The Taliban May Have A Not So Secret Weapon. (Or Welcome to Vietnamistan)

by Daniel Russ on October 20, 2009

Blackhawk Over Afghani Poppy Fields

Blackhawk Over Afghani Poppy Fields

This is another in the series I should entitle: haven’t we been here before? A Democratic President, presiding over a war he inherited, escalates without a clear mission…in a country that has vanquished empires one after another…multiple deployments, troops beginning to abuse opiates…the appearance of  a puppet government that only exists while we are there in force…. Gosh. This sounds so familiar.

Forty years ago, the Vietnam War was partly undermined by heroin addiction among U.S. troops. Surely mindful of that, the Taliban and al Qaeda are now using Afghanistan’s bountiful heroin supplies as a tactical weapon. An internal U.S. intelligence report has concluded that the two groups are targeting American troops in an effort to undermine their effectiveness, while raising cash to pay for new recruits and weaponry, a U.S. intelligence official tells The Daily Beast.

It’s a logical tactic. The drug is plentiful, cheap—less than $1 for a day’s supply—and potent. And while Army officials publicly dismiss talk of any surging drug problem, some privately express concern about the possibility of increased drug use among bored and susceptible young soldiers….

….“Through September 2006, [there were] no positive urinalysis results among deployed soldiers for heroin,” he told me. He was not able to find any later data. But The Daily Beast spoke to six soldiers, four of whom had served in Iraq, and two from Afghanistan. All had developed opiate addictions and had sought treatment from the Veterans Hospitals in their home cities. None wanted to go on the record, because they were either in the Reserves, afraid their comments might be interpreted as criticism of the Army, or might reflect badly on their friends who were still serving honorably in the combat zones.

These six unanimously confirmed that heroin “was everywhere,” especially in Afghanistan. Each of them also talked about local suppliers who had established pipelines into American troop installations in many parts of the countries. One, who had been based at the Bagram airfield, said that heroin was “sold at a lot of the shops in the bazaar” located just outside the air base’s perimeter. They confirmed that some soldiers have bartered away military equipment, including knives, helmets, and flak jackets, for drugs. “Why do you think you can buy surplus Army equipment inside the bazaar,” one solider asked me. (At Bagram, according to a written statement provided by an Army spokesperson for the base, the “Military Police receive few reports of alcohol or drug issues.”)

Sources: The Daily Beast

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