Monday, March 12, 2007

Jihad, Inc. Part II

The purpose of this post is to give you some idea of how big the world trade in illegal narcotics is, and what countries it involves, within the context of this blog.

From an undated report of the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, entitled Major Heroin Producing and Trafficking Countries


The breakdown of governance in Afghanistan during more than 20 years of civil conflict created the conditions within which it became the world’s leading supplier of opiates in the 1990s. Whilst over 90% of the heroin trafficked into Europe in recent years has originated in Afghanistan, Afghan opium production is no longer just an issue for the West: opiate addiction rates are rising in neighbouring countries and increasingly in Afghanistan itself.

. . .


Pakistan no longer has any significant opium production (5 tonnes in 2001, down from 181 tonnes in 1992), but remains a major smuggling route for Afghan opiates. It borders the main poppy growing regions of Afghanistan (Helmand and Nangarhar). Opiates are trafficked through Pakistan to Iran and Europe. Pakistan is also a major transit country for acetic anhydride, the chemical precursor used to process opium into heroin.

. . .


Turkey is a key transit and heroin processing country for opiates en route to the UK from Afghanistan. Up to 80% of heroin used in the UK is believed to transit through Turkey.

. . .


Lying between Afghanistan and Turkey, Iran is a key transit country for drug traffickers. Iran makes vigorous efforts to tackle the drugs trade and has the world’s highest seizure levels. Iranian law enforcement agencies have been involved in violent skirmishes with traffickers along its border with Afghanistan for more than twenty years. These skirmishes have claimed the lives of more than 3100 law enforcement officers. Iran has invested about $250 million in border reinforcements, but long stretches of border remain porous.

. . .

Central Asia

There is only very small-scale cultivation of opium poppy in Central Asia, but successful drug control in Afghanistan could lead eventually to displacement of cultivation into remoter areas where law enforcement is more limited.

Opiates are trafficked out of Afghanistan to Central Asia and Russia (where demand has risen rapidly). Tajikistan is a major transit route. Opiates are also trafficked through Turkmenistan to Turkey via the Caucasus or Iran. There was no hard evidence that large quantities of opiates trafficked on these routes are destined for Western Europe and the UK.

. . .

The Balkans

The Balkan Route is the main transit route for drugs entering Europe from South West Asia.

Heroin from Afghanistan is a significant problem in the UK. What many people perhaps don't know is that it is a growing problem on the other side of the Atlantic.

From an article in the Pakistan News Service: PakTribune entitled More heroin from Afghanistan pouring into U.S. cities, dated Sunday January 07, 2007 (0101 PST):

Almost 90 percent of the world's opium is made from poppies grown in Afghanistan. Once refined, most of the heroin is shipped throughout Europe. As a result, the Afghan drug trade has been portrayed primarily as a European problem, rather than an American one.

But internal drug-enforcement reports indicate that U.S. authorities are seizing more Afghan heroin at U.S. ports and from low-level dealers in American cities.
The reports contradict the public statements of drug enforcement officials, who maintain that the amount of heroin reaching the United States from Afghanistan hasn't increased.


U.S. Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, a Republican who represents suburbs north of Chicago, said the Bush administration had been slow to respond to indications that more heroin from Afghanistan was coming to the United States. U.S. law enforcement officials also have told him privately that Afghanistan's share of the American heroin market is growing, he said.

"More heroin is definitely coming in from Afghanistan," said Kirk, who's visited Afghanistan as a reserve naval intelligence officer. "The problem is the official reporting lags as to what we're actually seeing in the streets."

The increase in the U.S. supply of Afghan heroin is further evidence that Afghanistan is awash in illicit opium and plagued by official corruption.

According to the article, the DEA officially denies this, but privately acknowledges both the growth and connection even in the local communities certain countries in Asia.

But a DEA internal analysis found that 14 percent of the heroin seized in the United States in 2004 originated in Afghanistan, compared with 8 percent the year before. DEA officials refused to provide 2005 figures, saying they were still preliminary.


In Minneapolis, the DEA noted that Afghan, Pakistani, Turkish and Lebanese dealers in the city are "very active" in selling heroin from Afghanistan.

This one is my favorite. I feel like I'm getting the information straight from the horse's mouth. Al Jazeera points out the tremendous money being made by narcotraffickers in an article entitled Who’s profiting from Afghan Opium trade?, dated 10/2/2006 3:55:00 PM GMT:

According to Vienna based UN Office on Drugs and Crime 2006 harvest will be of the order of 6,100 tonnes, 33 times its production levels before the U.S. invasion (3200 % increase in 5 years).

The UN said that this year's contribution of the drug trade to the Afghan economy is of the order of 2.7 billion, but avoided mentioning the stunning fact that over 95 percent of the revenues generated by this lucrative contraband accrues to business syndicates, organized crime and banking and financial institutions. A very small percentage accrues to farmers and traders in the producing country, according to Global Research website.

For some inexplicable reason, Al Jazeera does not mention this illegal narcotics trade as a source of revenue for terrorists. However, the analysis of how much it is really worth is interesting.

Based on wholesale and retail prices in Western markets, the earnings generated by the Afghan drug trade are colossal. In July 2006, street prices in Britain for heroin were of the order of Pound Sterling 54, or $102 a gram.

"Afghan heroin sells on the international narcotics market for 100 times the price farmers get for their opium right out of the field".(US State Department quoted by the Voice of America (VOA), 27 February 2004).

According to the structure of British retail prices for heroin, the total proceeds of the Afghan heroin trade would be of the order of 124.4 billion dollars, assuming a 50 percent purity ratio. Assuming an average purity ratio of 36 percent and the average British price, the cash value of Afghan heroin sales would be of the order of 194.4 billion dollars.

The first figure shows that the cash value of these sales, once they reach Western retail markets are in excess of 120 billion dollars a year.

That is a tremendous amount of money, nearly all of which goes not to the producers, but to the traffickers. Even a fraction of that can buy a lot of jihad.

There are powerful business and financial interests depending on narcotics, and that's why geopolitical and military control over the drug cultivation is as strategic as oil.

Interestingly, they seem to think that Western governments either control it or want to, the same way I think bin Laden and his buddies are cashing in on it. However, I don't think bin Laden is the only one cashing in on it, any more than I think he's the only one cashing in on Saudi oil production.

A big share of this multi-billion dollar revenues of narcotics are deposited in the Western banking system.

But an important point is that this "illicit" trade cannot survive unless the main actors involved in narcotics have "political friends in high places."

Two very true statements, very true indeed!

The accusation of corruption is, of course, aimed at the United States:

Revenues from the CIA sponsored Afghan drug trade are huge. The Afghan trade in opiates constitutes a large share of the worldwide annual turnover of narcotics. (Douglas Keh, Drug Money in a Changing World, Technical document No. 4, 1998, Vienna UNDCP, p. 4. See also United Nations Drug Control Program, Report of the International Narcotics Control Board for 1999, E/INCB/1999/1 United Nations, Vienna 1999, p. 49-51, and Richard Lapper, UN Fears Growth of Heroin Trade, Financial Times, 24 February 2000).

According to IMF estimates, global money laundering is between 590 billion and 1.5 trillion dollars a year, representing 2-5 percent of global GDP, a big share of global money laundering is linked to the trade in narcotics.

Wow! That's a lot of zeros: USD 590,000,000,000 to 1,500,000,000,000!

Key phrase: "a big share of global money laundering is linked to the trade in narcotics."

According to 2003 figures, drug trafficking constitutes "the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade." (The Independent, 29 February 2004).

Hence, the above figures show that most of the revenues linked to the global trade in narcotics are not appropriated by "terrorist" organisations and warlords, as claimed by the U.S. officials and the American President George W. Bush.

Actually, no it doesn't show that, not at all.

Clearly, that's too much money to keep in a cave in Afghanistan somewhere, or even in a villa in Turkey. That kind of money has to be laundered, banked, invested. So, yes, there are "legitimate" business concerns that are being fueled by drug money, absolutely. And, certainly not every dollar of that is going to Al Qaeda, or any other player in the world of drug-traffickers. Lots of fingers are in the pie.

But 1) it is unclear who is getting the biggest piece of that pie, so we can't rule out terrorists as the major recipient of drug profits; and 2) don't think Khawarij terrorist bandits aren't getting their slice!

In a article entitled Terrorists: Swimming in Saudi Money, dated November 8, 2005, Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu addresses more widely the financing of terror, touching on the drug trade as well:

In describing his guerrilla army, Mao Tse-tung used an aquatic analogy: "Guerrillas are the fish, and the population is the sea in which they swim."


But the terrorists have applied his metaphor assiduously to the financial sphere, for the modern Islamofascist terrorist movement swims in the rich waters of international finance. Far from being poor, ignorant peasants as many in the West fancifully envision the terrorists, these men and their organizations are highly sophisticated, technologically aware, and extraordinarily adept at moving money within the intricate web of international financial institutions.

That is worth repeating: terrorist "organizations are highly sophisticated, technologically aware, and extraordinarily adept at moving money within the intricate web of international financial institutions."

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects of these terrorists is that many of the most virulently anti-Western have matriculated in British and American institutions of higher learning. More than one detainee in Guantanamo has an advanced degree in international finance from schools such as the London School of Economics. Admission standards may have changed, but one does not reasonably expect to find a simple Afghani opium farmer conscripted by the Taliban to be on the roster of distinguished graduates.

So for the modern terrorist money – and lots of it – is the ocean in which they swim and without which they will cease to live. Post-9/11, one of President Bush’s stated objectives was to dry up that ocean and deny the terrorists the funding needed to carry out their horrific attacks. These sorts of financial tracking operations are done by analysts in front of computer screens pouring over endless printout sheets. It is mostly thankless work that is conducted in the back offices of CIA, Treasury, FBI, and Homeland Security. Information is obtained by liaison to foreign countries intelligence agencies and banking establishments – thus bringing in State Department, and though signal and information intercepts - that means the Pentagon and National Security Agency.

The vast majority of money transfers are accomplished by electronic means. In the early days, these systems were relatively unsophisticated and vulnerable. No longer. Today’s systems are under constant attack, but are protected by sophisticated, complex security software. It is a constant war of bits and bytes as hackers fight guardians in cyberspace. But so far sophisticated technology has been good news for the terrorists and those who support their cause, because it means that transfers are extraordinarily difficult to track. Tom Clancy’s new novel, Teeth of the Tiger, discusses electronic intercept and offers an optimistic view of American capabilities. We are not there yet. Highly encrypted software, multiple accounts in a myriad of international banking and financial institutions, and covert tradecraft, such as use of electronic "cut-outs," can preclude any but the most persistent, careful analyst from finding the money trail. This is the challenge faced by our financial specialists who try to find walk the cat backwards to the lairs of leading al-Qaeda operational leaders.

"The vast majority of money transfers are accomplished by electronic means."

Al-Qaeda also has its tentacles into many other fields that generate money: semi-precious gems, opium and heroin, illegal traffic in birds of prey, and money laundering at an international level. Tanzanite, a semi-precious stone originating in East Africa, has been handled by an informal consortium of Muslim African distributors. While Osama bin Laden was based in Sudan and Somalia he and his henchmen moved in on the Tanzanite dealers and pressured them to provide protection money for his organization. Similarly, after relocating to Afghanistan bin Laden took over the lapis lazuli mines (many of which later became the legendary "caves" in mountain redoubts) and controlled export sales of the stones. Many of these channels of funding remain open today despite serious setbacks to al-Qaeda.

Similarly, bin Laden’s gangs, along with the fanatical Taliban, controlled opium production, distribution, and sale outside of Afghanistan. This operation also included manufacture into morphine base and ultimately into heroin. The Afghanistan poppy fields were the origin of much of the world’s heroin. The local farmers, while ostensibly under the thumbs of regional "warlords" were in effect working for bin Laden and his cronies, helping to fund the terrorists.

There's money in holy war.

A lot of money.

The suicide bombers and suicide hijackers do this all for Allah (and their seventy-two virgins), but higher-ups like bin Laden have a more earthly motive, one that predates Islam: money.

Jihad is big business.

This is a fun read, from the Guardian (UK): Afghan drugs barons flaunt their wealth and power.


Eleanor said...

Jihad is big business; drugs, whether legal or illegal, are big business; trafficking of human beings and contraband is big busines. The porous borders of the United States are big business. There is no incentive to end these crimes, to protect the American public, or the inhabitants that are living in the midst of these criminal activities in other parts of the world because the bottom line of seeming resectable big-businessmen and women will suffer.

And that's the truth!!

Yankee Doodle said...

Very true!

There are incentives to not have such thorough customs inspections in the ports, to not patrol every section of the border....

Interesting you should mention "legal" drugs -- there are legal, useful drugs produced from poppy plants (codeine, morphine), and those drugs are in short supply. They could legalize and regulate the cultivation of poppies in Afghanistan and end the short supply of these medicines while derailing a jihadi gravy train.

It worked to end the poppy problem in Turkey some decades back. Currently, Turkey has the market for legal narcotics pretty much sewn up.

So, in addition to the people you mention, Turkey would probably also resist such a common-sense move in Afghanistan -- why establish a competition?

Big business....

pela68 said...

Hmm, this is a very hard problem to tackle.

On one hand, the "fight on drugs" just drives the prices up- making it an even more lucruative business.

On the other hand- the prices of drugs have never been as low as it is today, after the US government started it up (atleast that is the case here in Sweden).

The connection between drugbusiness and jihadiis is clear. But if it were one single thing the talibans did in Afghanistan that was actually good; it was to stop the poppy farming. Or did they? And what effect did it really have, besides taking the livehood from poor farmers?

This whole business is much more hard to unravel than you think.

But yes. It is BIG BUSINESS, and who is it that cashes in on it- well, let's just say that it is not the average Afghanistani farmer.

Hmmm, I think I have to do some more research in this matter...

pela68 said...

But then again. What about this!(sorry, do not know the apropriate HTML tags to link it- Damn you

We in the west are actually financing the terrorism! It is so absurd I think I'm going to explode! (OK; after talking to a friend of mine, he assured me that I am still not a jihadi- so I will not, for the moment.).

pela68 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WomanHonorThyself said...

hiya YD..So for the modern terrorist money – and lots of it – is the ocean in which they swim and without which they will cease to live. ..then why are the saudi whaaabis still allowed to run the mosques here and do their dirty business!

Yankee Doodle said...

Yeah, Pela -- we're financing it by buying gasoline, by buying narcotics. Some people finance it by paying prostitutes, because some prostitutes are forced to work for people who owe their loyalties to terrorists. And, we finance it through foreign aid in many cases.

WHT, the Saudi-funded mosques teach people to hate. Those people become recruits for the terrorists. Then they are in a different world, still supported by elements of the Saudi Royal Family and Islamic charities, but also supported by trafficking in drugs, slaves, and whatever kind of contraband they can get.

Why are the Saudis allowed to do that? Ask the Bush Administration. The Constitution places the President in charge of foreign relations, and in charge of seeing that the laws of the US are faithfully executed. Oh, by the way, the Bush family for many years has been close to the Saudi Royal Family, so they're friends, too. Ask Bush.

Flanders Fields said...

This was a good post,YD. Many, especially those of the liberal persuasion, view terrorists as downtrodden masses who revolt against the system. The terrorists usually are high paid prostitutes in the service of those who pay well enough to place extreme influence in areas where they want it.

Drugs are a weapon and have been utilized by the left since the sixties to bring about breakdowns within our free society. Good job on the post.

Amirk said... is unrelated to the satellite TV channel Al Jazeera,
which operates websites in both Arabic ( ) and English (i.e. Aljazeera TV sites are hosted at .NET not .COM). The people who own have no connections to aljazeera TV channel.

For more info, have a look at