Will Byrnes's Reviews > Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda

Seeds of Terror by Gretchen Peters
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it was amazing
bookshelves: nonfiction, terrorism, military-and-intelligence-non-fic, brain-candy, afghanistan

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.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
February 1, 2010 – Finished Reading
February 25, 2010 – Shelved
February 25, 2010 – Shelved as: nonfiction
February 25, 2010 – Shelved as: terrorism
February 25, 2010 – Shelved as: military-and-intelligence-non-fic
November 2, 2012 – Shelved as: brain-candy
January 9, 2013 – Shelved as: afghanistan

Comments Showing 1-28 of 28 (28 new)

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message 1: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King Excellent review Will as ever but I really don't want to purchase anything about the Taliban.

I have one exception, of course, Khaled Hosseini's works as he is one of my favourite authors.


Will Byrnes Descent is a must read, IMHO, for folks interested in that part of the world. Hosseini is pretty good. Descent might help one better appreciate Hosseini's work


message 3: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King Will, I looked at your "Descent" review and it is well-written but you haven't persuaded me to buy the book.

Sorry about that...It's just the subject matter.


Will Byrnes It helps to have a particular interest in the subject


message 5: by Forrest (new)

Forrest Great review! Shades of Al McCoy's The Politics of Heroin, but in a contradictory sort of way. I guess everyone who wants power has to bankroll their movement somehow and the drug trade is a very popular way to do it!


message 6: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell Wow, this sounds great, in a depressing way. Nice review.


Will Byrnes Definitely a downer, but it does help to have some knowledge about the place when considering national policy options


Will Byrnes Forrest wrote: "Great review! Shades of Al McCoy's The Politics of Heroin, but in a contradictory sort of way. I guess everyone who wants power has to bankroll their movement somehow and the drug trade is a very p..."

Works for the CIA


message 9: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Will, your review made me think that maybe the Taliban and Al Qaeda aren't as different from Mexico's drug gangs as one might think. Is that a fair conclusion?


message 10: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Yes. The book was definitely an eye-opener. I think the religious element on the Asian version is much more pronounced than it is in the Mexican version, although I do not know very much about the latter.


message 11: by Idyll (new) - added it

Idyll Since the three books you mention were all published before 2009, and a lot has changed in the region since then, is the content of these books still fully relevant? Which of the three books do you think is most relevant? Trying to decide which to pick up first. :)


message 12: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Descent takes a large overview of the region, geographically and historically. You would never go wrong to begin there. Both Seeds and Sarah Chayes's books look more specifically at details of how things work on the ground. Although the pub dates may be some years back, I expect that the dynamics they describe will retain their significance.


message 13: by Idyll (new) - added it

Idyll Thanks, Will. I'll start with either Descent or Seeds then... and take it from there.


message 14: by Stacy (new) - added it

Stacy Great review Will!


message 15: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Stacy


message 16: by Stacy (new) - added it

Stacy : )


message 17: by Sidharth (new)

Sidharth Vardhan That is very well put out. I don't know whether it is fundentalists using narcotics to finance themselves or businessmen using religion to fool people. It is often a combination of both but what you said about growing opium is true. Infact, opium is smuggled into my Part of India, Punjab (it shares border with Pakistan) and further into another couple of states. The drugs use in the youth was a major issue during elections in state in elections held in February. Though drugs are banned in India, their use has become, as if, a part of culture in Punjab to the point there are many famous songs about them in State. It is an open secret that the State government had her share in the business and also that it is Taliban who has the hand behind it


message 18: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Sidarth.

I don't know whether it is fundentalists using narcotics to finance themselves or businessmen using religion to fool people.
I expect it is a combination, with maybe a tilt toward the latter.

One solution, although not necessarily a popular one, is to legalize all drugs, tax and regulate them as a way of pushing out of business those who thrive because of the scarcity created by illegality.


message 19: by Muthuvel (new)

Muthuvel Thanks for the great book, Will.


message 20: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thank you, Muthuvel


message 21: by Supratim (new) - added it

Supratim Another great review!


message 22: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Thanks, Supratim


message 23: by William (new)

William Very very sad. :( Thank you for the review!


message 24: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes Definitely a nasty business. Thank you, William


message 25: by Free (new) - added it

Free Faller May I get book review of this book ?


message 26: by Will (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes I do not understand your question, Free. could you be more specific?


message 27: by William (new)

William Perhaps global warming (Hothouse Earth) will kill all the poppy fields?


(of course, we'll be gone by then, too)


message 28: by Will (last edited Oct 20, 2018 09:08PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Will Byrnes I have no idea what warming might portend for crop yields. But global warming portends ill for most of us.


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