No longer looking the other way from the jihadists’ cash crop. Almost 8 years of warfare is certainly enough time to figure out that the “hearts and minds” angle didn’t work out on the opium issue. “U.S. Military Working to ‘Kill or Capture’ 50 Taliban Drug Lords,” by Brian Ross for ABC News, August 10:
In a dramatic change of policy ordered by the Obama administration, the U.S. military has been given approval to “kill or capture” 50 Taliban-connected drug lords whose names are on a classified “kill list” being circulated to commanders, according to a report prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and obtained by ABCNews.com.
Military officials expressed anger today that the “classified program” had been revealed in the Senate report.
Click here to read the full report.
A Department of Defense spokesman, Bryan Whitman, declined to comment on the target list, but said “where terrorists do interface with drug networks that produces a security threat, a force protection threat, and is a legitimate target in those regards.”
Senate investigators were told military commanders have been given, for the first time, the green light to “remove from the battlefield” the 50 drug lords on the kill list, which also includes another 317 Taliban and al Qaeda figures. […]
The report also concludes that corruption at “district, provincial and national levels” of the Afghanistan government seriously compromises the Obama’s administration’s strategy to assign a higher priority to counter-narcotics efforts.
There have been recurring allegations and circumstantial evidence that the brother of Afghan President Harmad Karzai is closely linked with major heroin traffickers but the Senate report said the U.S. had yet to produce evidence that could be used in court.
An unnamed U.S. General told investigators, “We all assume that he is totally corrupt and engaged in the drug trade but when you ask for the portfolio, we don’t have it.”
Investigators said U.S. intelligence agencies had gathered evidence against Karzai’s brother through the use of electronic intercepts but that the information could not be shared with the Afghans or used in court because the method of collection was top secret.
Also cited by U.S. authorities in Afghanistan is the case of a regional governor who was found with nine tons of opium in his office but allowed to resign and take a new position in the Afghan Senate. He was never charged with a crime.
In another example of the pervasive drug corruption, a U.S. State Department official told the Senate investigators that police chiefs in poppy growing areas “pay as much as $100,000 to get appointed to a job that pays $150 a month, with the knowledge that they will recoup far more in bribes and kickbacks.”….