Hey, guys, don’t pick the poppies.
That’s the order from the Obama Administration to the 4,000 Marines presently engaged in Operation Khanjar or “Strike of the Sword,” an invasion of the Taliban infested Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.
The Marines of Bravo’s Company 1st Platoon sleep beside groves of poppies Troops of the 2nd Platoon walk through the fields on strict orders not to swat the heavy opium bulbs. The Afghan farmers and laborers, who are engaged in scraping the resin from the bulbs, smile and wave at the passing soldiers.
The Helmand province is the world’s largest cultivator of opium poppies - the crop used to make heroin.
Afghanistan grew 93 percent of the world’s poppy crop last year, with Helmand alone responsible for more than half of the opium production in the country, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Heroin, as it turns out, represents the only staple of the Afghan economy. The country manufactures no domestic products for exportation and the rocky terrain yields no cash crops - - except, of course, the poppies.
The poppies fuel the great jihad against the United States and the Western world. More than 3,500 tons of raw opium is gleaned from the poppy crops every year, producing annual revenues for the Taliban and al Qaeda that range from $5 billion to $16 billion.
Destroying the fields could very well put an end to terrorist activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But the Obama Administration remains intent upon protecting the poppies so that the Afghan farmers and local drug lords can reap the benefits of what purports to be a bumper crop.
Many Marines in the field are scratching their heads over the situation.
Jason Striuszko a journalist embedded with the U.S. Marines in Garmser, reports that many of the leathernecks are scratching their heads at the apparent contradictions — calling in airstrikes and artillery on the elusive Taliban while assuring farmers and drug lords that they will protect the poppies.
“Of course,” Striuszko says, “those fields will be harvested and some money likely used to help fuel the Taliban, and the Marines are thinking, essentially, ‘huh?’”
“It’s kind of weird. We’re coming over here to fight the Taliban. We see this. We know it’s bad. But at the same time we know it’s the only way locals can make money,” said 1st Lt. Adam Lynch, 27, of Barnstable, Mass.
Richard Holbrooke, the Obama Administration’s top envoy in Afghanistan, says that poppy eradication - for years a cornerstone of U.S. and U.N. anti-drug efforts in the country – has only resulted in driving Afghan farmers into the hands of the Taliban.
Paul L. Williams, Ph.D., is the author of such best-selling books as The Day of Islam, The Al Qaeda Connection, Osama’s Revenge: The Next 9/11, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Crusades and The Vatican Exposed. An award-winning journalist, he is a frequent guest on such national news networks as ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR.
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