Seeds of Terror by Gretchen Peters, 2009, Excerpts
Robert Oakley, the U.S. ambassador posted to Islamabad, warned in a 1988 cable: “Widespread Pakistani belief that Afghan war has caused major upswing in narcotics traffic is well founded. Not only has war resulted in a flow of large amounts of weaponry to Pakistan, it has also led to increase in heroin traffic into and through Pakistan, through the hands of Afghan refugees as well as Pakistanis. We and the Pakistan government believe the situation will become worse in terms of both heroin and arms smuggling entering Pakistan from Afghanistan as the war winds down unless urgent, effective measures are taken right away. The fight against “heroin-Kalashnikov culture” is almost as critical to the future of Pakistan’s security as the fight against Soviet domination of Afghanistan has been.”
In September 1988 when it became clear that the Soviets were withdrawing Afghanistan, Washington began taking a tough line with Islamabad over drugs. The following year, the Bhutto administration launched an aerial spraying campaign in the tribal belt, created an elite counter-narcotics police force, and raided a notorious Afghan refugee camp, capturing one hundred kilos of opium and a large cache of gold and weapons.
American agents monitoring Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions discovered Islamabad had recently approached Tehran about technological cooperation. Relations between Islamabad and Washington plunged. CIA agents in Islamabad suddenly found themselves in the position of trying to get weapons back from the ISI and mujahideen. The stingers were now being put to use guarding two-hundred-vehicle convoys ferrying heroin west across the Iranian border. In just two years, the region went from being a central focus of U.S. foreign policy to falling off the radar screen almost entirely.