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22/02/2013 | Cash-Strapped Army Still Plans on Helping Pakistan Fight Narcotics

Spencer Ackerman

The war on terrorism isn’t the only endless war the U.S. is waging. The drug war never went away, it just went overseas — and the U.S. military is lending new support to an effort to stem narcotics in Pakistan.


A series of new solicitations by the Army Corps of Engineers show that even in these cash-strapped times, the U.S. is willing to build new structures, including in major airports, for its Pakistani frenemies to sniff out drug smugglers.

At the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, the Army expects to build a 7,000-square-foot command center right inside Jinnah International Airport. Complete with a “cell/interrogation building,” the new center will help provide “quick-response to constantly evolving narcotics and contraband smuggling tactics.” Among the chief beneficiaries: Pakistan’s “Rummaging and Patrolling Section,” which apparently exists. Cost: up to $2 million.

Then there’s another 28,300-square-foot command center the Army wants to construct in Islamabad. This one will be operated by Pakistan’s DEA-mentored “elite, vetted” Anti-Narcotic Force Special Investigative Cell. At the command center, the Cell will “carry out liaison with international counterparts, compile sensitive drug related intelligence, conduct sophisticated investigations, and plan interdiction operations.” Cost: up to $5 million.

Pakistan is a hub for drug trafficking — not just the narcotics coming in through the opiate breadbasket next door in Afghanistan, but precursor chemicals like acetic anhydride, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. The U.S. interest in assisting Pakistan hunt narcotics dealers is less clear, particularly as the military lights its hair on fire warning about the disastrous impact of automatic spending cuts looming on March 1. To scare Congress into reversing the cuts, the Army this week released a state-by-state breakdown of what a loss of $18 billion this year from its operations account would look like.

Yet counternarcotics is one of the most lucrative sources of government contracting, and one that ties the war on drugs into the war on terrorism. A Pentagon bureau known as the Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office is staffing up in Kabul to run Afghanistan’s drug war. And in 2011, it disbursed a pot of money worth more than $3 billion for security contractors everywhere from Mexico to Azerbaijan, making it one of the most lucrative security-contracting agencies in the entire U.S. government. It’ll be a long time before the U.S. military gets out of the south-Asian anti-drug game, whatever the budget situation might be.

Wired (Estados Unidos)


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