June 25th, 2009
05:25 PM ET

Heroin, Al Qaeda and the Taliban

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://media.us.macmillan.com/jackets/500H/9780312379278.jpg]

Gretchen Peters
Thomas Dunne Books, May 2009

This is an excerpt from the first chapter of Gretchen Peter's new book "Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda", published May 2009.

Instead of intensifying efforts to go after the traffickers and money launderers behind the insurgency, the U.S. government has pushed for broadscale aerial spraying of poppy fields. Wide-scale spraying would play into the hands of traffickers and terrorists. If implemented, this policy would drive up opium prices, thus increasing profits for drug dealers and the Taliban, and make life even harder for already debt- ridden Afghan farmers— exactly the results the U.S. government and NATO don’t want.

It’s easy to see how we got into this mess. Finding a way out presents a greater challenge. One can blame the current predicament on a combination of geography, poverty, and the "light footprint" approach. Landlocked Afghanistan is one of the poorest and most backward countries in the world, with social indicators on par with places like Burundi and Ethiopia. Almost one in four Afghan children die before they reach age five and average life expectancy is just forty- three years. Per capita GDP was estimated by the World Bank in 2003 to be a mere $310.

The nation’s infrastructure is pitiable, with one phone line for every five hundred people, few paved roads, not a single functioning sewage system, and a capital city that grinds along on just a few hours of city power per day. The economy is in shambles, inflation is skyrocketing, and along the rugged Pakistan frontier, many tribes have survived for centuries by smuggling goods through the forbidding mountain passes. Financial hardships weigh on ordinary Afghans as much as security concerns. In a 2006 survey by the Asia Foundation, Afghans named poverty and unemployment as more critical concerns than the Taliban.

Filed under: Afghanistan
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Pam, Park Forest, IL

    I think the USA is overlooking the fact that a terror cell that is US based , most likely in the Chicago area, and associated with the 9-11-01 plotters have been producing bad pharmaceutical products and selling drugs that either are Placebo with no benefit in the drug to the consumer, and or producing drugs with undetermined synthetics which cause additional pain, respiratory problems , aches, dizziness, headaches and other body parts. The govt is always seeking fault in that of the physican acts, but rarely looks at the contributing factor of toxitiy that is found in many people, because patients are rarely tested for it. You think , oh that drug has such bad side effects i wont take it anymore , and get another one. No one verifies back to the manufacturer of the serious side effects that at times causes the need for hospitalizations. I believe the tampering with the quality control is connected to a terror cell that is forgein financed invading our high quality and standards in the USA and that interference is being ignored. Also people are being kept in the dark about major well known pharmecuetical companies who Board of Directors are in Organized crime. Open your eyes! What used to be street trade is very very organized , big , powerful and effects the public well being.

    August 4, 2009 at 12:13 am |
  2. Nacho

    We could just legalize pot ?

    June 26, 2009 at 12:08 am |
  3. blaksmith

    Why can't science find a legal use for the poppy seeds? Has anybody tried?

    June 25, 2009 at 10:42 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    Why don't we find something else they can grow for a similar profit and work load? IF we did that and taught them how to build their infrastructure that they so obviously need, maybe we can put them on the road to a better standard of living. I read an article where near Afghanistan they grow roses and then use the petals to sell to a company that extracts the rose oil from them – rose oil is used in a lot of perfumes and is very expensive and very profitable. Afghanistan was cited as a place that would be a good place to grow the roses as well and the workload would be comparable to what the farmers have now on the opium poppies. At any rate there are other options for them; they just need to know about them and try them.

    June 25, 2009 at 9:11 pm |
  5. Karen

    if you buy drugs, you support terrorism.

    haven't you fools seen the commercial?

    June 25, 2009 at 8:33 pm |
  6. kim bebout

    and not to mention Karzai......he is a whole other link to oil pipeline Putin wants to build across the middle east

    June 25, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  7. Mari

    Not only heroin, but all the OIL we, Americans, consume!

    June 25, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  8. johanna

    What about the chemicals they are going to spray on those people! The earth will be unfarmable for a long while too...into the water.Need I go on.I will. That is a ridiculous idea.Period.

    June 25, 2009 at 6:54 pm |
  9. wow

    You are aware that the Taliban had nearly eridicated poppy before the US went in in 2003 right? We went there to garuntee our crops. This is propaganda at its worst and severely misinformed at its best. This comes from a soldier who was in Afghanistan.

    June 25, 2009 at 6:46 pm |
  10. todd blatt

    I beileve we will always be the country that wastes its time doing dumb things like this just because we are not ever going to look @ how to solve these long term problems...if we did we would have to see how bad it is here!!!now we can say how bad it is there..we always forget stoping them doesn't stop our dads and brothers from using...from a brother and son of adicts..american dummys

    June 25, 2009 at 6:06 pm |

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