DEA Agents Apply Expertise Far From Home

"This makes them better, and you know, if they get better that makes us better," said Tarentino. "And that's the overall goal, is to eventually, at one point, is to give this program, this mission, this tasking completely over to [the Afghans]."

Operations begin early in the day. It helps with the element of surprise, and to avoid the 120-degree summer heat.

A recent operation began shortly after 4 a.m., with Tarentino driving to Kandahar Air Field to meet his team before boarding helicopters and flying to a village near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The DEA expected to capture persons of interest, as well as caches of heroin, opium and hash. Intelligence for the operation suggested there were large amounts of drugs at the target.

After touchdown, the team gathered next to the tall wall of the compound. With explosives, they blew a hole in the wall and quickly moved inside.

But when they searched the compound, they found nothing.

'That's a Seizure Here, Friends'

Then reports came in from informants that drugs may have been stashed in a nearby field. So Tarentino led a group overland, as helicopters circled.

The helicopters dropped purple smoke so that the team could see where it was believed opium was hidden.

The team discovered a former hiding spot for what was thought to be hash, but whatever drugs had been at the site evidently had been moved. The team grew a bit frustrated. Tarentino returned to the compound when, suddenly, an American voice cried out.

"There is like 145-pound bags of s*** down there, dude," a soldier told Tarentino.

"Is it hash?" the team leader asked.

"I don't know what it is, it's all pre-packaged, too," the soldier said. "It's huge."

"Where is it?"

"It's right in here," said the soldier, pointing to a building. "It was hidden."

Tarentino walked inside a building, where a hole had been uncovered.

"Oh, you are kidding me," he said. "Awesome. All right, that's a seizure here, my friends."

A soldier had climbed into the hole and was holding bags of drugs.

Tarentino called in a report.

"Yeah, we found a pretty significant size of, uh, cache of op-- correction, hash, at our location," he said. "It's going to take a great deal of manpower at this location. I'd like everybody to collapse onto the main objective area."

He turned to speak to his team.

"I want a sample of every single different bag," he said.

An agent explained how the drugs were hidden.

"Just, all these cans were on top of it, there was a blanket over it," the agent said, explaining that the soldiers had gone in after confirming the cache wasn't booby trapped.

"In this case," said Tarentino, "the agent did a great job of really doing a thorough search, and that thorough search resulted in this find. So, you know, I mean, you just really have to do all you can to clear away and find hidden spots. I mean, this is certainly hidden from the naked eye, so they could hide, keep their narcotics and distribute it at their leisure. So, this was a hide site that, you know, if you walked over it you wouldn't have seen it."

The team began to remove plastic-wrapped drugs hidden in a special packaging.

"Look, it's in Ragu sauce!" said one team member. The sauce packets had been used to hide the drugs.

"We found approximately 2,000 kilos of seed, loose hash," said another team member.

In total, the team has found more than three tons of hash.

After taking samples, the team destroyed the drugs by blowing them up, then headed back onto the helicopters and back to their base to prepare for another mission.

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