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  1. Alfa
    WAR ON TERROR IS ALSO A WAR ON DRUG TRAFFIC

    WASHINGTON - Amid growing evidence that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups
    are profiting from narcotics, the US military plans to more aggressively
    help track and target Afghanistan's vast drug business, focusing on
    high-level traffickers linked to terrorists as well as production labs
    uncovered during military operations.

    The stepped-up military efforts come as US officials warn that Al Qaeda,
    the Taliban, and Hizb-i Islami militants are financing terrorist attacks
    with profits reaped from Afghanistan's estimated $2 billion annual drug
    trade. As the world's biggest opium supplier, Afghanistan saw production
    spread rampantly across the country last year, doubling to 2,865 metric tons.

    Tackling "narcoterrorism" in Afghanistan is urgent to prevent nascent links
    between drug-trafficking and terrorist groups from "tightening and
    hardening," as they have in countries such as Colombia, says Robert
    Charles, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law
    Enforcement.

    In one operation Jan. 2, for example, an American A-10 jet destroyed an
    illegal drug lab with 1.5 tons of opium as well as chemicals and production
    equipment. The strike took place 90 kilometers north of Kunduz after
    British forces called for US close air support in a firefight.

    "There are specific instructions for US central command and for the joint
    task force [in Afghanistan] ... to deal with labs and narcotics that are
    found on the battlefield or that are picked up incident to military
    operations," said Thomas O'Connell, assistant secretary of defense for
    Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict. "The labs will not go
    unnoticed," he told a House committee last week.

    Pentagon officials acknowledge that counternarcotics has not been a high
    enough priority for US forces in Afghanistan, but stress that now, "that's
    changing," as one senior official says. Still, they emphasize that US
    military efforts will be aimed at supporting Britain, the lead coalition
    nation in charge of counter-narcotics, and the Afghan government, which
    seeks to slash opium cultivation by 70 percent by 2008.

    Coordination with Afghan officials is vital because of the difficulty of
    targeting the linkages between disparate illegal drug networks, fragmented
    extremist groups, and local leaders, Pentagon officials say.

    "We know that some traffickers provide logistical assistance to extremists
    - especially to the remnants of the Taliban - and that some extremist
    groups are raising money by taxing poppy production and profiting from the
    processing and sale of narcotics," Mr. O'Connell said. But, he added, "when
    you talk about certain labs or certain narco-terrorist targets, it's not
    always easy to anticipate what the consequences will be of taking a certain
    action."

    Meanwhile, targeting Afghanistan's drug labs is complicated because the
    labs are downsizing and production often jumps between facilities. Key
    facets of the US plan include:

    * A "robust" program to gather intelligence on drug production in
    Afghanistan, as well as steps to integrate intelligence and law enforcement
    information from US, allied, and Afghan sources, and rapidly distribute
    that to Afghan and British governments.

    * Bolstering Afghan border police by expanding secure communications
    between border posts and the rest of the country, providing surveillance
    and detection equipment to help police detect smugglers, and constructing
    additional border checkpoints.

    * Helping to develop a public affairs campaign inside Afghanistan to
    discourage poppy growing.

    US forces will not, however, target poppy crops, sanction farmers, or take
    part in a wholesale eradication campaign, which Pentagon officials called
    unfeasible, due in part to the rugged terrain.

    On a recent mission in Afghanistan's Paktika Province, US soldiers searched
    a farmer's home for insurgents, but said nothing about the farmer's source
    of income: poppies. "I grow flowers, and make about 14,000 rupees [$700] a
    year," said the farmer, who returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan after the
    overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001.

    US medics bandaged a sore on the farmer's finger, gave him some pain
    medication, and moved on.

    Indeed, counternarcotics experts say Afghan poppy farmers today, as
    historically, earn only a tiny portion of the profits from the lucrative
    opium trade; far more goes to those who control the processing, smuggling,
    and sale of the drugs.

    Afghanistan's former Taliban leader Mullah Omar allegedly banned poppy
    cultivation only after stockpiling tons of heroin to corner the market and
    increase his profits, according to US lawmakers.

    Today, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, with less access to donations
    from Islamic extremists, are turning towards heroin profits to finance
    their operations, the lawmakers say.

    "In my meetings with officials of the US, UK, Pakistani and Afghan
    governments, I learned that there are several heroin trafficking
    organizations operating in Afghanistan. At least three, the [Hizb-i
    Islami], the Taliban and Al Qaeda finance terror with profits from the sale
    of heroin," says Rep. Mark Kirk (R) of Illinois. One Afghan drug trafficker
    reportedly provides lieutenants of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan with 2,000
    killograms of heroin valued at $28 million every eight weeks, he said.

    US naval forces and marines in the Persian Gulf are also mounting
    operations to intercept drug shipments and in December seized $10 million
    worth of drugs, as well as agents believed to be linked to Al Qaeda.

Comments

  1. BA
    For years I've been saying, the only reason there's a war on drugs is so that the US government can use it as an excuse to wage war in other countries and make it look like a war on drugs.


    messed up and pissed


    BA
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