By Farzana Shah
Monday, 23 February 2009.
In Afghanistan, U.S./NATO have put the blame on Taliban for poppy cultivation to finance their resistance to allied forces. Ironically, it was only in Taliban era when the world had seen a sharp decline in opium crop in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban had banned opium cultivation nationwide, probably for the first time in Afghan history. A more important question is how and when this business of drug production and trafficking started in region? CIA has been using drug money since long to generate money to support its operations all over the world. It did not start in Afghanistan it was brought here after experimenting somewhere else. This is something which is not a lead story in international media for obvious reasons despite the fact it is harming millions of lives around the globe.
1. CIA’s secret Operations
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on of the most active and dynamic intelligence setups in the world needs massive amount of money to carry on its clandestine operations all over the world. It has happened when CIA used local sources to conduct a coups, assassinations, regime change, etc. As U.S. has a long history to support democracy by hook and crook until and unless a dictator is ready to serve U.S. interests to prolong its rule.
Operations like the one completed in Iran in 1953 to remove Prime Minister Mussadaq and backing Shah’s regime by using assets in civil society, or in Iraq in 1975 to arm Iraqi Kurds to destabilize Pre-Saddam Iraq or more recently using its assets in Pakistan to pave the way of direct U.S. intervention in Pakistan under pretext of hunting Al-Qaeda.
These kinds of operations need a lot of financial input. Usually CIA arranges revenue from its own means for this kind of operations where expenses can’t be predicted by any measure. Funds from Whitehouse always need a complete audit and detailed reports about usage of these funds. There are numerous occasions when CIA never shared details of operations with its own analytical wing nor with any other public office in Washington. Most of the time it is drug money that compensates these expenses.
CIA operations are not only single expenditure fulfilled by drugs there are also other deficiencies which are compensated with this money like financial institutes and banks in current financial crisis. UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa based in Vienna revealed that drug money often became the only available capital when the crisis spiraled out of control last year.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime had found evidence that “inter bank loans were funded by money that originated from drug trade and other illegal activities,” Costa was quoted as saying. There were “signs that some banks were rescued in that way.”
It is not only CIA anymore in trade for using it as gold mine to finance its illegal operations all over the world but U.S. economy also need some liquidity in its banks, it doesn’t matter if it is coming by drug trade.
2. Drug Production & Consumption
Afghanistan is largest producer of heroin’s main ingredient; opium and opium is nothing new in this part of the world. In Afghanistan and FATA, Pakistan it is being produced since centuries; used as remedy for various diseases. Commercial production of opium began just during the Russian invasion in Afghanistan where it is estimated to produce some 8250 metric tons (Source: AmericanFreePress.net, November 24, 2008) of opium per year which makes 85% to 90%
of the world’s supply of opium. This also contributes towards Afghan warlords’ wealth directly. This is what CIA brought to the region: Opium production without a brand name obviously. Today’s world opium production map is as under;
Left: Demand and trafficking of drugs globally. U.S. is one of very high concentration drug trafficking territory thanks to Regan’s National Security Council who turned a blind eye towards South American cocaine socking into U.S. in 1980 when CIA was backing all the drug traffickers of Contra movements in Nicaragua.
Markets for these drugs stretched world over from Western Europe to Far East, From Canada to Latin America and From China to Morocco, Africa. Profits related to this business also vary along with market’s location.
This business enriches not only the United States-friendly Afghan warlords but also elements of the Northern Alliance, the U.S. key ally in the country. More disturbing is fact that this money also contributes in CIA’s operations against Pakistan as well.
3. Contra Movements (1980)
In Asia demand for heroin is more than any other drug but it is not the case world over. Cocaine is favourite drug which is consumed the most. Cocaine was nothing new in South American countries but it was only during Nicaraguan contra movements against the then dictator it got shoot up. It was again CIA’s regime change operation to bring “democracy” in Nicaragua. It was during this period when the whole region saw an unprecedented surge in cocaine trafficking in 1980. This has been investigated none other than but by CIA’s inspector general in later years.
Was CIA a part of this?
Answer is not only CIA was aiding these cocaine traffickers and money-launderers but Ronald Reagon’s National Security Council also turned a blind eye towards these drug trades despite the fact that later these very drug traffickers brought cocaine to mainland U.S.. According to CIA’s inspector general report, published in online magazine The Consortium magazine, Oct. 15, 1998, it was Reagan’s National Security Council which cleared proven drug traffickers and CIA inspector general Frederick Hitz confirmed long standing allegations of cocaine traffickers. The NSC’s covert airline was the main transportation mean to do this trade in safest possible way.
Figure 1: Armed men of Nicaragua insurgency during 1980s, armed with CIA weapons bought with drug money.
Most stunning part of all this contra movements and CIA involvement is methods these movements used to dismantle the then Nicaraguan government including bombing and killing of civilians and CIA withheld all evidence of contra crimes from Justice Department, the Congress and even its own analytical division just to conceal its connection with drug traffickers.
As it is mentioned earlier that Afghanistan was not a hub of drug supply to world before Russian invasion in 1979. It was CIA once again to implement what it successfully implemented in Nicaragua in 1980. Now, Afghanistan is biggest contributor in drug production with its massive opium production.
Russian Afghan War (1979-1989)
CIA was not fully done with contra movements when Russia invaded Afghanistan in 1979 threatening the region with her expansionist design to gain control over Afghanistan and Baluchistan province of Pakistan to reach Arabian Sea. Pakistan decided to confront Russia inside Afghanistan to thwart communist designs. CIA found an opportunity in Afghanistan to settle its long standing duel with Russian for global dominion, after initial successes by Afghan fighters. CIA once again brought tested formula of drug to finance this war which it used in South America with only difference in prescription where cocaine was replaced with heroin. Poppy cultivation was nothing new to Afghan but it was level of production and demand created by international traffickers in the world which shocked many in vicinity of these poppy fields.
Profit gained by these drugs was main driving force behind all this trade and with heroin it was much more than what it was with cocaine. Ironically U.S. and Europe became biggest markets of heroin prepared produced in Afghanistan.
Regan’s administration is also a common factor in both Afghan heroin trade and contra cocaine traffickers. Role of CIA in first Afghan war was not overt as it could provoke Russians in more direct retaliation albeit Cuban missile crisis of 1960s. To avoid that kind of hostility it was more suitable for CIA to have silent links with Afghan warlords and providing sources to grow poppy. “By the end of Russian invasion in 1989 Afghanistan was second largest opium production spot with 1350 Metric ton after notorious Golden Triangle including countries like Laos, Thailand, Burma and Vietnam which was producing 2645 Metric ton at that time leaving Latin America way behind with just 112 Metric ton”, as per U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Pre and Post Taliban Era (1994-2001)
In 1994 unrest and lawlessness in Afghanistan gave rise to Taliban. Motivated with their strict religious background and education they put ban on all kinds of drugs in territory under their control but this was not the cure for chronically infected Afghan economy and society. Non availability of any job market and strong hold of Northern Alliance of Northern part of country remained biggest challenge to these efforts to cut down poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. But despite all the challenges Talibans were able to put a serious cut on opium production in Afghanistan by start of 2001 when they were about to capture Northern Alliance’s strong hold Mazar-e-Sharif but post 9/11 scenario not only changed the geopolitical dynamics of the whole world but also destroyed the efforts of Taliban to control opium production.
Figure 2: Afghan opium sells in cheap at home, worth a fortune in U.S. market
Left: In year 2001, just before U.S./NATO invasion into Afghanistan, Taliban were able to cut down opium production by a decisive margin. This was also one of core reasons against Taliban along with other excuses. After year 2002, when Taliban were removed from power there is a historical increase in opium production in Afghanistan, money is going to pentagon to carry on Afghan and Iraq war despite a historical recession in U.S..
Recent Afghan Conflict (2002 – To date)
Afghanistan is leading opium production in world today but after the invasion of U.S. in 2002 Afghanistan is also attributed to have largest heroin production in the world as well.
Without active support of Pentagon and CIA it is not possible to export drug prepared with more than 8000 metric tons of opium. U.S. relations with Northern Alliance in Afghanistan after Taliban have given a free license to drug producers, traffickers. CIA and Pentagon both have their links to all these criminals in order to get supplies of the drugs and export it in U.S. Army planes. It has been reported that CIA used U.S. Army planes leaving Afghanistan carrying coffins which were filled with drugs instead of bodies.
To make sure undisturbed trade U.S. appointed all Northern Alliance drug lords at key posts in Afghanistan and most prominent appointment was none other than President Hamid Karzai. Karzai’s brother, head of Kandahar’s provincial council is proven drug trafficker facilitating the transportation of heroin from Kandahar eastward through Helmand and out across the Iranian border.
There is no reason to believe that CIA is not aware of this but as it is all one big enterprise where Karzai is also a partner so no danger to his brother.
Bush administration pushed the level of poppy cultivation to next level in Afghanistan just to keep Wall Streets alive in crisis. Many top Bush administration’s officials were worried about growing influence of countries in Golden Triangle (Loas, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma) in Russian and Chinese drug markets. Like Oil in Iraq this was just another opportunity for the Bush administration to have some quick bucks.
Blames for using drugs to fight with NATO and U.S. forces is always put on Taliban. But looking at areas of Taliban’s active zones one can easily understand where all this poppy cultivation is taking place. Taliban put ban on poppy when they were incharge of majority of Afghan territories and Kabul, the capital. Afghanistan was suffering worst economic crisis at that time but Taliban never went to build their economy with heroin trade. Now it is just ridiculous to blame Taliban to have vast fields of poppy and having enough peace and time to grow and process it into heroin and then trade it in Pakistan and Iran to dens it to destinations in Eastern Europe. Below is map of Afghanistan indicating high poppy cultivation provinces and it is quite evident that Taliban dominant
Provinces like Kunar, Pektika,Paktya has low poppy cultivation and other provinces where all U.S./CIA supported warlords are holding key positions are growing most of opium crop. It was only after U.S. invasion there was a 4400% increase in opium production.
U.S. role in Afghan social debacle will go in history as described The Huffington Post on October 15, 2008 “When the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is written, Washington’s sordid involvement in the heroin trade and its alliance with drug lords and war criminals of the Afghan Communist Party will be one of the most shameful chapters.”
5. Pakistan: Indirect Victim of the CIA’s Drug business
Almost the whole world is affected by this drug trade but countries which lie in routes of drug traffickers are worst effected after the original drug markets. Countries like Pakistan are paying a very high price for U.S./CIA drug trade as there is a constant increase in drug addiction in Pakistan. Iran is another country which happens to be in route of international drug traffickers so it is also facing problem of smuggling of heroin and morphine from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Turkey and Europe. After U.S. invasion of Afghanistan this route has become active manifold then it was previously.
Effects of this trade are not limited to drug usage only but it destroys the social fabric in a society and gives rise to street crimes in order to get some cash to buy drugs from street market. A more horrible outcome is spread of HIV virus among addicted persons when they share the injection syringes. This threat is increasing with each passing day as number of HIV positive is increasing.
Another disastrous effect it brought to Pakistan and Afghanistan other neighbors is serious law and order situation in bordering area of each country with Afghanistan. Combating this evil trade is not possible until a holistic effort is made by international community in this regards but its chances are bleak as this trade is needed by global imperialism (Israel, U.S., UK) more than ever before to give some support to their dying economies.
Above: Pakistan has become main artery in heroin trafficking route and it has a lot of implication on Pakistani security. Level of drug addicted also increased over the year due to high availability of drugs in street market. Afghanistan is main producer but Pakistan us where most of drugs are seized.
Under current situation it is very important for countries like Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Russia to think about how to put jinni of drug back to the bottle before international drug mafia takes over these countries by destroying their social norms and values.
CIA not only has a long history of having links with traffickers but also encouraging the drug trade to get its own interests served. CIA always encourages this trade even if it affected its own citizens like in Contra movements of 1980.
Afghanistan became leader in opium production and main hub for providing heroin and its main ingredient to whole world. All this happened under the control of champion of human rights U.S. and its intelligence setup mainly CIA.
Situation is becoming more and bleaker unless Pakistan, China, Russia, Iran and Afghanistan governments start thinking about this trade and its far reaching affects on U.S. economy and CIA’s funding. It is time when the whole region should become equivocal against this trade and ask U.S. to leave the region for greater good of the billions of people in region.
Farzana Shah is a Pakistani researcher and journalist based in Peshawar. She can be reached at janashah_1ATyahoo.com