Rumsfeld urged to alter Afghan drug trade policy

(Gold9472: Posted by Paul Thompson yesterday...

February 2002: US Military Determined to Avoid Counter-Narcotics Operations in Afghanistan
According to one former National Security Council official, Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith argues in a White House meeting that since counter-narcotics is not part of the war on terrorism, the Pentagon doesn’t want to get involved in it. The former official complains, “We couldn’t get [the US military] to do counter-narcotics in Afghanistan.” Author James Risen comments, “American troops were there to fight terrorists, not suppress the poppy crop, and Pentagon officials didn’t see a connection between the two. The Pentagon feared that counter-narcotics operations would force the military to turn on the very same warlords who were aiding the United States against the Taliban, and that would lead to another round of violent attacks on American troops.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 154] Immediately after 9/11, the US had decided not to bomb drug-related targets in Afghanistan and continued not to do so.

Be sure to read, "Who Benefits From The Afghan Opium Trade?")

By Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY
Updated 10/24/2006

WASHINGTON — A leading House Republican is urging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to revamp the U.S. strategy against heroin production in Afghanistan, saying record opium poppy harvests show efforts to target farmers are not working.

Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said in an Oct. 12 letter to Rumsfeld that the U.S.-supported poppy eradication program in Afghanistan is a failure. In the previously unreported letter, provided by Hyde's committee office, Hyde urges the military to help agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) take out drug kingpins and heroin processing centers. The current program, backed by the State Department and international agencies, focuses on low-level poppy farmers.

The "opium crisis" has "increased violence and terrorism against coalition forces there, and is now threatening to totally corrupt all of the new Afghan democratic institutions we support," Hyde's letter said, echoing concerns voiced by many U.S. officials — including Rumsfeld — that drug money is aiding a resurgence of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld has not answered Hyde, but Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Finn, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Monday, "We take this matter very seriously, and we will be responding."

Hyde's letter followed a report by the United Nations last month that said an estimated 407,724 acres of opium poppy were grown in Afghanistan this year. That's up 59% from 2005 and more than double the acreage farmed in 2000, before the U.S.-led assault on the former Taliban government.

Afghanistan is the world's top supplier of heroin, and narcotics make up more than one-third of its economy, the State Department has reported.

The Pentagon's mission in Afghanistan has focused on fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It has viewed drug trafficking as a law enforcement issue. However, Rumsfeld has authorized U.S. military units operating in areas with drug activity to take along DEA agents.

Military support has helped DEA operations, the agency's Mary Irene Cooper said. The poppy eradication effort, however, has had little impact. The U.N. said 37,807 acres were eliminated this year, about 7% of the acreage cultivated.

Hyde wants military air support for DEA missions. He said it is too dangerous for civilian authorities to work alone."We can't lose the country to narcotics," he said in an interview.