Gretchen Peters was a very young field reporter for ABC news in Afghanistan and Pakistan. She was much intrigued with the role of narcotics trafficking in the politics of the region. Ultimately, her thesis is that what we think of as the Taliban is not a unitary entity based on religious fundamentalism. It is instead a very local and amorphous phenomenon in which the primary moving force is financial gain and the primary movers are international narcotics dealers. Members of “The Taliban” in this or that location are as likely to be paid mercenaries working to protect drug traffickers as they are religious extremists bent on creating a pure way to Allah. Her perspective adds a compelling layer of nuance to our understanding of the political dynamic of the region. She looks at the divergence between the Islamic ban on the use of such substances and shows how that has been twisted by the unscrupulous to allow the growing of opium in order to use it as a weapon against the west. Religious types being used by moneyed interests for their own purposes? Hmmm, sounds rather universal, doesn’t it?
She offers a series of recommendations on how the West might attempt to address the problem on the ground. None of her suggestions are easy fixes, but all are at least worth a close examination.
With Seeds of Terror, Gretchen Peters has added a significant chunk to the information we have about the Taliban, Al Qaeda, how they operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and their motivations. It serves as a welcome companion to Ahmed Rashid’s Descent Into Chaos
and Sarah Cheyes’ The Punishment of Virtue
as must reads for anyone interested in the dynamics of that part of the world.