The ongoing U.S. Marine Corps offensive in Afghanistan is slicing through the heart of fertile poppy fields. Opium harvested from those poppies supplies much of the world with illegal heroin that helps fund the insurgency throughout Afghanistan, says National Public Radio. Journalist Gretchen Peters explores the heroin trade in her new book, Seeds of Terror. Peters tells NPR that the growing partnership between drug traffickers, terrorist groups, and the Taliban is the new “axis of evil.” The Taliban makes hundreds of millions of dollars and behaves “more like a modern-day mafia than a traditional military force,” she says.
The Taliban, whose “involvement in criminality has made them richer and more ruthless,” Peters says, still wants to come after the West. Some farmers grow poppies because they’re forced to by the Taliban; others do it because it is lucrative, though now oversupply has reduced the price. There are also wealthy landowners “who do it for reasons of greed,” she says. Government corruption, she says, is the biggest challenge going forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan.