COULD it be that the American military in Afghanistan is involved in drug trafficking? Yes, it is quite possible, according to Russia's Ambassador to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov.
Commenting on reports that the United States military transport aviation is used for shipping narcotics out of Afghanistan, the Russian envoy said there was no smoke without fire.
"If such actions do take place they cannot be undertaken without contact with Afghans, and if one Afghan man knows this, at least a half of Afghanistan will know about this sooner or later," Kabulov told Vesti, Russia's 24-hour news channel. "That is why I think this is possible, but cannot prove it."
It's not going to be something that Russia would be able to prove without divulging sensitive sources of information, sources desperately needed in its own battle against a growing onslaught of heroin addiction (six million users out of a population of 142 million, according to the article).
When Russia backed the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan to crush the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the post-9/11 scenario, the last thing it expected to happen was that drug trafficking from Afghanistan would assume gargantuan proportions under the U.S. military. Since 2001, poppy fields, once banned by the Taliban, have mushroomed again. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghanistan produced 8,200 tonnes of opium last year, enough to make 93 per cent of the world's heroin supply.
The U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation [NATO] forces in the country have not only failed to eliminate the terrorist threat from the Taliban, but also presided over a spectacular rise in opium production. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Afghanistan was on the brink of becoming a "narco state".
Not "becoming" -- it already is a "narco state".
Narco business has emerged as virtually the only economy of Afghanistan and is valued at some $10 billion a year. Opium trade is estimated by the U.N. to be equivalent to 53 per cent of the country's official economy and is helping to finance the Taliban.
"Unfortunately, they [NATO] are doing nothing to reduce the narcotic threat from Afghanistan even a tiny bit," Putin angrily remarked three years ago. He accused the coalition forces of "sitting back and watching caravans haul drugs across Afghanistan to the former Soviet Union and Europe." As time went by, Russian suspicions regarding the U.S. role in the rise of a narco state in Afghanistan grew deeper, especially after reports from Iraq said that the cultivation of opium poppies was spreading rapidly there too.
"The Americans are working hard to keep narco business flourishing in both countries," says Mikhail Khazin, president of the consultancy firm Niakon. "They consistently destroy the local infrastructure, pushing the local population to look for illegal means of subsistence. And the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] provides protection to drug trafficking."
The CIA gets blamed for everything. I wonder if they're not responsible for global warming?
The CIA seems to have been at least complicit in the 1980's situation whereby the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan was funded in part by the proceeds of heroin trafficking -- heroin became a drug of choice of Soviet military personnal in Afghanistan, and from there it became a major problem in the Soviet Union, and then in the post-Soviet era throughout Russia and the Central Asian republics.
Here, though, I wonder if it really is the CIA -- or if it is merely corrupt government officials who are making support of the heroin industry in Afghanistan a de facto US policy.
Now Russia has joined the fray accusing the U.S. military of involvement in the heroin trafficking from Afghanistan to Europe. The Vesti channel's report from Afghanistan said that drugs from Afghanistan were hauled by American transport aircraft to the U.S. airbases Ganci in Kyrgyzstan and Incirlik in Turkey.
What does it take for heroin to be stowed away on a cargo aircraft the size of the one pictured? Assuming heroin is in fact being moved on US aircraft, and assuming US aircraft the size of the one pictured are the ones being used, that is....
An aircraft that size carries many tons of palletized freight. All it takes is one pallet with, say, 800 pounds of freight on it -- in the middle of which is 500 pounds of heroin.
Some big-shot -- maybe a civilian, with the State Department or the CIA or something -- gets priority for that pallet, to make sure it gets included in the load. It is one of many pallets, and the NCO's and airmen loading it up don't know what's in the middle of it; the aircraft's crew similarly have no idea.
It does not take many people to make this happen; it just takes a few people in key positions... people who want to make money, and who know what will happen to them if they change their minds.
Do that once a week, and you can move a ton of heroin a month -- no customs or border guards, no DEA, essentially risk-free -- and nobody suspects, because it is a routine shipment for Office X.
And, that's just one route that heroin is shipping out on....
The Ganci Air Force base at the Manas international airport in Kyrgyzstan was set up in late 2001 as a staging post for military operations inside Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz government threatened to close the base after neighbouring Uzbekistan shut down a similar U.S. airbase on its territory in 2005, but relented after Washington agreed to make a one-off payment of $150 million in the form of an assistance package and to pay $15 million a year for the use of the base.
One of the best-informed Russian journalists on Central Asia, Arkady Dubnov, recently quoted anonymous Afghan sources as saying that "85 per cent of all drugs produced in southern and southeastern provinces are shipped abroad by U.S. aviation."
A well-informed source in Afghanistan's security services told the Russian journalist that the American military acquired drugs through local Afghan officials who dealt with field commanders in charge of drug production.
Writing in the Vremya Novostei daily, Dubnov claimed that the pro-Western administration of President Hamid Karzai, including his two brothers, Kajum Karzai and Akhmed Vali Karzai, are head-to-heels involved in the narcotics trade.
The article quoted a leading U.S. expert on Afghanistan, Barnett Rubin, as telling an anti-narcotics conference in Kabul last October that "drug dealers had infiltrated Afghani state structures to the extent where they could easily paralyse the work of the government if decision to arrest one of them was ever made."
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Richard Holbrooke said in January that "government officials, including some with close ties to the presidency, are protecting the drug trade and profiting from it."
Government officials, including some with close ties to Afghanistan's presidency....
We now quote from Holbrooke's Washington Post article, near the end:
To be sure, breaking the narco-state in Afghanistan is essential, or all else will fail. But it will take years, and American policies today are working against their own objective. Couple that with the other most critical fact about the war in Afghanistan -- it cannot be won as long as the border areas in Pakistan are havens for the Taliban and al-Qaeda -- and you have the ingredients for a war that will last far longer than the war in Iraq, even if NATO sends more troops and the appalling National Police training program is finally fixed. Solving this problem requires bold, creative thinking. Consideration should be given to a temporary suspension of eradication in insecure areas, accompanied by an intensified effort to improve security, build small market-access roads and offer farmers free agricultural support.
"American policies today are working against their own objective."
I wonder why that is?
The instability in Afghanistan is used as an excuse to keep from acting on the heroin production. But, the instability will not go away -- "you have the ingredients for a war that will last far longer than the war in Iraq" -- so the heroin business is good, and will be for some time to come.
(Need I remind you of the Sibel Edmonds case? US officials on the payroll of organized crime -- heroin traffickers -- steering US policy to favor their, uh, "constituents".)
Returning now to Narco aggression, to a part that I had skipped, beginning with the third paragraph:
Afghan narcotics are an extremely painful issue for Russia. They first hit the Russian market during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s when Russian soldiers developed a taste for Afghan heroin and smuggled it back to Russia.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union in December 1991 threw open the floodgates of drug trafficking from Afghanistan across Central Asia to Russia and further west to Europe. Afghanistan’s narcotics struck Russia like a tsunami, threatening to decimate its already shrinking population. According to the Federal Drug Control Service, 90 per cent of all heroin sold in Russia comes from Afghanistan. Russia today has about six million drug-users – a 20-fold increase since the collapse of the Soviet Union and a huge figure for a country of 142 million people.
Oh, there's a market, all right.
"Commenting on reports that the United States military transport aviation is used for shipping narcotics out of Afghanistan, the Russian envoy said there was no smoke without fire."
Stay tuned for Part 2.