Sgt. Stryker here. I’m back. There’s been a lot of action surrounding the drug trade in Afghanistan. Poppy production is one of the major ways the taliban raise cash to fund their terror. Because of this, it’s important for the coalition to back Afghanistan when she tries to stop the drug problem in the country. Afghanistan has a long history with drugs. Unfortunately, most of the money made from growing and moving drugs has been spent not on helping the Afghan people, but buying weapons to terrorize them. This is a problem – one of the big picture problems in Afghanistan if you ask me.
Earlier this month, a raid in southern Helmand province yielded homemade explosives, materials for improvised explosive devices and more than 1,600 bags of poppy seeds. Marines from 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan stacked the narcotics and set them ablaze, dealing a major blow to Taliban forces operating in southern Afghanistan.
The Marines also discovered poppy fields outside Safaar, and with the help of Marine Aircraft Group 40, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, were able to take these valuable crops out of enemy hands. Insurgents used both the bazaars of Safaar and Lakari in Afghanistan to store narcotics, in addition to the ingredients needed to create weapons. Jay Fitzpatrick, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s assistant regional director for southern and western Afghanistan, said the Taliban has used these bazaars, due to their location to the Helmand River valley, because it provides insurgents a fertile trail to follow.
The actions taken by the MEB-Afghanistan Marines, Afghan national police and the DEA will not prevent future poppy crops from being planted, but dealt a blow to the Taliban, Fitzpatrick said. About 300 tons of poppy seeds were seized from both bazaars in the previous two days.
“More of it came out of Safaar,” said Fitzpatrick.” Ultimately, 297 tons will populate 18,000 hectares. The figures differ, but we say about six to eight percent of the heroin from this region makes it to [U.S.] borders,” Fitzpatrick said. “The money derived from narcotics fuels the insurgency’s effort, so it’s our job to come out here through interdiction to take the money out of the pockets of the insurgents so they’re less capable to fund their efforts against us and the world. It is a global problem.”
The process followed by the Taliban starts from farmers raising poppy crops. From there, the harvested poppies are transported to markets in Europe, Iran and Russia. Through local markets, the final product is sold, Fitzpatrick explained.
“Eventually, the money makes its way back through the chains to Afghanistan, where it’s utilized by insurgents to buy arms, buy the homemade explosive devices and chemicals they need,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s a process that’s been going on for a long time.”
Many Afghan farmers have experienced pressure from the Taliban, as well as a need to grow poppy crops for a source of income. A poppy harvest can be stored for up to one year before going bad, providing the farmer enough time to sell to the highest bidder.
“It comes down to making a living,” Fitzpatrick said. “What’s derived from it puts food on the table. Hopefully, we can eventually talk these folks into alternative livelihoods, whether its wheat or pomegranates or different crops like that.”
This is a sad way for them to live. Things are going to get better as the coalition forces begin to introduce other ways to make money in the country.
Sgt. Stryker out.
Transiting Pearl Harbor
Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain observe the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona memorials while transiting Pearl Harbor. Lake Champlain is on a scheduled deployment as part of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of responsibility supporting global maritime security. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Barker
Afghan National Police and U.S. Troops Search for Caches in Khowst Province
U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Araiza, right, rests after searching a cave for enemy weapons caches near Shah Wali Zarat, Khowst province, Afghanistan, July 24. Araiza is deployed with A Company, 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion (Airborne), 4-25 Brigade Combat Team. Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith
Coalition Forces Train for Urban Operations
A Marine from Company Kilo, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines pulls a casualty to safety during a mock assault at the Urban Operations Training Facility at Shoalwater Bay, Australia, July 22, as part of Exercise Talisman Saber 2009. Australian soldiers from 3 Royal Australian Regiment and Marines from 3/5 participated in the assault to practice operating in urban combat. TS09 is a biennial combined training activity, designed to train Australian and U.S. forces in planning and conducting combined task force operations, which will help improve Australian Defence Force/U.S. combat readiness and inter-operability. Photo by Cpl. Cristina Noelia Gil
Strike Fighter Squadron 113 ‘Stingers’ Support Operation Enduring Freedom
An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Stingers” of Strike Fighter Squadron 113 embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, returns from a mission supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan is currently deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. Operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations are focused on reassuring regional partners of the United States’ commitment to security, which promotes stability and global prosperity. Photo by Cmdr. Erik Etz