Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 10:02 pm

Heroin: the public sector


As opposed to, say, hunting a shark, I don’t know what you use to build a nation. But whatever it is, as long as we stay in Afghanistan, we’re gonna need a bigger one:

KABUL — In the shadow of the craggy mountains overlooking the road between Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad, a specially trained unit of police conducted a nearly perfect ambush of a drug dealer.

Officers surrounded Sayyed Jan’s vehicle so quickly that his two bodyguards never had a chance to fire their weapons, and he was caught moving at least 183 kilograms of pure heroin.

But the Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan realized they had a problem when they discovered that Mr. Jan’s powerful friends included their own boss. The drug dealer was carrying a signed letter of protection from General Mohammed Daud Daud, the deputy minister of interior responsible for counternarcotics, widely considered Afghanistan’s most powerful anti-drug czar.

That document, along with other papers and interviews with well-placed sources, show that Gen. Daud has safeguarded shipments of illegal opiates even as he commands thousands of officers sworn to fight the trade. Some accuse the deputy minister of taking a major cut of dealers’ profits, ranking him among the biggest players in Afghanistan’s $3-billion (U.S.) drug industry.

I’ll ask again: Is there any reason why we’re not just, like, buying up the entire country’s opium crop so the natives can eat and not be inclined to shoot at us? Compared to what else we’re spending money on, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, $3 billion isn’t even real money.

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