Drug kingpins in Afghanistan have little to fear from law enforcement, says the San Francisco Chronicle. “Many smugglers don’t even bother hiding their wealth,” said a British diplomat in Kabul. “It’s their way of saying ‘screw you’ to authority.” Another bumper drug harvest is expected, and kingpins who control the $2.7 billion trade appear as untouchable as ever. Afghan poppy-eradication workers for DynCorp International, a Texas firm that got a $174 million-a-year contract from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, are chopping down poppy crops. rounding up those at the pinnacle of the drug trade business is much harder.
Afghanistan’s top drug smugglers have been spectacularly successful at evading Western and Afghan law enforcement, says the Chronicle. Although Western drugs experts estimate there are several dozen major traffickers, just two have been arrested since the Western-funded war on drugs started four years ago. Several anti-drug experts working with Western embassies in Kabul gave the Chronicle a profile of the typical drug lord. Many live in fortified mansions, some defended with anti-aircraft guns. Loyal tribesmen and heavily armed private militias provide protection. They reportedly enjoy political support at the highest levels of government. One official said that drug kingpins have established power bases from their days as mujahedeen commanders or tribal elders. They slip easily in and out of Afghanistan using false passports or, small aircraft that can evade U.S. air traffic controllers based in Qatar.