FORCES' DRUG-USE RISK 'VERY HIGH' OTTAWA -- Canadian soldiers patrolling in Afghanistan are at a "very high" risk of using drugs, says a military criminal intelligence report. A July 2003 military police criminal intelligence program interim report obtained by Sun Media under the Access to Information Act warns that deploying soldiers to a leading drug producing country such as Afghanistan on Operation Athena could produce "nightmares." According to the report the Canadian Forces national investigation service "rate the risk of members' involvement in illicit drug activities while deployed to OP Athena as high to very high." Afghanistan is the world's largest exporter of hashish and recently became the world's top supplier of opium. The report points out that about 2,200 tons of opium are cultivated annually in Afghanistan and represent 73% of the world's total production. "Further, the deployment to, and CF operations in, a leading drug source country, provide a number of hypothetical 'nightmares' for commanders on the ground and (military police) tasked to investigate any incidents that arise from this," the report states. The intelligence report raises a red flag on a legal Afghan chewing tobacco called nasuar, which is made from hash. "Soldiers interviewed with regards to the use of nasuar state the taste of the substance is an 'acquired one,' " the report says. Canadian soldiers working at observation posts are approached by young children and offered roughly a gram of nasuar for about $1 US, military intelligence says. "Larger amounts are offered and sold by the young children's older siblings," the report says. Capt. Mark Giles, spokesman for the military's national investigation service, says he can't comment on whether there are ongoing investigations of soldiers using drugs in Afghanistan. The intelligence report also says that drug investigations in Canada are sapping resources and many bases don't have the staff to battle drugs. "Unfortunately most base/wing/formation military police units are unable to dedicate any proactive response to the increase in reported drug activity due to reduced manpower and limited drug expertise," a military report entitled Operation Nova 2003 says. "The situation with the CFNIS (Canadian Forces National Investigation Service) detachments is not much more promising." Giles said the national investigation service has had a dedicated drug enforcement team for decades. "We want to make sure we don't have drugs available in the Forces," Giles said. The report recommends creating full-time drug units across the country.