol and prevented around £1 million worth of narcotics reaching European markets.’

The cost of drugs in the illicit market is always grossly exaggerated, and of course the retail value of the drugs is only this high due to the business being controlled by organised crime.

‘It is the second drugs bust carried out by a Royal Navy vessel in the area in the past two weeks, as HMS Richmond also recovered 1,015 kg of cannabis worth around £3 million.’

Again the inflated price of drugs due to the illicit market is apparent; the cost of the operations is then justified by the price of the seizures.

‘While on patrol, HMS St Albans spotted a small boat acting suspiciously and so launched her Merlin helicopter, this spooked the small boat crew who then tossed several large packages into the water before speeding off into the dusk.’

It’s not clear how a boat ‘acts suspicious’? ‘Spooked’ the crew who sped off ‘into the dusk’? This paragraph could be lifted from a work of fiction, what it really says is a speedboat boat crewed by criminals involved in the illicit and lucrative drugs trade, saw the Royal Navy vessel and the launch of its helicopter. They threw the cargo overboard because it’s easily and immediately replaceable, escaped and evaded capture.

‘I’m proud of my sailors for reacting so quickly and helping to keep these drugs off the streets.”Lieutenant Commander Jeff Gulliver RN (St Albans’ Second in Command)’

Keeping the crew believing they are serving Queen and Country, doing a good job in following these orders; they will have no idea that the supply of cannabis is not affected by their actions.

‘The frigate then sent one of her sea boats to investigate the packages which later turned out to be approximately 320kg of cannabis resin.’

 “The Mediterranean is a well known smuggling route for drugs into Europe and the UK. The team has trained long and hard at home for tasks such as this. Having only just deployed from UK last Monday, it is great for them to prove themselves so soon.”

Drug smuggling routes are well known yet the military are not able to control these well known trade routes. How much does the ‘long and hard’ training cost the British tax payer and what did the crew prove to themselves in accomplishing this task?

‘Armed Forces Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “After just two weeks on operations HMS St Albans is already having a tangible effect in ensuring the security of the UK by keeping these illicit drugs off our streets.’

What tangible effect? How is this evidenced? What investigation was used to measure the effectiveness of this seizure, what threat do cannabis users pose to the security of the UK? Where is the evidence that there is less cannabis available on the streets since the seizures? Or that any seizures of this type have any lasting effect on the availability of drugs? (See table 2 for seizures)

‘Providing an eye in the sky was a Merlin Mk 2 helicopter from 829 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall. Lieutenant Commander Lauren Hulston, who is in charge of the Merlin Flight, added: “This was the perfect demonstration of the versatility and capability of a Merlin and its crew.  “With the ability to send live imagery back to the ship, the team was able to act quickly to disrupt this drug smuggling activity and recover a lot of the cannabis. “We hope it’s the first of many on this nine month deployment.” St Albans is on a nine month deployment, protecting UK interests’ worldwide and will return to UK shores next summer.’

Here we have a statement seemingly used to justify the cost of the Merlin helicopter and an admission that only part of the cannabis haul was actually recovered. How exactly do these operations protect UK interests, and what are those interests? The cost of the deployment is not even known

HMS Argyll Seizes £10M cocaine from Atlantic drug smugglers (29/10/2014)

‘HMS Argyll has seized cocaine with a wholesale value of £10 million from a yacht in the Caribbean, just 24 hours after helping in the aftermath of a hurricane. The Type 23 Frigate immediately switched from conducting disaster relief duties in Bermuda where she had been assisting authorities with the damage caused by Hurricane Gonzalo.’

Whilst applauding the disaster relief operation, it’s a shame that the ship was taken away from saving lives to take part in operations for the war on drugs which takes lives. Again we get the exaggerated cost of drugs, this time giving the wholesale cost which is subjective at best; the price is determined by uncontrolled illicit market forces.

‘The crew of the ship’s Lynx helicopter spotted the yacht in the Atlantic and alerted the ship, which sped towards it and forced it to stop. A search by the US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET), working from HMS Argyll, uncovered 10 bales of cocaine which was confiscated before the two crew members were taken into custody. HMS Argyll and her crew are playing a key role in disrupting the drugs trade which blights the UK. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “This is yet another clear demonstration of the flexibility and versatility of the Royal Navy. HMS Argyll and her crew are playing a key role in disrupting the drugs trade which blights the UK. “The British people should be proud of the work that they undertake on our behalf.”

More statements that have no real meaning, there is no proof that the operation disrupted the supply of cocaine and indeed it can be argued that it’s the policy of prohibition that blights the UK. Are regulated markets of other commodities and goods considered to blight the UK? And why should the British public take pride in work that the RN does, they have no say in it and it can be argued that it is being done in the interest of the political elites, not the British public.

‘This is HMS Argyll’s second bust in two months having seized £21 million in cocaine in August. The ship is operating as part of a 15-nation collaboration to deny criminal organisations access to regions of Central America, with a focus on arresting the illegal movement of drugs from South America to the western world.’

‘HMS Argyll’s Commanding Officer, Commander Paul Hammond, said: “I am extremely proud of my ship’s company; we put in a significant effort to assist the citizens of Bermuda and to sail and immediately conduct a slick interception of a drug smuggling vessel demonstrates dedication and the utmost professionalism.”

Disaster relief is good use of the military; it clearly demonstrates that the armed forces can be used for good. It’s true the armed forces are a professional fighting force; the question is what are the crew dedicated to? The crew will carry out orders without question. Being diverted from disaster relief to conduct operations for the war on drugs is nothing to do with either of these things; they are simply carrying out orders.

Types of drugs seized quantities of each seizure and estimated street value

The Royal Navy Financial Department base their assumptions on street values of Cocaine at £40,000/kg and Cannabis at £2,880/kg.

Table 2

  2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Cocaine (tonnes) 1.68 0 1.34 3.061 0
Cannabis (tonnes) 0 0 2.65 2.5 2.5
Street Value (£m) 67 million 0 60 million 122 million 53 million


The many proponents calling for change; to end the war on drugs, fully legalise everything currently prohibited, for the full adoption of harm reduction strategies, treating drug dependence as health issue, do not need to prove their case.

The evidence is already there in abundance. The time for debate and argument is over, it has been won.

It’s now up to the prohibitionists to answer the questions we are asking of them. Where is their evidence of success of the war on drugs? They can’t defend their case because it’s not evidence based, it’s based on lies, racism, media hype and propaganda.

Prohibition and the war on drugs caused and continues to cause huge human suffering from the death penalty through to corruption on all levels in society. War is not an appropriate or proportionate response to substance use in society.

Chris Paling, VFP Birmingham.



  1. David Marchesi says:

    With a similar or even worse “war on drugs” in Colombia, the civilised world’s (!!) record on this is pitiful, going back, at least to the infamous Opium Wars of glorious memory.
    Another appalling example of the Establishment’s failure (failing above all young people) to confront honestly a societal issue, and to devote thought and proper resources to prevention.
    We seem to stagger on from fatuity to helplessness, as the pursuit of Money dominates all and the morons in charge look to a “military solution” to everything at the cost of UK soldiers and the ruin of Afghanistan.

  2. Thank you for logical examination and facts. I recall a journalist saying that the Taliban (school) had cut opium production by draconian methods to about 5% of ‘usual’ levels. This article by Simon Jenkins is very revealing, including the widely published view that the Afghan ‘cabinet’ is involved in the rackets

    Yes – prohibition is not the answer – Prof Nutt keeps saying so.

    Morphine and heroin are wonderful drugs in their proper use.

    Finally, and very relevant, there is evidence in a conversation between a US General and a Pakistani diplomat in JULY 2001 – before ”’9/11”’, that a bombing campaign was to start later in the year. I will find the reference if asked.

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