Small Wars Journal

Troubling Turn in Afghan War: Taliban Profits Soar by Making Heroin

Troubling Turn in Afghan War: Taliban Profits Soar by Making Heroin by Mujib Mashal – New York Times

The labs themselves are simple, tucked into nondescript huts or caves: a couple-dozen empty barrels for mixing, sacks or gallon jugs of precursor chemicals, piles of firewood, a press machine, a generator and a water pump with a long hose to draw from a nearby well.

They are heroin refining operations, and the Afghan police and American Special Forces keep running into them all over Afghanistan this year. Officials and diplomats are increasingly worried that the labs’ proliferation is one of the most troubling turns yet in the long struggle to end the Taliban insurgency.

That the country has consistently produced about 85 percent of the world’s opium, despite more than $8 billion spent by the United States alone to fight it over the years, is accepted with a sense of helplessness among counternarcotics officials.

For years, most of the harvest would be smuggled out in the form of bulky opium syrup that was refined in other countries. But now, Afghan and Western officials estimate that half, if not more, of Afghan opium is getting some level of processing in the country, either into morphine or heroin with varying degrees of purity.

The refining makes the drug much easier to smuggle out into the supply lines to the West. And it is vastly increasing the profits for the Taliban…

Read on.



Sun, 11/12/2017 - 5:40am

The overwhelming sentiment that I came to recognize among the criminal element within the farming, law enforcement, military and diplomatic communities was a genuine belief that the West is complicit in the heroin industry in the Af/Pak/Iran region. In the West a ton of heroin would put you in prison forever. Likewise in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and all the 'Stans - unless of course you insist on a trial under Sharia Law and a fraction of that amount would be a death sentence.

Go figure?

The argument goes - obviously the US Air Force could wipe out 90% of the world's heroin in probably 30 days of aerial spraying in Afghanistan; where it enjoys (when I last looked) total air supremacy - why aren't they doing it? I have no end of respectable folks from lowly farmers to senior Western diplomats sarcastically point out heroin kills 10,000 Americans every year (that would be 9000 by Afghan heroin) what are we waiting for? Dig another well, build another school house, aid-post, lay down clean water, electricity, phone towers, tarmac blah blah blah but what are we doing about the fields of poppy that you could locate from the surface of the moon with a hundred dollar telescope from Walmart?

What many folks in the West find difficult to come to terms with is the degree the profits from the heroin industry prop up our financial institutions and commercial property markets. If the US Air Force destroyed the Afghan poppy harvest half of our banks would go broke and the remainder would be seriously affected. Unusually this NYT article does indeed refer to tons of heroin being seized - a succinct departure from the misleading 'tens of kilograms' usually quoted when heroin interdiction is discussed.

The reality is that the Mafia only move pure heroin in 5 ton shipments in shipping containers and there are literally hundreds of these containers on the world's oceans at any one time that originated from the fields in Af. The one/ten/hundred kilogram shipments are non-Mafioso 'Weekend Couriers' who are basically jail-bait when our local law enforcement need a headline to make a few busts and cover their ass until the heat blows over.

As one Pakistani Special Branch policeman pointed out to me - sure the whole sordid mess is a primary driver of the war, and it is a global catastrophe and they are indeed a disgrace both as policeman as well as Muslims, but when it comes to heroin industry, we are as full of shit as they are.

From a more narrowed military POV and especially today of all days - how many of the 20 Vets who will commit suicide today, tomorrow and every day henceforth, take their own lives whilst suffering the depression inherent to heroin addiction? I mean to say if we won't wipe out the heroin poppy for the sake of the junkies we should do it for our Vets.


101st Ranger

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 10:23am

The Provincial Chiefs of Police and the Corps Commanders fight the Taliban for control of the drug trade routes and opium sources. Every article about the Taliban profiting from the opium trade should be complemented with an article about the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police doing the same. Afghan civilians are caught in the middle of this contest and the Coalition aggravates the situation by responding to Afghan officials' requests for assistance. Not exactly the fight against terrorism that is sold to the US taxpayer.