KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Springtime. Back home, Congress is in recess, the kids are out of school and the redbuds, dogwoods and cherry trees are about to bloom. Here, south of the Hindu Kush, opium poppies are in full blossom, the harvest is about to come in and it's the start of what the locals call "fighting season." Though people in both countries have come to accept those conditions as "patterns of life," some here intend to change the archetype for the people of Afghanistan. If their plan succeeds, it could prove to be the undoing of the Taliban -- and mark the beginning of the end of this long war. And most of the so-called mainstream media will have missed the moment.
Last week, three high-profile visitors came to Afghanistan, and all talked about the future of the fight. Our commander in chief came for six hours of meetings at Bagram Airbase and in Kabul. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was here for two days of briefings and meetings with U.S., coalition and Afghan commanders and troops. In both cases, major media reports focused on U.S. and civilian casualties, the upcoming "final offensive" here in Kandahar and the alleged corruption of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother Ahmed, the head of Kandahar's provincial council. But the visitor who may have made the most important contribution to bringing an end to the Taliban was the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Michele Leonhart.
Leonhart, it should be noted, is a DEA special agent and the first administrator of the agency to make an official visit to an active war zone. More than 90 of her special agents and support personnel are deployed here, and in the past six months, three of them have been killed in action, and another was wounded. During her three-day inspection tour of Afghanistan, she conferred with U.S., coalition and Afghan officials to review and approve next steps in taking down what she calls the "Taliban narco-insurgency."
In Afghanistan, farmers, insurgents and corrupt officials all rely on income derived from the spring poppy harvest. The goal of the plan -- developed by Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson's Marine expeditionary brigade based at Camp Leatherneck, DEA specialists on the ground and "in-country" U.S. agricultural and development experts -- is to undermine the networks that finance the Taliban and abet the corruption of Afghan government officials, without disrupting the livelihood of poor farmers who may have been coerced into growing opium by insurgent networks.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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