15.07.2020 Author: Viktor Mikhin

Afghanistan: the US “War” on Drugs


Programs by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that are geared toward decreasing the quantity of opium poppy crops in Afghanistan have, in actuality, fostered growth in production of the narcotic, states a quarterly report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction that was presented to the US Congress. In addition, the document refutes proclamations made by American officials that opium poppy is chiefly grown in areas under control by the Taliban movement (an organization that is forbidden in the Russian Federation – Ed.). According to experts, by turning a blind eye to drug trafficking American military service personnel can buy loyalty from the local elite.

And that does correspond to reality. Otherwise, how can it be explained that a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which is a US government agency, states that from 2002 to March 2017 the US wasted 8.5 billion USD on efforts to eradicate the narcotics threat in Afghanistan, yet never managed to fulfill the objective that was set, and Afghanistan remains the largest opium producer in the world – and one that is more and more actively filling demand not only in European markets for drugs, but in the American one. Heroin is a multi-billion dollar business, backed by the interests of powerful circles in the United States. From this it becomes evident that one of the goals for the occupation of Afghanistan was to restore the drug trafficking that was under their control back to its former level, and to assume complete control over drug delivery routes. In 2001, under the Taliban, 185 tons of opium was produced, whereas now, even given incomplete data, opium production has risen to 13,000 tons!

It would be beneficial to remember the history of drug trafficking in the Golden Triangle, which is closely connected to operations conducted by the CIA in the area when the Limited Contingent of Soviet Forces was brought into Afghanistan. Back then, the production of opium in Afghanistan and Pakistan was oriented toward minor regional markets – and heroin was not produced there at all. The Afghan narco-economy then became a project that was meticulously developed by the CIA as a component of US foreign policy. Just as before, during the Iran–Contra affair, supporting both the Afghan mujahedeen and other forces friendly to Washington was financed specifically by these narco-dollars. This “dirty money” was converted into “clandestine money” through banks in the Middle East and CIA shell companies, and was used to support criminal groups led by American instructors that fought against Soviet soldiers, and then successfully fragmented Afghanistan. “Since the United States wanted to deliver Stinger missiles and other armaments to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, they needed help from Pakistan. By the middle of the 1980s, the CIA field office in Islamabad was one of the largest in the world…The US turned a blind eye to drug trafficking in Pakistan, and especially in Afghanistan,” writes Time magazine.

Afghan history researcher Alfred McCoy affirms that soon after the start of the CIA operation in Afghanistan “the area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border became the largest heroin producer in the world, and from there 60% of the demand in the United States was met. In Pakistan itself, the number of drug addicts grew from almost zero in 1979 to 1.5 million, which is faster growth than in any other country.”

The drug trade, as obvious facts can attest to, was completely controlled by CIA officers. When the mujahedeen captured an area of land in Afghanistan, they made peasants plant opium poppy as a “tax for the revolution”. On the other side of the border, in Pakistan, Afghan leaders and local syndicates sponsored by both the Pakistani intelligence services and the CIA controlled hundreds of laboratories that produced heroin. Over decades of active drug business in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Drug Enforcement Agency regional office has never seized one large shipment of heroin, nor has is made a single arrest!

According to A. McCoy, officials with the latest administration in Washington refused to investigate the accusations of drug trafficking leveled at their Afghan allies, since US drug policy in Afghanistan was always subordinate to the interests of fighting against Soviet, and now Russian, influence. Charles Cogan, a former CIA operations leader in Afghanistan, quite truthfully and cynically told the world about this when he admitted that the CIA sacrificed the war on drugs in favor of winning the Cold War. He says that “the main objective was to inflict as much damage as possible on the Soviet Union.” The role played by the CIA, even though it is expressed in many documents, is not mentioned in materials from the UN, which place an emphasis on internal factors. Laundered narco-dollars were used by Washington to finance the mujahedeen, and terrorists in Central Asia and the Balkans.

According to an assessment done by the UN, the global drug trade reaches several, if not dozens of, billions of dollars. The opium sold from Afghanistan amounts to a considerable portion of this trade. It is evident that the lion’s share of the proceeds from drug trafficking cannot be taken in by terrorist groups, as the UN affirms. Major business and financial interests back those narcotics. In that regard, geopolitical and military control over those channels of distribution for the drugs holds as much significance as control over oilfields and oil pipelines.

What sets drugs apart from legal products is that drug trafficking is an important source of income not only for organized crime groups, but for the US intelligence services, which are becoming an even more important player in banks and financial institutions. This means that the American intelligence services and large syndicates that have ties to organized crime compete for strategic control over drug distribution channels. The multi-billion dollar income from drug trafficking is invested into Western banking systems, and above all else into American banks. Most large transnational banks, via their offshore branches, launder a substantial amount of drug money. This trade can flourish only if the main players have highly-placed political “patrons” in the West and in Afghanistan itself.

There are many specific examples that bear witness, and quite vividly, to the fact that at present a considerable number of Americans in the US itself, and military service personnel in Afghanistan, are not interested in the war on drugs, but in supporting the drug trade. Even though a major portion of American chemical weapons programs remain classified, it is apparent that much attention has been given to doing research on “drug supplements” that can boost the performance of military personnel. For example, in the US Air Force pilots were given dextroamphetamines before long missions to increase their ability to concentrate and reduce fatigue. And out of the American pilots that participated in operation Desert Storm in the war against Iraq in 2003, 65% used narcotic stimulants. An investigation of the exercises held in the Tarnak Farms training camp in Afghanistan, during which four Canadian soldiers were killed by “friendly fire” and another eight were wounded, found that the American F-16 pilots were permitted to use Dexedrine. And there are many more of these kinds of examples. In addition, medicinal products delivered by the Pentagon that contain narcotic substances are now actively being taken by the Saudi pilots that are bombing mostly cities, villages, and inhabited settlements in Yemen.

In the beginning of this year, the Afghan government announced with grandeur that it had arrested five high-level police official complicit in drug trafficking in Kabul and neighboring countries. Nasrat Rahimi, a representative from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, declared that Ahmad Ahmadi – who was in charge of the war on drugs in the country’s capital – was arrested while trying to flee the country. He told the press that A. Ahmadi was one of the country’s “leading drug dealers and mafia ringleader” who was also the director of a suspicious Afghan-Swiss business group that was, over the course of several years, involved in protecting, promoting the interests of, and receiving large bribes from drug dealers in a city with more than 6 million people. It is true that later on the Kabul press found out about this ultra-high level of their government’s activity. It turned out that the Afghan group was operating independently of the CIA, which completely controls drug trafficking in the country, and refused to pay American officers their commissions.

That is exactly why Moscow accuses the US and NATO of not being capable of stopping the flow of Afghan drugs moving into Central Asia and Russia. Washington tries to implement a policy of reinforcing measures to conduct the war on drugs in the region without launching any operations against the insurgents. Over the past 10 years, Afghanistan has produced and exported more heroin than any other country. According to an evaluation done by the UN, about 10% of the gross output from Afghanistan originates from growing opium poppy. About 13,000 tons of opium was produced in the country, which is estimated to be worth 2 billion dollars. This creates a vicious circle: illegal drug trafficking finances the Taliban (an organization that is banned in the Russian Federation – Ed.), the CIA controls that and takes action to undermine and hinder Afghan authorities’ attempts to stamp out opium cultivation and come up with a method to obtain alternative income.

Trying to shirk responsibility, Washington – as is its usual practice – publishes rosy reports about the “active war” against drugs, and at the same time falsely accuses Russia of allegedly cooperating with the Taliban (an organization that is banned in the Russian Federation – Ed.). Zamir Kabulov, a Russian presidential special envoy, sharply refuted the false accusations from the CIA about “collusion” with the Taliban, underscoring that the US is the country that has joined with the Taliban to play a part in the flourishing drug traffic out of Afghanistan, adding that “the US paid numerous bribes to implement several drug-related projects in Afghanistan”. He also emphasized that American aircraft can fly out of Kandahar and Bagram to anywhere, including Germany and Romania, without going through an inspection. This means that the Americans, without any form of control, transport huge shipments of drugs into Europe, and then to the US, earning criminal money on the spilled blood of the Afghan people.

Victor Mikhin, member-correspondent of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, specially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook“.

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