Does anyone else think it odd and just a bit mission creepy that “the most prolific expansion in DEA history” would occur on foreign soil? This expansion, or “surge,” will come in the form of “dozens of DEA agents” descending on Afghanistan, because, as one DEA official pointed out, after eight years of fighting to prop up the central government there, President Hamid Karzai & Co. are apparently unwilling and unable to resolve the drug problem themselves.
So, enter the American Drug War, Afghan style. Unfettered by anything resembling the U.S Constitution, DEA agents are seemingly given carte blanche to go after Afghan drug kingpins belonging to the Taliban or “influential tribes allied with it” and hauling them back to U.S federal courts if need be. Their task also includes pursuing corrupt government officials fingered as assisting the $4 billion drug trade.
From the L.A Times this morning:
…the number of DEA agents and analysts in Afghanistan will rise from 13 to 68 by September, and to 81 in 2010. More agents will also be deployed in Pakistan. It is “the most prolific expansion in DEA history,” Harrigan said.
Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told Congress in June that the Obama administration was redirecting resources that lawmakers had appropriated for opium eradication toward the new strategy of “interdiction, rule of law — going after the big guys. And those involve people in the government.”
The DEA also has been designated as the lead in a multi-agency “Afghan Threat Finance Cell” that will go after not only the suspected drug kingpins, but also corrupt politicians and other sources of funding for the insurgency, including cash from wealthy Persian Gulf donors, extortion and kidnappings, according to DEA documents and interviews.
It will also expand a U.S. program to train Afghan counter-narcotics police.
“A surge not only of military but law enforcement is exactly what we need. It is something we have always demanded of the U.S. government,” said M. Ashraf Haidari, political counselor at the Afghan Embassy in Washington, who oversees counter-narcotics and national security issues.
This “demand” seems cock-eyed, seeing that it is his own government that has stymied the anti-drug and corruption efforts for eight years, proliferating instead the “poppy palaces” that loom over the poverty and pain of Kabul. Karzai is set to win another term in office next month, and it would seem he is the biggest obstacle to this latest DEA incarnation. I guess that in a news report with so much gusto and good old-fashioned can-do optimism, the most telling lines are left for the last:
At the same time, some current and former officials question whether Afghan government corruption and indifference are too rampant to turn the tide. Recently, President Hamid Karzai pardoned at least five convicted major drug traffickers, prompting a rare U.S. State Department rebuke.