The birds headed southeast from Jalalabad, escorted by Vietnam-era UH-1 "Huey" gunships to the raid objectives, less than 10 kilometers from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in mountainous Nangarhar province. At first light, we touched down -- a force of 43 DEA agents, NATO special operators, police officers from Afghanistan's narcotics interdiction and special investigations units and two confidential informants, their heads covered with balaclavas to prevent identification.
The informants led the raid force directly to the first target -- a way station on an opium ratline into Taliban-controlled territory in Pakistan. Walid, a senior SIU investigator, immediately found exactly what he was looking for: precursor chemicals, opium, morphine base and pure heroin. At the site, he told me, "Money from these drugs will never get to the Taliban." He was right; the drugs and chemicals were destroyed with an explosive charge.
Then it was back to the landing zone for a quick flight to the second objective -- a drug-processing lab. The raiders, led by one of the informants, set up a cordon and moved rapidly into the buildings, finding the occupants had fled -- leaving their children behind.
DEA Special Agent Keith Weis, the raid leader and one of the few we are allowed to identify, said intelligence indicated that the site was part of "a significant organization with ties to the Taliban," an allegation substantiated by documents and records seized from the building. The operator of the lab, identified by an informant, was taken into custody, and the drugs and chemicals were wired with explosives by the NATO special operations team.
It was an extraordinary haul. According to Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan's deputy interior minister, the six-hour raid destroyed 1,000 kilograms of opium, 300 kilograms of morphine, 30 kilograms of pure heroin and more than 200 kilograms of precursor chemicals and yielded weapons and reams of documents. Estimated street value of the drugs and chemicals in Western Europe or the United States: more than $3 million.
After footage of the raid aired on Fox News Channel, the single greatest inquiry we received wasn't about the drugs, the Taliban or the raiders; it was, "What happened to the little babies who were abandoned at the lab?"
Here's the answer: The DEA informants pointed out the two mothers in the crowd that gathered nearby, and the NIU officers handed the children to them. Both mothers, barely in their teens, are the wives of the lab operator, a 58-year-old man. If he's convicted, it's unlikely the children will ever get to know their father.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.