Five years ago, with Afghanistan in danger of becoming a narco-terrorist state, several law enforcement veterans presented the previous Obama administration with a detailed plan to use the court system in the United States to prosecute Taliban commanders and Afghan drug lords who supply more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin supply. With a growing, now a national epidemic opioid crisis in the U.S. the plan made total sense.
As the administration knew then, the drug trade was hurting America in two ways. By fueling the opioid crisis and by financing the ongoing war in Afghanistan as that is where the Taliban is getting the vast majority of their funding. But to everyone’s surprise, the deputy chief of mission in Kabul for the Obama administration ordered the project shelved.
A senior Afghan security official, M. Ashraf Haidari, also expressed anger at the Obama administration when told about how the U.S. effort to indict Taliban narcotics kingpins was stopped dead in its tracks 16 months after it began.
“It brought us almost to the breaking point, put our elections into a time of crisis, and then our economy almost collapsed,” Haidari said of the drug money funding the Taliban. “If that [operation] had continued, we wouldn’t have had this massive increase in production and cultivation as we do now.”
The plan, code-named Operation Reciprocity, was modeled after a legal strategy that the Justice Department began using a decade earlier against the cocaine-funded leftist FARC guerrillas in Colombia, in concert with military and diplomatic efforts. The new operation’s goal was to haul 26 suspects from Afghanistan to the same New York courthouse where FARC leaders were prosecuted, turn them against each other and the broader insurgency, convict them on conspiracy charges and lock them away.
Its demise was not instantaneous. But the most significant blow, by far, came on May 27, 2013, when the then-deputy chief of mission, Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, summoned Marsac and two top embassy officials supporting the plan to her office, and issued an immediate stand-down order.
Kaidanow …as the administration’s “eyes” in Afghanistan — had concerns it would undermine the White House’s broader strategy in Afghanistan, including a drawdown that included the DEA as well as the military.
The administration wanted a drawdown at all costs despite the fact the Taliban were playing the peace talk game for all it was worth, knowing the U.S. was planning on scaling down their presence. Five years later, the Taliban are still playing this game and the drugs continue to flow from there and finance the Taliban.
The Justice Department people are ready and able to implement the operations once again. They just need a go-ahead from Washington.
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