Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Taliban profits from U.S. heroin addicts
I don't get scared easily, but busting suspected heroin dealers with undercover cops in St. Louis this week really sent my heart racing. We went there to see what happens when heroin from Afghanistan hits America's streets.

We watched as an undercover officer from the St. Louis County P.D. invited a suspected dealer into his car after the guy promised he knew where to get heroin. They call this "tripping with a steer" -- that's when a suspect is taking the undercover cop on a ride to find drugs. (The things you learn on the street!)

There were about seven cars, including ours, tailing the suspect and the undercover cop. We could hear the suspect and the cop talking on the walkie-talkie because there was one hidden in their car. That's how the street team knows their guy is still safe.

It's scary stuff though. Heroin only costs 20 bucks a pop, but people are willing to kill for it.

We watched as the suspect made a buy on the street. Turns out it was crack, not heroin, and he wound up getting away after the deal. But the police pounced on the dealer who sold the suspect the drugs. They were yelling, "Don't swallow it, man."

The sad part is the work for these guys never ends. Reports suggest Afghanistan's Taliban are responsible for a growing number of poppy fields. (Poppies are a raw ingredient used to make heroin.) It is estimated that Afghanistan now supplies around 90 percent of the world's heroin.

So in a strange twist, the Taliban, a group at odds with the United States, stands to profit handsomely from the sale of drugs on America's streets.
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 5:54 PM ET
  37 Comments
Hi Randi Kaye,

How does Afghanistan's Heroine supply enter the United States in the first place?
Posted By Anonymous Ratna, New York, NY : 6:35 PM ET
Hi Randi,
It all reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy and the gang ran through the poppy fields..The spell the wicked witch put on the poppies was to lure you in by the beauty and destroy you..Obviously, the allure of heroin and the money it produces are a deadly combination that the Taliban can't resist. And obviously we have a hard time stopping it here too..Maybe, all we can do is get the money out of it..Where there's no profit, there's no market..Pure Capitalism, that even the Taliban would have to be forced to recognize..Perhaps that's too far "over the rainbow," but one can hope..Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif : 6:41 PM ET
Hi Randi-
Imagine that. A country who has a huge terrorist organization profiting from a drug that destroys lives. That's sort of a terrorism in itself isn't it? Talk about double whammy. Garbage in, garbage out. Still, it is shocking yet interesting to learn from your article that Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's heroine. Is the growing of poppies by the Taliban legal in Afghanistan? Hmm, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore Toto.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 6:42 PM ET
Besides the Taliban profiting on American soil the other ironic trait is how their govn't philosophy preaches nothing but virtue and conservative beliefs, and here they are selling drugs preying on the very country they wish to anahilate. It must be nice to be the govn't tweaking language to suit their needs. Orwellian scholars must be experiences bedlam!
Posted By Anonymous Tracy: Somerville, NJ : 6:46 PM ET
Hey Randi, that is scary. I doubt though that by telling addicts where their supply originated, it would make one damn bit of difference. Addicts have no concience, their next fix is the only thing they're interested in. If you told them that buying heroin was contributing to terrorism they would just laugh in your face. It would be great though if it were possible in some way to stop the flow of heroin from Afghanistan, thereby cutting down on the Talibans profits.
Posted By Anonymous Bev Ontario, Canada : 6:52 PM ET
If I remember correctly, when Hamid Karzi came to power/office, the US government promised him a certain amount of money in aid. Do you think if we had delivered this money, Karzi would've been able to provide for his people and the Taliban wouldn't have had as much opportunity to regain power and the country wouldn't have gone back to depending on the poppy fields and making heroin?
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 6:56 PM ET
Randi: I was on a grand jury for 18 months and it was truly an educational experience to learn about the drug world, in particular, the "street lingo." The Afghanistan connection is a bit disconcerting. It looks like the terrorists are getting at us from both ends aren't they....
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 7:03 PM ET
And probably so does the CIA. Dare we forget their knowledge of Cocaine rings to fund some clandestine project of theirs?
Posted By Anonymous Chris Eldridge, Harrisburg PA : 7:18 PM ET
This seems old news to me. Somehow Afghan heroin continues to be sold in Europe and the U.S. The continued approach of throwing money at the issue is sickening. New policy is needed and as a student I am deeply desturbed by the facts of the American Drug War. My biggest concern is how change in drug policy has become such a non-issue, recieveing almost no TV air-time and other media coverage. News sources have the ability to better inform the people of the current situation and help to promote change in current policy. CNN should take this chance to give real facts on America's Drug War and inform people how they can promote change.
Posted By Anonymous Jake, Hingham, Massachusetts, Age 18 : 7:32 PM ET
Hi Randi, That was some trip you took!
It sounds like the police are working hard to address the drug issues there.It also raises the question: How does the Taliban reconcile their religious fanaticism with being a drug cartel? There must also be a U.S. precedent for dealing with this cartel like the U.S. has had to deal with other cartels in countries like Columbia or Panama.
Posted By Anonymous Carol B. Frederick, MD : 7:51 PM ET
We control the country that produces 90% of the world's opium. I think we should look into decriminalizing and regulating heroin use in our own country. If you have ever known a heroin addict, then you know that there is no recovery from their addiction. We would all be safer if there were government regulated distribution centers with clean needles and tracking records.
Posted By Anonymous Ty Garrit, Tucson, Arizona : 7:59 PM ET
American adminstration supports, funds, and back up the war lords in Afghanistan. These murderers are the exact same people who created the movement of Talabans, beacuse of their corruption, no respect for human and woman rights, terorize the people, and direct connected with drug deals. The increase of the drug production in the country now is running by them. The sad part is even the US administration let them to be part of the new governnment. Please answer why the US government not rounding these criminal drug dealers?
Posted By Anonymous Ash Roshan, Edgewater, MD : 8:14 PM ET
I work as a counselor in a 28-day inpatient substance addictions treatment program. I see the damage heroin causes every time I work with an addict. The detox is horrific (even worse in jail where they let them clean out in excrciating pain vomiting with diarrhea-real humane). What's worse is the detox from methadone used to wean people off of heroin where they can crash out and die right away. Methadone is another addiction issue on its own. I see people in their late teens and twenties who come so close to dying from heroin. They tell me shooting gives them an instant numbing and that part of them wants to end their lives (why they take the drug). They can't feel anything after a while. And then there are those who share needles and end up with HIV or Hepatitis. I've watched some of my closest friends die from end stage HIV complications (AIDS). I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. People are still dying from these illnesses. Too, let's not forget the intentional and unintentional heroin overdoses. They also use heroin for weight loss. It's often teenaged girls who play that lethal game.

I think the Taliban has found another way to kill Americans slowly, painfully, and without lifting a finger. They make a nice profit while they kill our citizens. Whatever it takes to stop the Taliban is worth it if it means preventing this drug from coming into this country. I'd love to be out of the business of treating heroin addicts because there no longer was a need.
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 8:55 PM ET
Strange how the Taliban can have so much power, but at the same time be so inconspicuous about it. I'm glad you brought this up; I'd be really interested in what else these groups are starting to seize control over (if not complete, then little by little).

I know someone who works in credit card processing and they say that terrorist organizations come through every day by the dozens for random business transactions. It turns out the money they say they're recieving for their businesses (which usually consist of small kiosks; even local bagel stores)are actually undercover type 'slush funds' for terrorist groups.

Anyway, thanks for your excellent reporting Randi! You're one of my journalistic role models. ;)
Posted By Anonymous amanda, philadelphia, PA : 10:06 PM ET
I work for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a non-profit drug policy to end the war on drugs, in an effort to end addiction and end the wide-side effects of these drugs. Because this is a horrible thing.
Posted By Anonymous Joe Seattle Washington : 11:12 PM ET
People try to consider this propaganda? It's a well known fact that Afganistan is the world's leading poppy producer, opium producer, and heroin producer. Believe it is something like, 80% of the smack in the world comes from there. You can check that out anywhere, as far as the Taliban profiting off of it, why do people think they wouldn't, it's the easiest way to make money in that country. As far as people in the US doing it, are people disputing that fact too?
Posted By Anonymous Bryan Snell, Louisville, KY : 11:21 PM ET
Why doesn't the US gov't buy the opium from the farmers? By decriminalizing opium in Afghanistan (and in the US), we would instantly destroy the black market for drugs and, at the same time, save billions of dollars we are already wasting in connection with the so called "War on Drugs".
Posted By Anonymous Tatiana DeSouza, Alexandria, Virginia : 11:26 PM ET
Ok - so we have a multi-national army in the country that is basically high dessert and dry mountains and we can't stop illegal poppy production? And we all know this money is what is likely financing future attacks on soldiers and civilians alike.

If we can't even stop farmers, what hope have we of stopping the Taliban or the al qeada? We are all doomed and it is just a matter of time - they kill us slowly with drugs and we give them money to kill us quickly with their bombs.
Posted By Anonymous Peter, West Sacramento, CA : 1:47 AM ET
How do people get Heroin from Afghanistan to America anyway? You would think that it would be very hard considering you can not even carry water on a plane but people can get passed with heroin.
Posted By Anonymous Keith V. T. , Carrollton, Georgia : 4:27 AM ET
American addictions are supporting more than just the Taliban. Our Cocaine addiction supports the drug cartels in South America. Our oil addiction supports terrorist organizations in the middle east. And our addiction to cheap clothing and electronics supports sweat shops in Asia. We are, it seems, our own worst enemy.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle, odenton MD : 6:19 AM ET
If we (the US) are conrolling this country,and I would assume that to mean what comes in and what goes out.How is so much herion getting out of Afganistan and into our country and killing our children.I would think that you could of taken this story one step further and investigated that major component.It seems as if the US forces are allowing this poisen to grow and be processed unharmed in order to keep the farmers (Taliban ?) content and out of our way.This may be the "weapon of mass destruction" that we have been looking for all along.
Posted By Anonymous Peter Figueira Saugus, Mass. : 7:22 AM ET
When we in the USA invest more in the dissadvantage school kids to educate and counsel them than the drug business would cease. As of now to my limited knowledge we spend more money on a prison inmate than a school kid.
Think about yourself and how difficult it was in your own life as a kid and than compare the ods.
You are one of my favorute reporters and writer. May God watch over you in your travels.
Posted By Anonymous Anna Eau Claire Wisconsin : 8:52 AM ET
Not only does the taliban benefit from the drug trade in the US. They also benefit from the news media that print anything concerning our military (if they think it will spike their ratings) without regards to whether it could harm our military objectives or put our military personnel in danger. Case in point the story concerning the drone and the taliban.
Posted By Anonymous Cathy Asheboro, NC : 9:18 AM ET
I thought the taliban were religiously against poppy growth in the 90's. Why the change of conscience? Anyway, this story illustrates just another reason why not blowing up 190 taliban at a funeral recently was a sorely missed opportunity. Is the military making "nice" with these people?

Perhaps those "t-bans" WERE actually killed, and the story ran as it did to calm public opinion (against eliminating so many "precious" lives at once).

Don't poppy derivitaves have legit medical purposes, too? Can't the US somehow funnel this immense productivity into a benefit? Create a legit Afghan economic sector from poppy growth? The war must have increased demand for morphine in the region.

By the way, it's sorta funny that Randi was soooo scared ridin' with the po-po..seven cars worth?! lol

Go Steelers!
Posted By Anonymous Walttis Nee, NY NY : 9:23 AM ET
How can this (Afghanistan poppie fields/ heroin) be stopped? What is our government doing to stop this, outside of the police hitting the streets undercover? Can these fields be seiged and burned? This is so disturbing to read that American drug addiction is contributing to this terrorist movement. Fascinating post!
Posted By Anonymous John, Pittsburgh, PA : 9:46 AM ET
There is no doubt that this is going to be a problem for some time. Afghanistan really does not have an economy outside of growing poppy. Indeed, for most farmers, this is their primary cash crop. The last thing the Karazai government needs is a Taliban insurgency coupled with a lack of support from the citizens of Afghanistan should their crops be destroyed and they find themselves impoverished; it would also further destabliize the government in the the sense that citizens may begin to rally with the Taliban, the very people the majority of citizens despised because of their repressive Islamic fundamentalism. Nevertheless, the fact that Opium reaches our shores is a problem. However, the continuation of Opium production in Afghanistan may be productive--and necessary--until the new regime can spur economic growth and industry. Let's not forget history: England made a fortune selling--and forcing Asia--to buy Opium. Could Afghanistan acquire the capital to invest in infrastructure through their sale of Opium as England did? Perhaps.
Posted By Anonymous Jonathan Witerski, Galveston, TX : 10:18 AM ET
I get so tired of hearing about who is profiting from the sale of illegal drugs in the U.S. This is just another reason to legalize, or at least decriminalize, the use of this stuff. If all currently illegal substances were made legal, prices would fall dramatically, more money and resources would be available for treatment programs, and prisons could then be dedicated to confining the true criminals. A bonus would be countries like Afghanistan could concentrate on growing food for their own consumption rather than opium poppies for addicts in other places. The "drug war" has grown out of ignorance and narrow minded attitudes. It is long past time to give it up and take a more rational course of action.
Posted By Anonymous A. Roy Olson, Tucson AZ : 10:40 AM ET
Welcome to St. Louis!

In all seriousness though, your piece was fascinating. I live in a suburb of St. Louis and though I knew of the impact of the drug trade in the city, I had no idea how far the reach of the Taliban could be. Guess I'm pretty naive.

Thanks for the piece.
Posted By Anonymous Courtney, St. Charles, MO : 10:44 AM ET
Do you really think heroin drug dealers or addicts care who they are helping support? These people are the lowest of the low, (not necessarily the addicts but the dealers)... "Hey man, I don't care where it comes from"...
Posted By Anonymous Sheri, Sarasota Fl : 10:45 AM ET
DECISION NOT TO SHOOT
Does the decision not to fire upon almost 200 of our most deadly enemies explain why, after 5 years, we still haven't killed Bin Laden? I absolutely cannot believe this. If our soldiers are not allowed to shoot the enemy - then we need to get them out!
Posted By Anonymous susan, sebring, florida : 11:01 AM ET
My understanding is that when the Taliban were in power they did suppress opium production. This was one of the elements that aided in their downfall when we intervened--farmers disgruntled with the loss of income.

This shows how little we really understood of that region before we intervened with brutishly simplistic assumptions about "us" and "them", and "terrorists". Did we realize we were going to end up with a Shiite-run government in Iraq, and the return of opium production in Afghanistan? And a trial of Saddam which seems increasingly irrelevent, where the judge declares our former nemesis (after being a former ally) no dictator?
Posted By Anonymous David Fields Worcester Massachusetts : 11:12 AM ET
Less than a year after we went into Afganistan more heroin than ever starting coming out of that country. People told me I was wrong our goverment would not allow that to happen. Now four years later its being reported as a problem. Why is are goverment allowing this drug that is destorying our youth to come out of this country? A question I have been asking for years. Who is in charge the drug lords or us? I am glad someone is finally addressing this.
Posted By Anonymous Rhonda Albuq. NM : 11:30 AM ET
The Reporting last night was very interesting . I was wishing that all those heroin addicts out there watch the show and grow a little conscience.
We cannot blame the Afghan people or Taliban or Al Qaeda for this and go their and try to kill all of them since almost most of the Afghans are involved in this...what else can they do....they found this as the easiest way to make money.....may be the only way.... you can see very well how they are suffering in their poverty....its not easy ....
So our Govt instead of sending troops to kill them can put some effort here at their own land to find out the cause of this social problem....and do something to prevent people from getting addicted...right now drug addiction in America has reached a very alarming level....people are helpless ,suffering from worhlessness, loneliness and becoming addicted ...its high time we open our eyes.....

Watching our troops fighting in Afganisthan make me feel sick......as what do they have ?
They are literally in muds and muds only...America the richest nation in the world is fighting such poor people....
Posted By Anonymous Rupa , Boston ,MA : 11:36 AM ET
It gives me hope that almost all of these comments favor ending our modern Prohibition. If drugs were legalized, the ones who'd suffer most would be the dealers. And the Taliban is a ruthless dealer.
Posted By Anonymous Jesse, Celina, TX : 12:35 PM ET
Who are the "businessmen" that bring this product to the streets of the US, anyway? All we ever hear about is the growers and the end-users.

Some very powerful groups are completely evading both HSA and the media spotlight in a well organized effort to get it here. Truck and plane load quantities obviously aren't just walked through customs by some "unconnected" smugglers.

Do the math. Follow the money.
Posted By Anonymous Pat, Chula Vista : 12:57 PM ET
When the Taliban was in power the poppies were eliminated. The Afghan farmers were starving. The Taliban is not in power, although they do control some areas, and the poppies are back. This is just more government propaganda. The real funding comes fro oil.
Posted By Anonymous Gus Saratoga,NY : 5:18 PM ET
We are in this situation, because our leaders failed us. Osama Bi Ladin was not caught by the CIA, because D. Rumsfeld did not deploy Delta, Special Forces, 10th Mtn, etc. to Tora Bora when CIA/Northern Alliance were closing in Tora Bora. We helped the Afgans build Tora Bora. We knew exactly where it was and the layout.
Then we went off to Iraq; Must find WMD's, Dead-enders and Al Ouieda. The Taliban is a creation of Pakistan's Pashtun tribes.
Posted By Anonymous Houston, Atlanta, GA : 8:15 PM ET
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