By Michael Webster Syndicated Investigative Reporter
. May 24, 2009 at 6:00 AM PST
Opium trafficking provides the Taliban and other terrorist groups with much of their income
The combined forces of the NATO and Afghanistan-led military forces seized 92 tons of opium poppy seeds and other drugs, "severely disrupting" a key narcotics center and command base of the insurgency.
The operation in Helmand province Friday, ended overnight when precision air strikes obliterated the drugs. The area was emptied of civilians overnight on Friday, before precision airstrikes were launched, the statement said.
Masses of heroin-processing chemicals and bomb-making materials collected in the sweep of Marja, southwest of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, were also destroyed by the air strikes according to U.S. military.
"A total of 60 militants were eliminated as they mounted an ineffective and uncoordinated defense against friendly forces," a joint US and Afghan military statement said, issuing a final tally for the whole operation.
The international and Afghan forces then seized the poppy seeds, along with tar opium, processed morphine, heroin and hashish The statement said the troops had "seized the single-largest drug cache by Afghan-led forces in Afghanistan to date".
Helmand, where thousands of NATO military forces helped Afghanistan troops, is the main producer of Afghan opium, which accounts for more than 90 per cent of the world's supply.
Most of it is turned into heroin and smuggled to markets in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The vast province is a known stronghold for the Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgency.
The US military also said that a large amount of weapons and bomb-making equipment was seized during the operation.
The operation had confirmed that Marja was a "hub of multiple types of militant and criminal activity", the statement said.
"The four-day operation severely disrupted one of the key militant and criminal operations and narcotics hubs in southern Afghanistan," US military spokesman Colonel Greg Julian said.
Afghan and international officials say the Taliban earn millions of dollars a year from the drugs trade.
There is a connection between Middle East terrorists and the drug trade dates back more than two decades, when the United States and pro-Western governments opposed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. At that time the focus was on training and equipping fierce mujahideen fighters to resist communist occupation forces, but the means to that end were often the same drug money. Today it is the same thing but growing. The drugs raised in Afghanistan finds its way via smuggling routes into markets in both Europe and the United States where they are sold. In turn millions of dollars and Eros are used to fund terrorist and their terror not only in Afghanistan but around the world. Most of these same terrorist drug organizations that fuel the terror network also help to fund the Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. Part of this illicit cash provides operating capital for international terrorist Osama Bin Laden and others.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzal brother is believed by the U.S. Government to be a major player in growing, processing and trafficking Afghanistan drugs worldwide.
Afghanistan produces over 80 percent of the world’s opium supply and 90 percent of the opiate products that are not used in Afghanistan are destined for Europe and smaller amounts to the US. Unlike their counterparts in Colombia, the terrorists in Afghanistan enjoy the benefits of a trafficker-driven economy that lacks a national government who has any interest in combating it.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzal recently at a news conference said, “all, drug production and trafficking goes hand in hand with terrorism, the money that's created from drugs feeds terrorism in Afghanistan and the rest of the world".
US Drug Enforcement Administration DEA intelligence confirms the presence of a major linkage between the Taliban and international terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden is believed to also be involved in the drug trade. The dangerous sanctuary in Pakistan enjoyed by al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists is based on the Taliban’s support for the drug trade, which also is a primary source of income for corrupted government officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Credible DEA source information indicates both countries’ intelligent agencies are corrupted and benefit directly from the profitable drug trade globally. It is common knowledge that in addition to the Taliban reaping large amounts of cash from drug trafficking, they have for years directly taxed and derived financial benefits that way from the opium trade as well.
Former U.S. Drug czarhas acknowledged that “the struggle between narco-trafficking has to be linked with the fight against terrorism” because “drug-trafficking groups contribute to the financing of corruption and terrorism.”
Afghanistan produces more opium than any other country. DEA has seen no decrease in availability, and no increase in the price of Southwest Asian Heroin in the United States and European consumer countries. This indicates that significant amounts of opiates still remain available and are plentiful in the supply pipeline. According to the United Nations, up to 60% of Afghanistan’s opium crop is stored for future sales.
The Columbian and Mexican drug cartels now believed to be working with international terrorist is the most pervasive organizational threat to the United States.
The U.S. indicates an increase in worldwide demand for heroin, and the resulting profitability of poppy growing in the regions of the world where terrorist organizations most flourish. U.S. and other forces have been in Afghanistan for several years — despite having ousted the ruling Taliban government, which support al-Qaeda terrorists. Fighting an ongoing guerrilla war against supporters ofand Taliban leader in hopes of creating a stable government in Kabul and the country in general is proving to be slim. The insurgency is well entranced and taking new territory and holding it against NATO and Afghanistan forces.
The illegal drug market is one of the most profitable in the world. It is extremely difficult to know the global value of the drug trade since it is a business that is illegal, underground, and hard to trace. The United Nations Drug Control Program estimates that it is worth $400 billion per year, equivalent to 8% of world trade. In the United States, alone, the drug trade is worth upwards of $100 billion per year. It is now close to 20 years since the U.S. government has been fighting the “War On Drugs,” but despite the billions of dollars spent, an enormous amount of drugs continues to flow into the country. And now even more drugs coming in from Afghanistan.
However, with poppy sales on the rise in Afghanistan local warlords whose allegiance rests comfortably with anti-U.S. factions and those whose loyalty is up for sale can be counted on to continue cultivating this highly coveted crop to raise money for local armies fighting to expel American and allied troops from Afghanistan.
More heroin production will mean that more drugs will be sold on American streets by the kinds of characters who would do business with terrorists. Street crime and corruption will certainly be a booming industry in the next few years. The selling of these drugs threatens NATO and coalition soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It means unfortunately more body bags coming home from the frontlines.
U.S. State Department
Drug czar John Walters
Maseh Zarif for Diplomatic Courier
Afghanistan's Interior Ministry
US Defense Department
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