By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 10, 2009 - U.S. forces are going after terrorists who feed off the drug trade in Afghanistan, a senior Defense Department spokesman said today. "There is a well-established connection between the drug trade and financing terrorism in Afghanistan," Bryan Whitman said.
Whitman emphasized that U.S. forces target terrorists linked to the drug trade, not drug traffickers linked to terrorists.
The difference, he said, is that counternarcotics is a law enforcement mission, and the Afghan government is in charge of that. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency support Afghan authorities seeking to clamp down on drug traffickers.
But some drug lords finance terrorism. Officials estimate that the Taliban receive about $80 million per year from drug networks. In some instances, Taliban groups have entered the drug trade, and in others, Taliban fighters are providing protection for drug lords, State Department officials said.
The nexus between the drug lords and the Taliban creates a problem for U.S. troops conducting security and force protection. "That make them a legitimate target," Whitman said.