Military forces, especially British soldiers assigned to one of the most dangerous regions of Afghanistan, may face their first confrontation with farmers whose poppy fields are due to be eradicated this week.
Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of opium. The 2005 production was estimated at 4,600 metric tons -- a figure that is expected to increase this year. Terrorists and warlords in Afghanistan, as well as insurgents in Central Asia, the Russian Federation, and along the trafficking routes on the former Soviet Union's Southern rim all the way to the Balkans, share part of the estimated $60 billion world heroin market.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai is determined to carry out large-scale eradication of opium crops in Helmand province, where the first members of a British task force of over 5,000 are being deployed. British commanding officers have stressed that their troops will not take part in the highly volatile program. But both Afghan and British officials acknowledged that they are likely to suffer a backlash in this largely rural community if farmers lose their livelihood with no adequate compensation.
The troop preparation are already underway for any attacks by a resurgent Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies. Islamist fighters have carried out waves of suicide and roadside bombings, murdered aid workers, burnt schools and beheaded teachers for offering to teach girls.
The soldiers may also have to disarm the so-called Afghan Security Force -- in effect former mujahedin hired by US forces to guard their bases during the height of the invasion. They are accused by local people of lawlessness and involvement in extortion. Many of them are former members of the Northern Alliance, a hodgepodge of warlords' militias, bandits and criminals who escaped from the Taliban.
President Karzai is under intense pressure from the US and Britain governments to curtail Afghanistan's production of heroin. the province of Helmand accounts for about 25 percent of the opium crop. It's hoped a successful show of force and poppy eradication will be used as a public show of the government's determination curb the drug trade.
Last June, President Bush designated Afghan Baz Mohammad as a foreign narcotics kingpin under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. The extradition represents the first extradition in history from Afghanistan to the United States, according to officials with the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
US government officials recently acknowledged the extradition from Afghanistan to New York of Baz Mohammad, a Taliban-linked narco-terrorist charged with conspiring to import more than $25 million worth of heroin from Afghanistan into the United States and other countries.
According to the indictment, Baz Mohammad, since 1990, led an international heroin-trafficking organization (the “Baz Mohammad Organization”) responsible for manufacturing and distributing more than $25 million worth of heroin in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Baz Mohammad Organization then allegedly arranged for the heroin to be imported into the United States and other countries and sold for tens of millions of dollars.
The indictment charges that Mohammad controlled opium fields in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan, where poppies were grown and harvested to produce opium. After the opium was harvested, he used laboratories in Afghanistan and Pakistan to process it into heroin.
Mohammad and his organization then arranged to transport the heroin from Afghanistan into the United States, including to New York City, hidden inside suitcases, clothing, and containers. Once the heroin arrived in the United States, other members of the Baz Mohammad Organization received the heroin and distributed the drugs.
These coconspirators then arranged for millions of dollars in heroin proceeds to be laundered back to Mohammad and other members of the Baz Mohammad Organization in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Baz Mohammad Organization was closely aligned with the Taliban and other Islamic-extremist groups in Afghanistan. During the course of the conspiracy, the Baz Mohammad Organization provided financial support to the Taliban. More specifically, between 1994 and 2000, the Baz Mohammad Organization collected heroin proceeds in the United States for the Taliban in Afghanistan. In exchange for its financial support, the Taliban provided the Baz Mohammad Organization protection for its opium crops, heroin laboratories, drug-transportation routes, and members and associates.
Mohammad stated that selling heroin in the United States was a “Jihad” because they were taking the Americans’ money at the same time the heroin they were paying for was killing them.
More recently, in June 2004, Mohammad and other members of his organization possessed approximately 120 kilograms of chemical powder, a drug ledger, and written records reflecting sales of missile explosive devices, rocket shells, rocket accessories, AK-47s, pistols, bullets, and other weaponry at a petrol station in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan.
While Mohammad was a big catch, many believe he is merely one of hundreds of Afghans involved in the opium trade. However, the US and British governments believe that now is the time to destroy drug cultivation and production in Afghanistan while our forces are still there to help combat the remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The disturbing part of this particular opium war is that the enemy views it as part and parcel of the overall international Islamic Jihad.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.