Seeds of Terror: How Drugs, Thugs, and Crime Are Reshaping the Afghan War Paperback – Apr 27 2010
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“Stunning . . . A must-read for all western policy makers and President Obama.” ―Ahmed Rashid, New York Times Bestselling author of Taliban and Descent into Chaos
“Seeds of Terror offers layer after layer of fascinating information about the deadly consequences of decades of disastrous policy decisions. This is a well-written, well-documented, and exemplary work of journalism.” ―Lewis Perdue, Barron's
“Meticulously researched.” ―The Sunday Times (London)
“Excellent … Gretchen Peters's disturbing book plainly states that unless the opium-smuggling industry is put out of business, the nation-building exercise in Afghanistan is destined for failure. We should heed her warnings.” ―Emran Qureshi, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
“Clear and persuasive.” ―Booklist
“An important examination of ‘the nexus of [drug] smugglers and extremists' in the global war against terrorists. Peters builds a solid case [and] has exhaustively framed one of the thorniest problems facing policy makers in this long war.” ―Publishers Weekly
“A vitally important book. Until the United States admits what Peters knows, and changes course, the virulent narco-terrorism spreading across South Asia will cause us to lose not only Afghanistan but Pakistan as well.” ―Robert Baer, New York Times bestselling author of Sleeping with the Devil and The Devil We Know
“Required reading for anyone interested in public-policy issues concerning drugs, defense, and diplomacy . . . Buy it.” ―National Post (Canada)
“Peters has done a superlative job with Seeds of Terror. It is a primer for the new administration--a blueprint for what must be done in Afghanistan to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat.” ―Jack Lawn, DEA chief under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush
“The linkage between fighting drugs and fighting terrorism is, with Seeds of Terror, now firmly established. Gretchen Peters, combining personal experience and in-depth research, paints a frightening picture and tells us how to surmont the problem. A critically important book.” ―Raymond W. Baker, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and author of Capitalism's Achilles Heel
“Detailed and highly readable . . . masterfully traces the enormous success of the illegal heroin trade in Afghanistan.” ―Frederick P. Hitz, former inspector general of the CIA and author of Why Spy?
About the Author
Gretchen Peters has covered Pakistan and Afghanistan for more than a decade, first for the Associated Press and later for ABC News. A Harvard graduate, Peters was nominated for an Emmy for her coverage of the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto and won the SAJA Journalism Award for a Nightline segment on Pervez Musharraf. She lives in the United States with her husband, the Robert Capa Gold Medal-winning photojournalist John Moore, and their two daughters.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
Prohibition = higher drug prices = government corruption = increased profits for terrorists and organized crime = more drug dealers and users.
Legalization = more control = lower prices = less profit for terrorists and organized crime = fewer drug dealers and users. Drug use and violence will continue to increase until Gretchen and others accept the truth.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In order to understand how to disrupt this flow of money, Peters has developed a good deal of accurate information on how the movement of money into and out of Afghanistan is actually accomplished. She does a particularly good job in describing the new Taliban's (and al Qaeda's) juxtaposition of the traditional Islamic banking system called 'Hawalla' with Western style commercial banking, and how money laundering affects both systems. She correctly points to the UAE as a center for dubious financial activities and indeed the flow of narcotics. Peters also characterizes Pakistan's role in this trade as ambiguous at best and describes Pakistani efforts to stop the narcotics trade as uneven. For example, trucking consortiums based in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas appear to be major carriers of illicit drugs to the port of Karachi, Pakistan. There is also the still murky role of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) organization and its love-hate relationship with the Taliban and possibly al Qaeda. Is the ISI trying to halt or trying to support the Afghan narcotics trade? Perhaps the answer to this question is yes. A book well worth reading by anyone with an interest in Afghanistan, counter terrorism, or counter-narcotics.
Like me you may be wondering what in the world a houbara bustard actually is. We learn from Peters that it's a type of "rare falcon". As it turns out, this is not correct. In fact, the houbara bustard is an endangered, primarily terrestrial bird, which is hunted by falcons and is the most prized quarry for Arab falconers. Hence its near extinction...
Anyway, setting this bit of sketchy scholarship aside, there is much of consequence that we do learn in Seeds of Terror. Essential points of the book are as follows:
* Drug traffickers, terrorist groups, and the criminal underworld represent a new axis of evil that the world needs to confront.
* The Taliban (clearly) and Al Qaeda (implicitly) are prospering from a growing stream of funding from the drug trade.
* Combating the terrorists will require going after the drug traffickers. This is something that for a variety of reasons the US and NATO commanders have been reluctant to do.
* The stakes are exceptionally high. According to the 9/11 Commission, September 11 cost al Qaeda $ 500,000. Al Qaeda has threatened future actions with casualties "too high to count", implying a quest for weapons of mass destruction. The availability of vast amounts of money from drug profits puts them closer to achieving this goal.
* Cutting off this source of funding will be exceedingly difficult, but not impossible.
* Eradication of the poppy crop, to date the focus of anti drug efforts in Afghanistan, is the least effective strategy. Instead, a holistic approach involving diplomatic initiatives; counterinsurgency strategy; blended intelligence and law enforcement efforts; military strikes against drug lords, labs, and transport convoys; development of a farm support network; public relations; disruption of financial flows; and implementation of alternatives for the livelihoods of affected parties is proposed.
Clearly this is important material and the world needs to hope that the appropriate policy makers take note.
Reading this book, particularly wading through the labyrinthine relationships of Afghanistan's various factions, gangs, and power brokers, is tough going. Nevertheless, given the significance of the subject matter, I give it a four star recommendation, in spite of the sloppy ornithology of the bustard business.
Let's also look in the U.S., specifically in northern CA. Is marijuana becoming the new get rich quick drug?
Opium is still seen as just one means of financing religious fanatics. As Peters reveals, it's much more. For the Taliban, drug money is not just the means; it has become the objective—just like it is for the Colombian and Mexican drug mafias. As she tells us, "The insurgency is exploding precisely because the opium trade is booming."
The Taliban are almost entirely from the Pashtun tribe, and to her credit, Peters speaks fluent Pashto, which may be why the book feels so credible. For ten years, she has tracked the drug racket in every way imaginable, from flying with Pakistanis using forward-looking infrared cameras looking for drug convoys to sipping tea in one of HJK's two hundred houses. HJK, you will learn, was the number one smuggler behind the Taliban, with a billion-dollar drug business extending from Osama bin Laden to Mullah Omar and from Uzbekistan to Dubai. It's a fascinating read.
Peters admits she can't determine the depth of al Qaeda's involvement in the drug trade, although al Qaeda operatives routinely ship drugs to the Gulf. But she proves beyond a doubt that the Taliban has become primarily a criminal operation, and if the Taliban wins, al Qaeda will have its own narco-state.
Here's a hint of what's in the book. Chapter (1) To go after terrorist, you must go after their drug profits. (2) The explosion of heroin during the war to oust the Soviets. (3) The rise of the Taliban and the narco-terror state. (4) How heroin saved the Taliban (and changed them) after we kicked them out. (5) HJK, the sheepherder turned kingpin. (6) How drug money flows outside the banking system—an amazing process. (7) How U.S./NATO policy has avoided the drug war or been wholly inadequate, and how the Afghan government has been corrupted. The final chapter (8) is about what should be done. It's not the most fascinating part, but it may be the most important.
Peters present a nine point approach that seems well thought out, but in my view, her biggest strategic contribution is her thinking on how to attack the drug business. "Twelve percent of the Afghan population lives off the poppy trade. Destroying their livelihoods overnight [poppy eradication]—before providing alternatives—would ... turn more Afghans against the United States. ... The goal should be to cut or eliminate profits for smugglers and financiers at the top." Unfortunately she only goes a little deeper than that, but I think she's headed in exactly the right direction. As Peters has proved, Afghanistan is a narco-terror state, and we need to fight both parts at once--the narcotics business and the terrorist who profit from it.
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