Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

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The Drug-Terrorist Link Means Wars Can Last Forever
The Brits are finally willing to lay out some of the truths about the war in Afghanistan, truths that apply in many other parts of the world, in a pattern that we continue to see growing.

According to the Daily Telegraph, a confidential report to the prime minister concludes that the drug trade will prolong the Taliban insurgency idenfinitely:

"Growing links between the drugs trade and the insurgency in the South will provide longevity to the Taliban," the UK document says. "In the south, the drugs trade is fuelling the insurgency."

It adds: "This is compounded by government corruption. Karzai chooses to avoid rocking the boat with powerful narco figures and has not blocked their appointment as governors or other senior officials."

In turn, Mr Karzai's failure to tackle corruption and the drug lords "only increases popular disillusion," further boosting the insurgency, the paper says.

In fact, almost half (19 of 43) foreign terrorist organizations designated by the United States have clear ties to drug trafficking networks, according to law enforcement studies.

Once the initial ideological or theological obstacles have been overcome in participating in the drug trade, terrorist organizations tend to dominate the structure in short order. This is true with the FARC in Colombia, the Taliban in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Hezbollah in the heroin trade when it was massively involved there in the last decade, and elsewhere.

The reason is that the terrorist/military organization usually brings muscle that the traditional organizations can't dispute, and a clandestine, compartmentalized structure suited to moving the product successfully.

In the short term, the alliances tend to work well because, as the case with the Karzai government, the government corruption due to drug traffickers erodes faith in the government, while the money the terrorist/criminal organizations accrue can be use for social services, weapons, trainers and winning hearts and minds.

In addition, the terrorist/insurgent groups lose their dependency on outside forces. They generate their own money, rather than relying on donations from Saudi Arabia, the former Soviet bloc, Venezuela etc., freeing them from the constraints that having to factor in the effect of their actions on their patrons.

Eventually, however, as the FARC has shown, the corruption seeps into the insurgent/terrorist/criminal group as well. The theological/ideological basis for the movement erodes, and popular support wanes.

The final, and most dangerous stage is when these groups, now better armed, better trained and better organized, again become purely criminal. However, at this point, the groups are self-sustaining for indefinite periods of time. The FARC, after 44 years (and 18 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall) is only now being threatened militarily.

The Taliban, then, growing enough opium to make 880 tons of heroin and supply more than 90 percent of the world heroin market, is not likely to be going anywhere soon.

It is a look at the future of the terrorist/criminal nexus, and the future is not bright.
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