Afghanistan: The Golden Crescent
The UNODC estimates opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 59 percent in 2006 to a record 165,000 hectares. US government estimates for the same time period suggest 172,600 hectares were used for poppy cultivation. Although the U.S. government estimates indicate more ground under poppy cultivation, the potential yield estimate is lower than the production estimate from UNODC. Consequently, the total production of opium from Afghanistan in 2006 ranges from 5,644 to 6,100 metric tons. Given an average conversion ratio of 10:1 for opium to heroin, total production ranges from 564 to 610 metric tons, 30 percent greater than current market demand estimates.
Since the US-led occupation of Afghanistan, production of poppies has skyrocketed there.
Reporting from multiple sources indicate nearly all of the opium is converted to heroin in Afghanistan. This is a significant transformation of the industry given the history of smuggling raw opium for heroin conversion in other countries, such as Turkey. With a conversion factor of nearly 10:1 between opium and heroin the size of the shipments to be smuggled is considerably smaller, therefore easier to conceal. This also suggests a transformation of the heroin market as Afghanistan shifts from being a source of raw material to a producer of the finished product.
Afghanistan has consolidated its grip on the heroin trade by developing the ability to refine heroin within the country -- it used to be that opiates were sent elsewhere for refining.
Under US protection, heroin production in Afghanistan has not only grown, it has gotten comfortable.
Major transportation routes
Southwest Asian heroin
The bulk of Southwest Asian heroin is moved overland to market destinations. Afghan heroin moves to markets in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East through Iran, Pakistan, and Central Asia. An estimated 40% of the heroin and morphine from Afghanistan moves through Iran. Iran reports significant seizures of opium and heroin from smuggler convoys which are increasingly well-armed and capable of traveling at night.
Two primary routes are used to smuggle heroin: the Balkan Route, which runs through southeastern Europe, and the Silk Route, which runs through Central Asia. The anchor point for the Balkan Route is Turkey, which remains a major staging area and transportation route for heroin destined for European markets. The Balkan Route is divided into three sub-routes: the southern route runs through Turkey, Greece, Albania and Italy; the central route runs through Turkey, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, and into either Italy or Austria; and the northern route runs from Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania to Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland or Germany. Large quantities of heroin are destined for either the Netherlands or the United Kingdom.
Although the Balkan Route is considered the primary supply line for Western Europe, Afghan and Central Asian traffickers smuggle heroin along the Silk Route into Russia, the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and other parts of Europe. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, K azakhstan, and Turkmenistan are vital transit countries, with an estimated 24% of Afghan heroin smuggled along this route.
Keep in mind that, since 9/11, the US has deployed troops throughout the Central Asian republics, along the Silk Route. And, since that time, the Silk Route's use for smuggling heroin has increased.
The Balkans route has been getting secured since the 1990's. Under the Clinton Administration, US and NATO air power was employed against Serbia, and in support of various Islamic guerrilla and terrorist groups with ties to Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda. Currently, the Bush Administration is pushing for independence from Serbia for Kosovo, a region where most of the population are Albanian Muslims, and where radical jihadi ideology and organized crime are both growing dramatically. Most significantly for this post, those Islamic guerrilla and terrorist groups, and the people backed by the Bush Administration in Kosovo, are also connected to heroin trafficking.
US policy is effectively promoting the establishment of state sponsors of terror and narcotrafficking in the Balkans, and US policy is paving the way along the Silk Route for heroin smuggling.
A trend that appears to be developing is the shipment of large quantities of heroin to European markets. Several multi-hundred kilo seizures have taken place in the last year, possibly as a result of a willingness to risk larger quantities knowing that a ready source of heroin remains available. Another possibility is the stockpiling of heroin for European markets.
The narcotraffickers are so confident in their ability to grow poppies, refine them into heroin, and ship it off to market, that they are now shipping it en masse -- good quality heroin is no longer a scarce commodity, but rather a commodity that they are mass-producing, mass-shipping, and stockpiling.
East Africa is a key entry area for southwest Asian heroin destined for markets in East and South Africa. These areas are supplied by East and West African trafficking organizations as well as southwest Asian criminal groups operating out of India and Pakistan and, more recently, Afghanistan. These organizations rely to a large extent on commercial air, using both human couriers as well as air freight to conceal heroin consignments. The quantities of heroin smuggled in this fashion are generally inferior to the amounts smuggled in commercial vehicles along the Balkan Route. It is suspected that maritime shipments are also utilized, but the extent of this activity remains uncertain. There is also evidence that a number of these organizations deal in the trafficking of other controlled substances such as cocaine obtained in South America and cannabis produced in Africa. East African groups are responsible for moving Afghan heroin to markets in the United States and Canada, usually using human couriers.
This heroin isn't just devastating the societies of other nations, especially in Europe; some of this heroin is reaching the United States.
For over a decade now, and especially since 9/11, US foreign policy has not only covered for, but has actually promoted, the production, refining and shipment of heroin from Afghanistan to Europe and even to America.
During that same time period -- again, especially since 9/11 -- US military power has essentially stabilized the region where the poppies are grown so much that bumper crops are now refined into heroin on the spot; US military power has also stabilized and improved a major corridor for its shipment.
We sent our troops over there to battle Islamic terrorists, before the terrorists came again to America. But, those same terrorists are involved in narcotics trafficking; that, and other organized crime activities, are a major source of their funding.
Yet, this heroin trafficking industry has grown dramatically in the same time frame that our troops have been sent to fight the terrorists that play a role in it and that are funded in part by it.
Someone in Washington is using the War on Terror and instability in the Balkans as pretexts for establishing policies that promote the growth of the heroin trade. Someone in Washington is using US military power for the same purpose.
While working at the FBI as a translator, Sibel Edmonds became aware of information linking Turkish organized crime and narcotics traffickers to corrupt officials in Washington. The information shows links to members of Congress, from both parties, as well as to appointed officials in the Bush Administration, and to other people in Washington. The officials from the Bush Administration were mainly from the Departments of State, Defense and Justice.
When Sibel Edmonds was gagged, and thus prevented from telling what she knows, by the US government's invocation of State Secrets Privilege, the reason given was to protect certain diplomatic relations.
Sibel Edmonds' case been investigated by two US Senators, the 60 Minutes news team and the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General; all three investigations were able to confirm some of what Edmonds had to say, and no one was able to disprove anything of what she had to say.
What she has to say corresponds to the facts; indeed, US foreign policy and US military deployments and activities in Afghanistan, in Central Asia along the Silk Route, and in the Balkans make no sense unless she is right.
Sibel Edmonds is gagged, and is not allowed to spell things out. So, she has to talk around things -- she speaks in riddles. To understand her case, you have to solve the riddles; the mystery is hidden in plain sight.
As I wrote before:
Detectives listened to an illegal bug,
But didn't report the criminal plan.
Crime covers up crime, swept under the rug,
All merely for wont of an honest man.
The truth is hidden by towers of lies,
But the crime of the towers is exposed in riddles.
What really happened is quite a surprise!
Dirty cops, a deal with the devil,... the man in the middle.