Obama to Ramp Up Drug War in Afghanistan

First Mexico, now Afghanistan. The Wall St. Journal has as breaking news at the top of its site right now:

The Obama administration will unveil a new Afghanistan strategy Friday that calls for devoting significant new resources to counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan and economic development in Pakistan.

Today, Obama's choice of Ambassador to Afghanistan, Lt Gen Karl Eikenberry, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his confirmation hearing: [More...]

“Today’s sobering reality is that Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world’s illicit opiates. The corrupting effect of drugs and the steady revenue stream provided by the narcotics trade fuel the insurgency and are a scourge, eroding Afghan aspirations for security, government probity, and economic development. We must acknowledge that the drug trade also affects Afghanistan’s neighbors, who suffer from high rates of addiction and narco‑trafficking associated crime and violence. Accordingly, a coordinated and cooperative regional approach is essential to counter this growing threat.”/

As I reported last month, the DEA got $30 million to fight narco-terrorism in the Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Here's the 2009 Defense Department Budget (pdf). Check out the "Department o Defense Counternarcotics Central Transfer Account" on page 17. $1,060.463 (in millions)

In 2008, Congress authorized $192.6 million in funding for the Defense Department's Afghanistan counternarcotics mission. (see page 21.)

How has the defense department helped with the domestic drug war? In 2007:

  • Pounds of heroin seized with National Guard support: 2,141
  • Pounds marijuana seized with National Guard support: 856,384
  • Number of marijuana plants seized with National Guard support: 7,791,118
  • Pounds cocaine seized with National Guard support: 623,478
  • Number of tablets of ecstasy seized with National Guard support: 1,020,533

Where does the money go? In part, to this:

Defense provided air and maritime assets in support of multi-agency counternarcotics detection and monitoring operations. These assets include aircraft, helicopters, naval ships, and radars - employed in concert with other assets from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Defense assets usually have USCG law enforcement detachments that actually conduct the lawful search and seizure of suspect narcotrafficking vessels.

Defense also provides intelligence and communications support plus command and control for JIATFs-South and West. In addition to the drug seizure results depicted in the table, National Guard support to law enforcement resulted in the confiscation of over 21,000 weapons, 4,000 vehicles, and $382.4 million of currency from illicit drug traffickers.

As for Afghanistan:

In Afghanistan, DoD counternarcotics support expands Afghan interdiction capabilities including specialized unit training and equipping of counternarcotics forces, providing training and operational bases and facilities, an organic aviation capacity and capability, and providing the information required for both interdiction operations and prosecutions.

Is the military taking over the War on drugs? With $252 million in 2008, it looks like the U.S. War on Drugs abroad is getting its own stimulus package.

Aside from fighting another losing war abroad, one that will cost American lives and a lot of money, there will be calls for new narco-terror laws we don't need here at home.

As I wrote in 2004 and 2005 when warning of bills like the Victory Act and proposed narco-terror amendments to the Patriot Act,

I don't doubt that some of the money earned from Afghan poppy farming finds its way into the hands of terrorists. But let's not paint with too broad a brush without something more. And let's be vigilant about keeping terror laws and drug laws separate, except in such instances where the two clearly are linked. We already have laws that penalize terrorism and laws that penalize illicit drug activity. There is no need to combine them.


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