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Josh Meyer @JoshMeyerDC
, 16 tweets, 6 min read Read on Twitter
Sometimes one interesting story leads to another. Last year I wrote about how some U.S. govt probes into global drug trafficking by Hezbollah’s terrorist wing were derailed by the Obama admin's zeal for the Iran nuclear deal.
After we published that story, a message popped up in my encrypted email inbox. A former DEA and Justice Dept official told me the same thing happened to his team, but worse... and in Afghanistan.
This one involved standing down a long-running DEA investigation in Afghanistan into the kingpins atop the global narcotics trade, who supply more than 90% of the world’s heroin and help fuel the #opioid crisis in the U.S.
He told me it was even more damaging to U.S. national – and global – security interests. He said an Obama admin official shut down the investigation, code-named Operation Reciprocity, partly because it wanted to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban.
The tipster believed this was another example of the Obama White House putting politics ahead of U.S. security interests, and shutting down global law enforcement investigations that got too politically sensitive, and allowing narco-terrorists to continue operating as a result.
I spent weeks reporting it out, and found that the story was even bigger -- and much more complicated -- than the tipster had suggested. Here’s that story:
In some ways, this is a story about how the U.S. has been fighting the wrong war in Afghanistan all this time.
Either that or the U.S. has been fighting the war the wrong way, by focusing on the Taliban as a terrorist and insurgent group rather than as a top player in the global drug trade that provides the money that actually bankrolls the insurgency. Weapons, fighters, bribes, etc
After the U.S. invaded Afghanistan post-9/11 to rout al-Qaeda and the Taliban that had harbored it, both groups went underground. Taliban senior leaders had long been involved in the heroin trade, but slowly began to make take more profits, to finance their war against the U.S.
And the Taliban used the drug proceeds – as much as $300 million a year – to buy weapons and explosives to kill 2,000 American troops, countless civilians, and to push Afghanistan to the verge of becoming a narco-state.
Taliban drug lords became too big to jail in Afghanistan. So the DEA came up w/Operation Reciprocity (payback for 9/11) to charge them w/narco-terrorism conspiracy in US courts, and haul them here to face justice like it has w/Colombian & Mexican kingpins
But on May 27, 2013, the deputy chief of mission in the embassy ordered an immediate halt to Operation Reciprocity, saying she hadn’t approved it & that it needed to be factored into the overall Obama admin mission in Afghanistan, which included peace talks.
Operation Reciprocity also faced some opposition from within DEA. Some didn't want to buck a White House dead set on the looming U.S. drawdown. Others claimed the evidence proving such a complex conspiracy wasn't there or would be too hard to get.
The DEA Kabul case agents disagreed. They tried to revive Operation Reciprocity but never succeeded. "We just never got our legs back under us to make a go of it again," one said. Key players left, or retired.
Now, 5 years later, they hope the Trump admin revives Operation Reciprocity and uses it as a blueprint to starve the insurgency of its funding. They say it’s the one ingredient long-missing from the U.S. strategy. So far the Trump admin hasn’t responded
This story wouldn’t have been possible without the person who first sent me the tip. If you’ve got another tip for me, on this or other stories, please shoot me a note at my encrypted email account, It'll stay confidential.
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