JALALABAD, Afghanistan, May 2, 2010 -- The road from Kabul to Jalalabad, marked by valleys and high mountains on either side, is used by many local farmers and merchants to transport fruit and other produce from markets. It is also a key transit point for heroin.
As the heroin trafficking trade has blown up in Afghanistan, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has begun a crackdown on the Taliban militants involved with the trade.
Raids are the new centerpiece of the United States anti-drug strategy for Afghanistan. This new strategy will replace the old one of simply destroying farmer's crops; they are now targeting the traffickers.
The DEA raids often occur at night when the agents are concealed by darkness. According to one DEA official, the darkness allows them to use the element of surprise in their raids.
As it stands, Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the world's opium and has become the world's leading exporter of heroin. According to Robert Charles, the former secretary of state for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, Afghanistan has surpassed another leading exporter of drugs: Colombia. Afghanistan now exports more heroin than Colombia does cocaine.
According to the DEA, their raids are working. Keith Weis of the DEA said, "Once they thought they were untouchable and really didn't fear any law enforcement presence. Now they have a fear of that."
Perhaps the fear is because the DEA has increased the number of agents in Afghanistan tenfold in the last year. For the first time they are working hand in hand with the U.S. military to arrest and sometimes even kill traffickers responsible.
Sixty percent of the Taliban's funding now comes from the drug trade. It has created an infrastructure of crime and corruption that has infiltrated the government.
$10 Million Worth of Heroin, Morphine Confiscated in Recent Raid by DEA
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is a suspected player in the country's booming business. President Karzai also recently pardoned five significant traffickers.
The National Interdiction Unit's General Mohammed Daud said, "It was a very negative impact for forces, for our [policemen]. They are sacrificing themselves."
Despite this recent setback, the DEA and local forces are making progress.
The most recent raid wielded 500 pounds of heroin and morphine, which are worth at least $10 million on the street.
Walid of the National Interdiction Unit said, "This dope belongs to a significant target, highly connected to the Taliban."
Although they were unable to catch the traffickers, the most recent mission is a partial victory on a new front in the Afghan war.