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Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda Hardcover – May 12, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Peters draws on 10 years of reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan for this important examination of the nexus of [drug] smugglers and extremists in the global war against terrorists. Citing firsthand testimony, classified intelligence reports and specialized studies, Peters builds a solid case for her contention that the union of narco-traffickers, terrorist groups, and the international criminal underworld is the new axis of evil. Ground zero is Afghanistan, where the rejuvenated Taliban depend on opium for 70% of its funds and there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence of Osama bin Laden's involvement in the drug trade. Peters argues that the failure to halt this money flow to terrorist networks is the single greatest failure in the war on terror, and warns that stanching the flood of drug money into terrorist coffers is essential. The author offers a less-than-convincing strategy to sever the link, including military strikes against drug lords, alternative-livelihood programs for small farmers, regional diplomatic initiatives and a public relations campaign. Prescriptions aside, Peters has exhaustively framed one of the thorniest problems facing policy makers in this long war. (May)
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"A stunning, deeply disturbing book . . . A must-read for all Western policymakers and President Obama before they implement any new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan."
- Ahmed Rashid, New York Times bestselling author of Taliban and Descent into Chaos

"A vitally important book. Until the United States admits what Peters knows, and changes course, the virulent narco-terrorism spreading across South Asia will cause us to lose not only Afghanistan but Pakistan as well."
- Robert Baer, New York Times bestselling author of Sleeping with the Devil and The Devil We Know

"Peters has done a superlative job with Seeds of Terror. It is a primer for the new administration--a blueprint for what must be done in Afghanistan to rescue victory from the jaws of defeat."
- Jack Lawn, DEA chief under Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush

"The linkage between fighting drugs and fighting terrorism is, with Seeds of Terror, now firmly established. Gretchen Peters, combining personal experience and in-depth research, paints a frightening picture and tells us how to surmont the problem. A critically important book."
- Raymond W. Baker, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and author of Capitalism's Achilles Heel

"Detailed and highly readable . . . masterfully traces the enormous success of the illegal heroin trade in Afghanistan."
- Frederick P. Hitz, former inspector general of the CIA and author of Why Spy?

“An important examination of ‘the nexus of [drug] smugglers and extremists’ in the global war against terrorists. Peters builds a solid case [and] has exhaustively framed one of the thorniest problems facing policy makers in this long war.”
- Publishers Weekly

“Sure to be hotly discussed, this new book explores the often labyrinthine connections between terrorism, the American government, and the heroin trade. Clear and persuasive...Peters shows how events that are happening today were set in motion by what took place in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s.”
- Booklist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (May 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312379277
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312379278
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,372,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Steven Stoft on May 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To understand the Taliban and al Qaeda, read this book. "Seeds of Terror" takes you to the heart of the matter—money, not religion. Opium not jihad. Gretchen Peters understands the big picture, the one Obama and the U.S. military desperately need to see.

Opium is still seen as just one means of financing religious fanatics. As Peters reveals, it's much more. For the Taliban, drug money is not just the means; it has become the objective—just like it is for the Colombian and Mexican drug mafias. As she tells us, "The insurgency is exploding precisely because the opium trade is booming."

The Taliban are almost entirely from the Pashtun tribe, and to her credit, Peters speaks fluent Pashto, which may be why the book feels so credible. For ten years, she has tracked the drug racket in every way imaginable, from flying with Pakistanis using forward-looking infrared cameras looking for drug convoys to sipping tea in one of HJK's two hundred houses. HJK, you will learn, was the number one smuggler behind the Taliban, with a billion-dollar drug business extending from Osama bin Laden to Mullah Omar and from Uzbekistan to Dubai. It's a fascinating read.

Peters admits she can't determine the depth of al Qaeda's involvement in the drug trade, although al Qaeda operatives routinely ship drugs to the Gulf. But she proves beyond a doubt that the Taliban has become primarily a criminal operation, and if the Taliban wins, al Qaeda will have its own narco-state.

Here's a hint of what's in the book. Chapter (1) To go after terrorist, you must go after their drug profits. (2) The explosion of heroin during the war to oust the Soviets. (3) The rise of the Taliban and the narco-terror state.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By the time I finished this potentially very interesting work about an unquestionably important topic, I was downright irritable at the circuitous, repetitive and sometimes impenetrable book about what is almost certainly one of the key national security issues we face: the link between narco-trafficking and the terrorism that its profits finance.

Just from keeping up with the news, I knew this was an important topic and one I wanted to learn more of. Alas, this book didn't help much. Part of the problem is the structure -- Peters seems to make the same point over and over again, leaving me wondering why no editor had taken her material in hand and imposed some kind of order and coherence on it. Every so often, a segment would grab my attention, such as her quest into "HJK", the Afghan drug kingpin she compares to Khun Sa, the warlord of the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia. But then she quickly relapses into making the same point in different ways, relying more on comments from anonymous Westerners and other security officials than other first-hand observations, and quoting reports by other journalists. Why??? if she has spent the last decade in the region, surely she can bring her own observations and reporting to bear, instead of quoting her peers on what seem like banalities, such as: "What is new is the scale of this toxic mix of jihad and dope," writes journalist David Kaplan." That's the same point she's making in 17 different ways in the book; why quote another observer to make it #18?
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By William J. Higgins,III on July 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I floated between three or four stars and settled for the former. At times a confusing read but I believe only because the subject at hand is complex. Also, from the cover jacket I thought this was the author's full decade of experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Turns out that this is basically a researched history, past and present, with possible future solutions to the opium/heroin trade supporting the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Nonetheless, an insightful read of corruption, sleaze and greed. It's not even about religion anymore, it's about money.

The book certainly does make one keep up with current affairs in this part of the world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kug VINE VOICE on May 23, 2012
Format: Paperback
Seeds of Terror is an important book for all Americans. Author Gretchen Peters does a masterful job of tracing the money in the war on drugs. The picture she paints from firsthand on the ground experince is a sad one. When you read this book you will see the double dealings of our government, how the militarys hands are tied and while Marines and our Army is close by convoys of drugs move from Pakistan and Afghanistan right through to Iran who gets them to our great allie Turkey for distribution in Europe. Our military cannot bomb the convoys ... think about that one. We have Border Patrol Agents dieing on the Mexican Border while our hands are ties from the source. Sad times we live in. An important book to read and share.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Schonbek on May 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As described by Gretchen Peters in Seeds of Terror, this was a common pretext for invitations by Osama bin Laden to wealthy Persian Gulf sheiks to travel to Afghanistan in the late 1990's. Combining business and pleasure, the sheiks were believed to bring in weapons and materiel for al Qaeda and the Taliban and to fly out with loads of heroin. Apparently bin Laden himself often participated in the bustard hunting excursions that represented the pleasure component of the junkets.

Like me you may be wondering what in the world a houbara bustard actually is. We learn from Peters that it's a type of "rare falcon". As it turns out, this is not correct. In fact, the houbara bustard is an endangered, primarily terrestrial bird, which is hunted by falcons and is the most prized quarry for Arab falconers. Hence its near extinction...

Anyway, setting this bit of sketchy scholarship aside, there is much of consequence that we do learn in Seeds of Terror. Essential points of the book are as follows:

* Drug traffickers, terrorist groups, and the criminal underworld represent a new axis of evil that the world needs to confront.

* The Taliban (clearly) and Al Qaeda (implicitly) are prospering from a growing stream of funding from the drug trade.

* Combating the terrorists will require going after the drug traffickers. This is something that for a variety of reasons the US and NATO commanders have been reluctant to do.

* The stakes are exceptionally high. According to the 9/11 Commission, September 11 cost al Qaeda $ 500,000. Al Qaeda has threatened future actions with casualties "too high to count", implying a quest for weapons of mass destruction.
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