Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Sword of Allah, Part 2

We pick up where we left off at the end of Part 1 reviewing Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?:

The United States Agency for International Development (USAid) was also under fire — particularly from Congress — for not providing better alternative crops for farmers. USAid had distributed seed and fertilizer to most of Afghanistan, but more comprehensive agricultural programs were slow to start in parts of the country. The USAid officers in Kabul were competent and committed, but they had already lost several workers to insurgent attacks, and were understandably reluctant to go into Taliban territory to implement their programs.

The Department of Justice had just completed an effort to open the Afghan anti-narcotics court, so capacity to prosecute was initially low. Justice in Afghanistan was administered unevenly by tribes, religious leaders and poorly paid, highly corruptible judges. In the rare cases in which drug traffickers were convicted, they often walked in the front door of a prison, paid a bribe and walked out the back door. We received dozens of reports to this effect.

And then there was the problem of the Afghan National Police. The Pentagon frequently proclaimed that the Afghan National Army (which the Pentagon trained) was performing wonderfully, but that the police (trained mainly by the Germans and the State Department) were not. A respected American general in Afghanistan, however, confided to me that the army was not doing well, either; that the original plan for training the army was flimsy and underfinanced; and that, consequently, they were using police to fill holes in the army mission. Thrust into a military role, unprepared police lost their lives trying to hold territory in dangerous areas.

There was no coherent strategy to resolve these issues among the U.S. agencies and the Afghan government. When I asked career officers at the State Department for the interagency strategy for Afghan counternarcotics, they produced the same charts I used to brief the cabinet in Washington months before. "There is no written strategy," they confessed.

That passage says a lot.

In that kind of a chaotic situation, the only Afghans who are going to thrive are the narcotraffickers -- at least they are both motivated and organized.

As big as these challenges were, there were even bigger ones. A lot of intelligence — much of it unclassified and possible to discuss here — indicated that senior Afghan officials were deeply involved in the narcotics trade. Narco-traffickers were buying off hundreds of police chiefs, judges and other officials. Narco-corruption went to the top of the Afghan government. The attorney general, Abdul Jabbar Sabit, a fiery Pashtun who had begun a self-described "jihad against corruption," told me and other American officials that he had a list of more than 20 senior Afghan officials who were deeply corrupt — some tied to the narcotics trade. He added that President Karzai — also a Pashtun — had directed him, for political reasons, not to prosecute any of these people. (On July 16 of this year, Karzai dismissed Sabit after Sabit announced his candidacy for president. Karzai's office said Sabit's candidacy violated laws against political activity by officials. Sabit told a press conference that Karzai "has never been able to tolerate rivals.")

An Afghan government official begins "jihad against corruption" and gets trumped by Karzai.

Is this not reminiscent of what Sibel Edmonds said in 'The Stakes Are Too High for Us to Stop Fighting Now' An interview with FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds by Christopher Deliso, August 15, 2005?

SE: In some cases where the FBI stumbles upon evidence of high-level officials being involved in drug-smuggling, they're even prevented from sharing it with the DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency]. The Department of State just comes in and says, "Leave it."

You know, it's funny, after 9/11, the common criticism was that there was "no information-sharing" between the FBI, CIA, and the like, and this is why the terrorists pulled it off -- as if we didn't want to cooperate. No information-sharing? That's the biggest BS I ever heard!

Returning to Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?:

A nearly equal challenge in 2006 was the lack of resolve in the international community. Although Britain's foreign office strongly backed antinarcotics efforts (with the exception of aerial eradication), the British military were even more hostile to the antidrug mission than the U.S. military. British forces — centered in Helmand — actually issued leaflets and bought radio advertisements telling the local criminals that the British military was not part of the anti-poppy effort. I had to fly to Brussels and show one of these leaflets to the supreme allied commander in Europe, who oversees Afghan operations for NATO, to have this counterproductive information campaign stopped. It was a small victory; the truth was that many of our allies in the International Security Assistance Force were lukewarm on antidrug operations, and most were openly hostile to aerial eradication.

Nonetheless, throughout 2006 and into 2007 there were positive developments (although the Pentagon did not supply the helicopters to the D.E.A. until early 2008). The D.E.A. was training special Afghan narcotics units, while the Pentagon began to train Afghan pilots for drug operations. We put together educational teams that convened effective antidrug meetings in the more stable northern provinces. We used manual eradication to eliminate about 10 percent of the crop. In some provinces with little insurgent activity, the eradication numbers reached the 20 percent threshold — a level that drug experts see as a tipping point in eradication — and poppy cultivation all but disappeared in those areas by 2007. And the Department of Justice got the counternarcotics tribunal to process hundreds of midlevel cases.

By late 2006, however, we had startling new information: despite some successes, poppy cultivation over all would grow by about 17 percent in 2007 and would be increasingly concentrated in the south of the country, where the insurgency was the strongest and the farmers were the wealthiest. The poorest farmers of Afghanistan — those who lived in the north, east and center of the country — were taking advantage of antidrug programs and turning away from poppy cultivation in large numbers. The south was going in the opposite direction, and the Taliban were now financing the insurgency there with drug money — just as Patterson predicted.

In late January 2007, there was an urgent U.S. cabinet meeting to discuss the situation. The attendees agreed that the deputy secretary of state John Negroponte and John Walters, the drug czar, would oversee the development of the first interagency counternarcotics strategy for Afghanistan. They asked me to coordinate the effort, and, after Patterson’s intervention, I was promoted to ambassadorial rank. We began the effort with a briefing for Negroponte, Walters, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and several senior Pentagon officials. We displayed a map showing how poppy cultivation was becoming limited to the south, more associated with the insurgency and disassociated from poverty. The Pentagon chafed at the briefing because it reflected a new reality: narcotics were becoming less a problem of humanitarian assistance and more a problem of insurgency and war.

Negroponte -- doesn't he have a background working in a counterinsurgent/counternarcotics environment?

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime was arriving at the same conclusion. Later that year, they issued a report linking the drug trade to the insurgency and made a controversial statement: "Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is no longer associated with poverty — quite the opposite." The office convincingly demonstrated that poor farmers were abandoning the crop and that poppy growth was largely confined to some of the wealthiest parts of Afghanistan. The report recommended that eradication efforts be pursued "more honestly and more vigorously," along with stronger anticorruption measures. Earlier this year, the U.N. published an even more detailed paper titled "Is Poverty Driving the Afghan Opium Boom?" It rejected the idea that farmers would starve without the poppy, concluding that "poverty does not appear to have been the main driving factor in the expansion of opium poppy cultivation in recent years."

The U.N. reports shattered the myth that poppies are grown by destitute farmers who have no other source of income. They demonstrated that approximately 80 percent of the land under poppy cultivation in the south had been planted with it only in the last two years. It was not a matter of "tradition," and these farmers did not need an alternative livelihood. They had abandoned their previous livelihoods — mainly vegetables, cotton and wheat (which was in severely short supply) — to take advantage of the security vacuum to grow a more profitable crop: opium.

The relatively rich farmers began to grow poppies to make more money -- and the business was supporting our enemy.

Heroin -- the sword of Allah!

Stay tuned to Stop Islamic Conquest as the series continues!

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