Procurement: Sting Stops Stinger Sale

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February 17, 2011: American DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents have arrested seven men for trying to obtain Western weapons (including anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles) for the Taliban. Two of those arrested (in Romania), Oded Orbach and Alwar Pouryan, were American. The five others were taken down in West Africa (Liberia). The seven were also involved in smuggling heroin and cocaine via West Africa to North America and Europe. West Africa has become a major transshipment center for cocaine coming from South America (to Europe and the Middle East) and heroin from Afghanistan (to the Americas). Al Qaeda has become a major factor in moving these drugs in and out of West African port cities (where the drugs are flown in from South America, or arrive overland or by sea from Afghanistan).

The DEA has been the scourge of gun runners for years, by setting up "reputable" arms dealers who are actually fronts for the DEA. These sting operations have survived increasing efforts by potential customers to expose the false sellers. The illegal arms trade has always been a murky business, but the DEA has access to a lot of information on who the players are, or were, and keeps coming up with believable sting operations. If nothing else, this creates a lot of paranoia and mistrust in a business already rife with it. That alone cuts down on the number of successful deals.

The sting actually involved a complex deal to buy Afghan heroin using South American cocaine and American military weapons. The Afghan drug gangs wanted many of the weapons for their Taliban allies, who do most of the fighting to protect heroin production and smuggling operations in Afghanistan. In the last year, American and NATO forces have increased their attacks on heroin operations, and have done a lot of damage. Thus the desire to get more modern weapons, especially American anti-aircraft missiles (like Stinger, or similar European models) to reduce the effectiveness of American air power.

The drug gangs can get some weapons from Iran, but the Iranian government only tolerates that trade as long as it is restricted to low grade stuff (AK-47s, machine-guns, mortars and such). Iran does not want the Taliban to have anti-aircraft missiles, because the Taliban is a Sunni Moslem outfit that believes Shia Moslems (most Iranians are Shia, as are many Afghans) are heretics and should be killed. When the Taliban ran Afghanistan in the 1990s, thousands of Afghan Shia were murdered, despite Iranian protests and threats.

 


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