Merchant of Death
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Finally, Getting Serious About Drugs in Afghanistan: Is it too Late?
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Finally, the world, from the United States to Iran, is recognizing their own self interest in taking on the opium and heroin traffickers in Afghanistan. Iran, for the first time, seems to understand that it's own self-interest to curb its rapidly-growing internal consumption of the drugs that have passed through its territory fairly freely.

As the Associated Press reports, the DEA is gearing up in the region as well, seeking to implement a model similar to the one used to dismantle the Colombian cartels

The surge of narcotics agents, which would boost the number of anti-drug officials inside Afghanistan from a dozen to nearly 80, would bolster a strategy laid out last week by the Obama administration to use U.S. and NATO troops to target "higher level drug lords."

Detailed plans described to members of Congress behind closed doors earlier this month suggest the effort will be modeled after the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's campaign against drug cartels in South America.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who chairs the House Armed Services terrorism subcommittee, said the DEA's effort is aimed at crippling the Afghan narcotics networks by driving up the costs of the opium trade.

"Any financing effort is really going to focus on the drug trade and the DEA is going to have to play a key role," Smith said.

But the issue is much more complex than just getting rid of the poppies, because so much time has elapsed and the traffickers have such a huge head start.

In a brilliant book that will be published in May, Gretchen Peters outlines how the Taliban and others in the heroin trade have such a surplus of opium that the short-term effect of any crackdown will drive prices up sharply, allowing the criminal organizations to unload their surplus while raking in massive amounts of cash.

The question is, will there be enough staying power for the cycle to come around far enough to actually have an impact on the production cycles. That we won't know for some time.

Her book, Seeds of Terror:Heroin and the Financing of the Taliban's and Al Qaeda's Master Plan, Peters chronicles the history of the rise of the new round of heroin trafficking and how high the drug corruption goes in the government itself.

This complicity, and the willingness to let warlords rule the most lucrative regions in the country, will surely complicate the task far beyond what it seems at first glance.

To make a significant dent, Iran and other players in the region, acting out of enlightened self interest rather than any desire to help the United States, will have to become actively engaged. The porous borders through with the drugs flow are close to the United States, and the heroin largely is consumed in Russia, the Stans, and Europe.

The U.S. interest is to cut the flow of funds to terrorists. Others will have other interests. But maybe the danger is now enough to get everyone on the same page, at least in the interest of survival.
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