29 April 2012

Pakistan and the Taliban

Seeds of Terror by Gretchen Peters, 2009, Excerpts

Pakistan is often described as the godfather of the Taliban. The truth is more complex. Although Islamabad tried to establish influence over the movement soon after its inception, the Taliban’s original benefactors were smugglers. As it was, Islamabad never established much sway over the Taliban, who Pakistani officers complained were willful and stubborn. Pakistan senior generals privately expressed worry to American officials that Islamabad’s covert support for the Taliban had gathered a dangerous momentum no one could stop.

By the early 1990s, Pakistan had more than 1.2 million heroin addicts. They had a major social problem on their hands. During the 1990s, western aid poured money into anti-narcotics efforts in Pakistan, mainly crop substitution efforts, which succeeded in reducing poppy output from a high of eight hundred tons per year to about two. Pakistan was no longer a heroin producer. Instead it became a major transport route for opiates produced in Taliban-held regions, which utilized the same network built up a decade earlier. Although the poppy fields and the processing labs had shifted into Afghanistan, the command and control of the drug trade remained in Pakistan.

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