As The Marines Prepare For Turnover in Afghanistan, Opium Production Escalates US Concerns

Camp Pendleton, California – U.S. Marines from 1st Battalion 5th Marine Regiment prepare at Camp Wilson, 29 Palms, California, for their pre-deployment work-up in Afghanistan.

The Marines will be deploying for seven months to the Helmand Province in the Sangin River Valley, where the bloodiest and most crucial fighting has taken place in Afghanistan thus far.

The one/five Marines will be replacing their three/five sister battalion; essentially, they will be changing the guard in Helmand.

The Marines will be focusing primarily on the Sangin River Valley—aka the Fallujah of Afghanistan. The Sangin area represents nearly 60 per cent of the illegal opium exported from Afghanistan. From this export nearly half of the Taliban’s funds are generated.

In Afghanistan today there are two basic forms of currency: the U.S. dollar and the poppy.

For decades poppy cultivation has been the number one cash crop for many Afghan farmers, and nearly 80 per cent of the world’s opium supply is produced there.

Meanwhile, Pakistan and other neighbouring countries continue to act as smugglers’ paradises by supporting the illicit drug trade. Considering the majority of U.S. trade with China, one can only speculate how heroin is ultimately delivered to the U.S.

The marines face a mission-critical battle in Sangin—not only to eradicate the insurgents but also to convince Afghan farmers to substitute harvesting opium from poppies to cultivating corn, wheat, or bean, crops that yields one-fourth the income that opium typically produces.

With the current $50 billion in proposed war cuts from the Obama administration, many Americans share a growing concern about another possible strike on U.S. soil.

In recent reports ABC news indicated heroin traffic to the U.S. has nearly doubled in the past three years.

The big, unanswered question is this: If they can get all of these drugs into the U.S., what is to stop them from trafficking in a WMD?

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