Tag Archive: USA


Multi-National Operation Nets $55.9 Million Heroin Seizure in Afghanistan
First-ever joint mission for DEA, Afghan, and Russian drug agents nets nearly one metric ton of drugs

OCT 29 — A multinational DEA operation led to the seizure of $55.9 million in heroin at four clandestine laboratories located in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. The nearly one metric ton of narcotics was seized as a result of a large-scale joint narcotics enforcement operation by DEA, Afghan, and Russian anti-drug agents in Afghanistan.

Members of the U.S. military’s 101st Airborne Division, along with ISAF, took part in “Operation Tar Pit.”

Acting on DEA intelligence, the multinational task force was able to identify a major clandestine heroin laboratory in the Zerasari Village of the Achin District. Upon arrival at the site, agents discovered three additional labs hidden by vegetation. Evidence collected confirmed that all of the labs were actively producing heroin and morphine.

“Thanks to the close cooperation among DEA, Afghan, and Russian anti-drug personnel as well as U.S. Military and ISAF in Afghanistan, one metric ton of heroin was seized from four clandestine laboratories along with various precursor chemicals. Operation Tar Pit was a significant enforcement success due to the fearsome force multiplier arrayed against the narco-traffickers and insurgents,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “This nearly $60 million worth of heroin seized in Afghanistan will never find its way to vulnerable communities around the world.”

In addition to 932 kilograms of heroin and 156 kilograms of opium seized, the following precursor chemicals and materials were also confiscated: 10 liters of acetic anhydride, 15 kilograms of ammonium chloride, 10 kilograms of soda ash, 40 kilograms of charcoal, two mechanical heroin presses, three metal industrial cooking vats, and 500 feet of plastic irrigation equipment.‪

An investigation into the drug trafficking organization responsible for operating the clandestine heroin labs is ongoing.

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SUPREME COURT RULING A DRUG MONEY BARONS DREAM

By Gordon Duff STAFF WRITER/Senior Editor

Republicans and “Tea Party” candidates are expecting to take over congress in a very few days, a “big win” totally underwritten with drug money.  There is no secret about it.

By June, $200 million in “foreign” contributions had already come into the GOP and Tea Party and not one cent of it is accounted for.  It is “corporate” money, money that doesn’t have to be American, doesn’t have to be legal, money that would put any normal American in prison for years if they had one cent in their pockets.

The $200 million is laundered drug money, much from Afghanistan but much also from Mexico, those drug money cartels that are buying America’s Southwest, the same cartels that did so well during the Bush years when the border with Mexico was open and totally unwatched.

You didn’t know that?

Those photographs showing backpacks and trash, abandoned by drug money “mules” and other illegals, the massive flow across the border, you didn’t know those photos were taken between 2001 and 2008?  You didn’t know that, in 8 very long years, the 8 years of the “W” Bush presidency, the number of illegal aliens in the United States doubled?

Now you wonder why the Mexican drug cartels are sending millions into America, all legal and proper “corporate” contributions, nice and clean, laundered just the way the Supreme Court wants it, drug money to keep their business growing, reopen the border, money to guarantee them favorable courts, friendly “law enforcement” and a return to “business as usual.”

The majority of the cash, however, originates from Afghanistan.  Not from the country itself, but from the $65 billion dollar a year heroin industry created from nothing after the US invasion of Iraq.  America joined with the drug money cartels of the Northern Alliance to remove the Taliban.  You remember the Taliban, the group that wanted too much of a percentage from the American oil companies who were planning a pipeline through Afghanistan, the same Taliban that eliminated opium production entirely?

Drug Money Made from American Fertilizer

Now the opium is being processed right there in Afghanistan, heroin made from opium grown with American fertilizer in fields protected by American soldiers, fields controlled by war lords working closely with the CIA and America’s military commanders in the region who make sure Russia, Europe and America have that needle in the arm and stay hooked for another generation.

Vietnam was a drug war as were the Reagan era phony wars in Central America.  You can’t turn on the TV without seeing it in a movie.  Movies aren’t always right but whenever you see Stephen Seagal or Chuck Norris stomp a drug money baron, we only wish they were doing it for real.

What is this election going to create?  Never in American history has foreign money been allowed this freely into the United States.  Japan, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Israel have typically spent the most and bought the most power.  Then came China.  They began buying politicians too, a million here, a hundred thousand there.

There is a lot of reasons to invest in a new congress.  If the war in Afghanistan ends, drugs won’t move freely.  If torture and rendition end, those planes that fly prisoners around won’t be able to carry the tons of heroin around the world too.  Isn’t part of the plan to make heroin so cheap that millions of Russians will be addicted?  Isn’t this part of the secret CIA plan also?

Drug Money War Being Taken Over By Terrorists

Isn’t all that drug money keeping Afghanistan from being taken over by terrorists?  This is what Ambassador Richard Holbrooke keeps telling us, keep the drugs flowing and America will be safe, safe except for that addict who just kicked down your door.

Over $1.2 billion will be spent on the upcoming election, over a billion to fund the jobs of 200 legislators whose income wouldn’t cover two days interest on that money.  Can you smell that smell, that rotten “government” smell?  Money used to come from big oil, crooked banks, pharma and nutty billionaires with names like Buffett and Scaife or perhaps DeVos.

Now the money is from drug cartels, mercenary armies and huge drug money laundering banks, brought in by the carload, open and free, no laws can control it.  All that is needed is a corporation, and that can be done in some states for 15 bucks.  Corporations can take foreign assets, send them to the United States, assets from any source, legal or illegal, and transfer those assets to a political party.

This year 90% of the drug money is going to the Republicans.  I wonder what is is buying?  I suspect Americans will eventually find out.

Die USA befinden sich nicht nur im Irak und in Afghanistan im Krieg. Sie sind auch in den Drogenkampf in Mexiko involviert – einen Konflikt direkt vor ihrer Haustür, der buchstäblich mit ihren eigenen Waffen ausgetragen wird: 90 Prozent der Gewehre und Granaten stammen aus den USA.

Von Ralph Sina, WDR-Hörfunkstudio Washington

Drogenkrieg in Ciudad Juarez (Foto: AP) Großansicht des Bildes

[Bildunterschrift: Eine Szene wie aus einem Kriegsgebiet: Patrouille vor einer Bar in Ciudad Juarez. ]
Er ist in den US-Nachrichtensendungen ständig präsent: der Krieg der mexikanischen Drogenbanden, nur wenige Meilen entfernt von der Grenze zu den Bundesstaaten Kalifornien, Arizona, Texas und New Mexiko. Immer mehr US-Bürger ahnen: Ihr Land ist nicht nur in die Kriege im Irak und in Afghanistan verwickelt, sondern in einen noch viel blutigeren Konflikt direkt vor ihrer Haustür, ausgefochten mit regelrechten Kriegswaffen.

Großteil der Waffen stammt aus US-Produktion

Waffen (Foto: dpa) Großansicht des Bildes

[Bildunterschrift: 90 Prozent der im Drogenkrieg eingesetzten Waffen stammen aus den USA. ]
90 Prozent dieser Waffen – darunter Maschinengewehre, Granaten und ferngezündete Bomben – stammen aus US-amerikanischer Produktion und wurden von Mittelsmännern der Drogenbanden auf dem Territorium der USA gekauft. Für die 7000 staatlich lizensierten US-Waffenläden entlang der amerikanisch-mexikanischen Grenze ist der eskalierende Krieg ein höchst profitables Geschäft. Wie der US-Fernsehsender NBC berichtet, versorgen diese Waffenläden Mexikos Mörderbanden buchstäblich mit allem – einschließlich schwerer Maschinengewehre, für die es ja dank einer Entscheidung des US-Kongresses und der ehemaligen Bush-Administration kein Verkaufsverbot mehr gibt.

28.000 Tote in dreieinhalb Jahren

„Ich denke, das ist ein Fehler“, gibt US-Außenministerin Hillary Clinton zu, als sie nach den US-Waffenlieferungen an Mexikos Drogen dealende Massenmörder gefragt wird. 28.000 Menschen starben in den letzten dreieinhalb Jahren im Kugelhagel rivalisierender mexikanischer Banden, darunter auch mehrere US-Bürger. Die Obama-Regierung fürchtet, der mexikanische Nachbar könne schon bald ein ‚failed state‘ werden, ein anarchisches Gebilde mit unkalkulierbaren Folgen für die direkt angrenzenden US-Bundesstaaten. Doch die Waffenlobby der USA sorgt dafür, dass der Verkauf von Kriegsgerät an Privatpersonen weiterhin möglich ist – und damit auch der Export an Mexikos Drogenmilizen.

Die versprochene Hilfe lässt auf sich warten

Dennoch behauptet US-Präsident Barack Obama, die mexikanische Regierung könne bei ihrem Kampf gegen die Drogenmafia auf die volle Unterstützung des nördlichen Nachbarn zählen. Fast alle Güterzüge Richtung Süden würden zum Beispiel von US-Sicherheitsbehörden genau überprüft. Als Partner gebe man der mexikanischen Regierung eben, was sie zum Erfolg im Drogenkrieg brauche.

Drogenkrieg in Ciudad Juarez (Foto: AP) Großansicht des Bildes
[Bildunterschrift: Ein vermummter Polizeibeamter vor einem Hotel in Ciudad Juarez.]
Drogenkrieg in Ciudad Juarez (Foto: AP) Großansicht des Bildes
[Bildunterschrift: Soldaten überwachen die Vernichtung von Drogen im Feuer.]

Doch das sind nur schöne präsidiale Worte. Die 1,3 Milliarden Dollar, die der US-Kongress bereits 2008 zur Bekämpfung des Drogenschmuggels bewilligt hatte, liegen immer noch auf US-Staatskonten. Verzweifelt warten die mexikanischen Drogenbekämpfer auf die von den USA seit Langem versprochenen Helikopter, Überwachungsflugzeuge und Drohnen. Man werde den mexikanischen Behörden bei der Bekämpfung der Geldwäsche durch Drogendealer helfen, versprachen die USA.

Waffen für Drogen

Doch bisher ist kaum etwas geschehen – obwohl mexikanische Drogenkartelle mittlerweile auch in den USA zu den größten kriminellen Vereinigungen zählen, so der Fernsehsender NBC. Kein Wunder: Die USA sind nicht nur der Hauptlieferant der Waffen, sondern auch der Hauptabnehmer der Drogen.

Man werde jetzt neue Programme zur Bekämpfung der Drogennachfrage in den USA umsetzen, verspricht Obama. Doch das dürfte eher eine stumpfe Waffe im Kampf gegen Mexikos Drogenbarone bleiben. Die morden in letzter Zeit gerne mit ferngezündeten Autobomben, wie jüngst im mexikanischen Bundesstaat Tamaulipas – ganz nach dem Vorbild von Al Kaida.

With at least 25,000 people slaughtered in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón hurled the Mexican Army into the anti-cartel battle, three questions remain unanswered: Who is being killed, who is doing the killing and why are people being killed? This is apparently considered a small matter to US leaders in the discussions about failed states, narco-states and the false claim that violence is spilling across the border.

President Calderón has stated repeatedly that 90 percent of the dead are connected to drug organizations. The United States has silently endorsed this statement and is bankrolling it with $1.4 billion through Plan Mérida, the three-year assistance plan passed by the Bush administration in 2008. Yet the daily torrent of local press accounts from Ciudad Juárez makes it clear that most of the murder victims are ordinary Mexicans who magically morph into drug cartel members before their blood dries on the streets, sidewalks, vacant lots, pool halls and barrooms where they fall dead, riddled with bullets. Juárez is ground zero in this war: more than one-fourth of the 25,000 dead that the Mexican government admits to since December 2006 have occurred in this one border city of slightly over 1.5 million people, nearly 6,300 as of July 21, 2010. When three people attached to the US Consulate in Ciudad Juárez were killed in March this year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the murders „the latest horrible reminder of how much work we have to do together.“

Just what is this work?
No one seems to know, but on the ground it is death. Calderón’s war, assisted by the United States, terrorizes the Mexican people, generates thousands of documented human rights abuses by the police and Mexican Army and inspires lies told by American politicians that violence is spilling across the border (in fact, it has been declining on the US side of the border for years).

We are told of a War on Drugs that has no observable effect on drug distribution, price or sales in the United States. We are told the Mexican Army is incorruptible, when the Mexican government’s own human rights office has collected thousands of complaints that the army robs, kidnaps, steals, tortures, rapes and kills innocent citizens. We are told repeatedly that it is a war between cartels or that it is a war by the Mexican government against cartels, yet no evidence is presented to back up these claims. The evidence we do have is that the killings are not investigated, that the military suffers almost no casualties and that thousands of Mexicans have filed affidavits claiming abuse, often lethal, by the Mexican army.

Here is the US policy in a nutshell: we pay Mexicans to kill Mexicans, and this slaughter has no effect on drug shipments or prices.

This war gets personal. A friend calls late at night from Juárez and says if he is murdered before morning, be sure to tell his wife. It never occurs to him to call the police, nor does it occur to you.

A friend who is a Mexican reporter flees to the United States because the Mexican Army has come to his house and plans to kill him for writing a news story that displeases the generals. He is promptly thrown into prison by the Department of Homeland Security because he is considered a menace to American society.

On the Mexican side, a mother, stepfather and pregnant daughter are chased down on a highway in the Valle de Juárez, and shot in their car, while two toddlers watch. On the US side, a man receives a phone call and his father tells him, „I’m dying, I’m dying, I’m dead.“ He hears his sister pleading for her life, „Don’t kill me. No don’t kill me.“ He thinks his niece and nephew are dead also, but they are taken to a hospital, sprayed with shattered glass. The little boy watched his mother die, her head blown apart by the bullets. A cousin waits in a parking lot surrounded by chainlink and razor-wire on the US side of the bridge for the bodies to be delivered so that he can bring them home. The next day, the family takes to the parking lots of two fast-food outlets in their hometown of Las Cruces, New Mexico, for a carwash. Young girls in pink shorts and T-shirts wave hand-lettered signs. They will wash your car and accept donations to help bury their parents and sister, to buy clothes for two small orphans. „This was just a family,“ says cousin Cristina, collecting donations in a zippered bag. She says they are in shock, the full impact of what happened has yet to sink in. So for now, they will raise the money they need to take care of the children. An American family.

Or, you visit the room where nine people were shot to death in August 2008 as they raised their arms to praise God during a prayer meeting. Forty hours later, flies buzz over what lingers in cracks in the tile floor and bloody handprints mark the wall. This was the scene of the first of several mass killings at drug rehab centers where at least fifty people have been massacred over the past two years in Juárez and Chihuahua City. An evangelical preacher who survived the slaughter that night said she saw a truckload of soldiers parked at the end of the street a hundred yards from the building and that the automatic rifle fire went on for fifteen minutes.
Or you talk with a former member of the Juárez cartel who is shocked to learn of a new cabinet appointment by President Calderón because he says he used to deliver suitcases of money to the man as payment from the Juárez cartel.

The claim that ninety percent of the dead are criminals seems at best to be self-delusion. In June 2010, El Universal, a major daily in Mexico City, noted that the federal government had investigated only 5 percent of the first 22,000 executions, according to confidential material turned over to the Mexican Senate by the Mexican Attorney General. What constituted an investigation was not explained

On June 21, Cronica, another Mexico City paper, presented a National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) study that examined more than 5,000 complaints filed by Mexican citizens against the army. Besides incidents of rape, murder, torture, kidnapping and robbery, the report described scenes like the following: „June 1, 2007, in the community of La Joya de los Martinez, Sinaloa de Leyva: Members of the Army were camped at the edge of the highway, drinking alcoholic beverages. Two of them were inebriated and probably under the influence of some drug. They opened fire against a truck that drove along the road carrying eight members of the Esparza Galaviz family. One adult and two minors died…The soldiers arranged sacks of decomposing marijuana on the vehicle that had been attacked and killed one of their own soldiers, whose body was arranged at the crime scene to indicate that the civilian drivers had been the aggressors and had killed the soldier.“

The CNDH also names the army as responsible for the shooting deaths of Martin and Brayan Almanza Salazar, aged 9 and 5, on April 3, 2010, as they traveled to the beach in Matamoros with their family. The only thing noteworthy about these cases is that they ever became public knowledge. Many more victims and survivors remain silent—afraid to report what has happened to them to any Mexican official or news reporter.

Such incidents pass unnoticed in the US press and apparently do not capture the attention of our government. Nor does the fact that in the midst of what is repeatedly called a war against drug cartels by both the American and Mexican governments and press, Mexican soldiers seem immune to bullets. With over 8,000 Mexicans killed in 2009 alone, the army reported losses of thirty-five that year. According to Reporters Without Borders, a total of sixty-seven journalists have been killed in Mexico since 2000, while eleven others have gone missing since 2003. Mexico is now one of the most dangerous places in the world to be reporter. And possibly the safest place in the world to be a soldier.

When there is a noteworthy massacre, the Mexican government says it proves the drug industry is crumbling. When there is a period of relative peace, the Mexican government says it shows their policy is winning. On the night of July 15, a remote-controlled car bomb exploded in downtown Juárez, killing at least three people—a federal policeman, a kidnap victim dressed in a police uniform and used as a decoy and a physician who rushed to the scene from his private office to help dozens of people injured in the blast. A graffiti message attributed the blast to the Juárez cartel and claimed it as a warning to police who work for the Sinaloa cartel.
On July 20, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, minimized the Juárez bombing, saying that it was not aimed indiscriminately at civilians and that it did not indicate any escalation in violence. He parroted the declaration of Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chávez that the motivation for the bombing is economic, not ideological, and that „we have no evidence in the country of narco-terrorism.“ US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual also indicated that this violence in Mexico, which also included a grenade attack on the US Consulate in Nuevo Laredo a few months ago, “is disturbing but has not reached the level of terrorism.” We are supposed to believe in their evidence that 90 percent of the dead are criminals, but that they have no evidence at all of narco-terrorism? This, despite numerous incidents of grenades and other explosives being used in recent attacks in the states of Michoacan, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Sonora and many other places in Mexico. And that “armed commandos” dressed like soldiers and wielding high-powered machine guns are witnessed at the scenes of hundreds of massacres documented since 2008.

No one asks or answers this question: How does such an escalation benefit the drug smuggling business which has not been diminished at all during the past three years of hyper-violence in Mexico? Each year, the death toll rises, each year there is no evidence of any disruption in the delivery of drugs to American consumers, each year the United States asserts its renewed support for this war. And each year, the basic claims about the war go unquestioned.

Let us make this simple: no one knows how many are dying, no one knows who is killing them and no one knows what role the drug industry has in these killings. There has been no investigation of the dead and so no one really knows whether they were criminals or why they died. There have been no interviews with heads of drug organizations and so no one really knows what they are thinking or what they are trying to accomplish.
It is difficult to have a useful discussion without facts, but it seems to be very easy to make policy without facts. We can look forward to fewer facts and more unquestioned and unsubstantiated government claims.

Such as the response by General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, commander of the Joint Operation Chihuahua, to a 2008 report by El Diario de Juárez that one out of three Juárez citizens believed the army occupation of the city had accomplished little or nothing. „Those who feel this way, it is because their interests are affected or because they are paid by the narco-traffickers,“ he said. „Who are these citizens?“

General Jorge Juárez Loera, the first commander of the Joint Operation Chihuahua, put it this way: „I would like to see reporters change their articles and instead of writing about one more murder victim, they should say, ‚one less criminal.‘ “

source: http://www.thenation.com/article/379…exico?page=0,0

For more than 20 years, local heroin addicts have relied on a collection of needle exchanges for clean works. But in recent months, crack users too have quietly found an outlet in the city.

In a nondescript alley in the University District, users can pick up clean crack pipes, pipe filters and ascorbic acid for injecting crack. Heroin users can also pick up a drug that reverses a heroin overdose — an apparent first for a city needle exchange.

„We take a different philosophy approach than most government institutions or public health departments. They have a budget, and have to pick and choose who they’re going to help,“ said Shilo Murphy, executive director of the non-profit People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, which runs the U-District needle exchange.

„We say this is our community, this is our neighborhood, and we should decide what we have at the table.“

The exchange, which celebrated 20 years in the neighborhood this week, has come a long way from its roots — when a man named Bob walked the Ave. and dispensed sterile needles from his backpack.
These days, the largely volunteer-driven exchange, which serves 400 to 600 people a month, is better known for branching ahead of its peers in the harm reduction world.

Public health officials know of no other local program that gives out crack kits or Naloxone, the heroin-overdose reversal drug. But they see the potential benefits.

Just as sterile syringes reduce the spread of HIV and other diseases, new and unbroken glass pipes are believed to prevent lip cuts and the spread of hepatitis strains. Rubber tips and new filters ward off mouth burns. Ascorbic acid helps prevent users from using lemon juice to dissolve cocaine rocks into an injectable liquid — a common practice that can lead to fungal infections.

„Our program is primarily an HIV prevention program,“ said Michael Hanrahan, manager of education and prevention services of the HIV/STD program with Public Health — Seattle & King County. The agency, which runs four exchange programs, has watched the demand for clean needles surge from 1.8 million in 2006 to nearly 3.4 million last year.
Hanrahan said research has documented HIV transmission from dirty needles, but he wasn’t aware of rigorous studies showing disease spread via crack sores.

„But it’s certainly theoretically plausible,“ he said.
Last year, the Legislature passed a law allowing lay people to legally administer Naloxone, which counters the effects of an opioid overdose. Hanrahan said Public Health is interested in giving the drug to users, but because it is a prescription drug, the agency first needs to work on protocols with the state Board of Pharmacy.

At the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance – partially comprised of former users who run a table at Northeast 43rd Street and University Avenue Northeast – there is less need to follow protocols and studies.
The program began giving out crack kits a few months ago, after staffers felt the need to support crack users, who still make up a major local drug trend, according to a recent University of Washington study.
And the exchange began giving out Naloxone soon after the new law took effect in June.

Murphy estimated his program gives out two million needles a year and 10 pipes a day. This month, it handed out 25 vials of Naloxone.
„We don’t have clients, we just have community members. I make it clear to everyone that everyone is family here,“ Murphy said.
„We believe all drug users should have the right to not get diseases and have the ability to prevent diseases.“

Friday, August 6, 2010
By VANESSA HO
SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF

source: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/42462…ml?source=mypi

Will the current crisis in Kyrgyzstan lead to greater instability, and perhaps an expansion of the current conflict in Central Asia? There are good reasons to be concerned. Deep forces, not adequately understood, are at work there; and these forces have repeatedly led to major warfare in the past.

The pattern of events unfolding in Kyrgyzstan is ominously reminiscent of how America became involved in Laos in the 1960s, and later in Afghanistan in the 1980s. American covert involvement in those countries soon led to civil wars producing numerous casualties and refugees. It will take strenuous leadership from both Obama in Washington and Medvedev in Moscow to prevent a third major conflict from breaking out in Kyrgyzstan.

I call the pattern I refer to “a Laotian syndrome” of coups, drugs, and terror, since it was first clearly illustrated by American interventions in Laos in the late 1950s and 1960s. The syndrome involves a number of independent but interactive elements whose interconnection in the past has not generally been recognized. What it reflects is not a single agenda, but a predictable symbiosis of divergent groups, responding to the powerful forces that the drug traffic creates. In this syndrome, something like the following pattern emerges.

„1) Covert U.S. activity results in the ousting of a moderate government, and its replacement by a more corrupt and unpopular one, unsupported by the culture of the country on which it is imposed.

2) A successor regime, to maintain its uncertain grip on power, intensifies its control over the local drug traffic.

3) This control involves collaboration with local drug mafias, leading to their expansion.

4) The flow of drugs from the country (or through, in the case of Kyrgyzstan) increases significantly.

5) Eventually, in the context of weakened legitimacy and strengthened illegitimacy, a successor government is ousted.

6) What ensues is a violent civil war.

7) The final outcome is a government not to America’s liking.“

The pattern does not repeat itself identically. In Laos, CIA intrigue and money in 1959 produced an unpopular pro-American regime under right-wing general Phoumi Nosavan, which lasted eighteen months.1 Similar CIA intrigues in Afghanistan two decades later completely backfired, and produced instead an equally unpopular anti-American regime under Nur Mohammed Taraki, which lasted sixteen months.2

But the root problem was the same: the CIA’s gratuitous destabilization of an inoffensive country encouraged local intrigues and paranoia, and soon produced an unstable and divisive government without a popular base. Eventually a resulting weakened government (the next in Laos, a little later in Afghanistan) favored both drug and terrorist activity in its territory, as predictably as a pine forest weakened by drought will invite an infestation of beetles.

The longer-term result was a country where civil politics had been replaced by civil war. In the case of Laos and Afghanistan U.S. covert activity, waged as part of the Cold War, produced Soviet military and intelligence responses. (It may, in the case of Afghanistan, have been designed to produce such responses.) Former Carter advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who authorized the CIA’s covert Afghan operations of 1978-79, later boasted to a French newspaper:

„The secret operation was an excellent idea. It drew the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: ‘We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.’”…

When asked whether Islamic fundamentalism represented a world menace, Brzezinski replied, “Nonsense!”3″

The last decade of Kyrgyz history suggests that U.S. and Russian covert operators have continued to tussle in the “great game” of dominating the Central Asian heartland. And once again, while the leaders of both countries to evolve common policies for Kyrgyzstan, there may be bureaucrats below them who harbor more belligerent intentions.

To the general public, it would seem obvious that none of these developments have been in the interests of either America or the world. Yet American agencies have still not learned from the obvious fiasco of their Laotian venture, which resulted in a huge increase in opium production, before this peaceful Buddhist nation ceased (thanks to American efforts) to be neutralist, and instead became nominally Communist.

America’s destabilization of remote Laos, a neutral and harmless nation, was in accordance with the ideological doctrine being peddled in a book by three policy hawks at the time: A Forward Strategy for America, by Robert Strausz-Hupé. William R. Kintner and Stefan T. Possony. The book rejected coexistence as a foreign policy, and argued for “a strategy of active pressures directed against the communist bloc,” wherever it was seen to be vulnerable.

The American sponsored “Tulip Revolution” in Kyrgyzstan (March 2005) is a conspicuous product of the forward strategy doctrine. This is no accident: it came at a time when George W. Bush repeatedly spoke of a “forward strategy of freedom,” or a “forward strategy for freedom.”4 But by the 21st century the forward strategy in countries with drug economies had a track record, which its advocates in Washington might well have reviewed before advocating an intervention so close to both Russia and China.

In 1959 the CIA attempted to impose a right-wing government in Laos: after a decade and a half of expanding drug trafficking and a futile, bloody, drug-financed war, Laos became (at least nominally) a communist nation. Undeterred by the dismal outcome in Laos, in 1978-79 Zbigniew Brzezinski, Robert Gates, and the CIA mobilized right-wing elements again in Afghanistan, another nation contiguous to the then Soviet Union.5 The immediate result was the same as Laos: the replacement of a neutralist regime by a radical and polarizing one (in this case communist), followed by another radical increase in drug trafficking, and another decade of bloody and unsuccessful war.

What were the forward strategists hoping for in Kyrgyzstan? In April of this year the unpopular regimeinstalled by the 2005 Tulip Revolution was itself replaced. Although it is too early to predict the outcome of these dislocations, thousands of lives have been lost in the ethnic violence of June 2010, and drug traffickers are apparently profiting from the near anarchy to consolidate their hold on southern Kyrgyzstan. That is just what happened to Laos in 1959; it is what Jimmy Carter’s drug advisor David Musto warned would happen in Afghanistan in 1980.6 Did someone want it to happen again?

All in all, the coup-drug-terror syndrome in Kyrgyzstan well illustrates the Marxist dictum that history repeats itself, first as tragedy (Afghanistan in 1978-80), and the second time as farce.

The Coup-Drug-Terror Syndrome in Kyrgyzstan

After the break-up of the former Soviet Union in 1991, Kyrgyzstan, under the leadership of Askar Akayev, was relatively the most moderate and open government among the six post-Soviet “stans” of Central Asia. Alone among the successor strong men, Akayev was not a long-time Communist Party apparatchik, but an intellectual who read Heine, a physicist, “a researcher in St Petersburg and an associate of legendary Russian physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov.”7

It is true that Akayev’s initial efforts to make Kyrgyzstan an open and pluralistic democracy did not last long: an on-going economic crisis made his regime increasingly unpopular.8 Meanwhile he soon came under pressure from neighboring Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, and China to crack down on the dissidents who were using Kyrgyzstan as a base for mobilizing against their home countries.9 Eventually the country’s economic problems led to popular protests and their brutal suppression.

But in international policy Akayev managed at first to maintain good relations with both the U.S. and Russia. In December 2001, following 9/11, he granted America a vital base at Manas, for support of its war effort in land-locked Afghanistan. Almost immediately, the Pentagon awarded the Akayev family payoffs on fuel supplies to Manas, via two Gibraltar-based companies (named Red Star and Mina) set up by a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel.10 American dollars proceeded to accelerate government corruption, just as they had earlier in Laos and Afghanistan.

hen in October 2003 Akayev allowed Putin to reopen an old Soviet base in Kant, as what was described as “a deterrent to international terrorism” in nearby Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.11 This move was not well received.

„Though [Kant was] less than a quarter of the size of Manas, Akayev’s decision landed him on America’s “watch list” and increased aid flowed to the Kyrgyz opposition via American NGOs. In 2004 Washington in assisting the democratic process directed $12 million, an amount six times the ‘formal” rent for Manas, into Kyrgyzstan in the form of scholarships and donations, while the State Department even funded TV station equipment in the restive southern provincial town of Osh. George Soros through his various foundations also helped fund the opposition, while Freedom House operated a printing press in Bishkek.12“

The So-Called Tulip Revolution of 2005

For the reasons cited above, Akayevlost acceptance in Washington, just like the neutralist Prince Souvanna Phouma in Laos in the 1950s, or Mohammed Daud in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Akayev was overthrown in the so-called “Tulip Revolution” of March 2005, by far the bloodiest and least democratic of all the so-called “color revolutions” that had already changed governments in Serbia (2002), Georgia (2003), and the Ukraine (2004). Those regime changes had been essentially nonviolent. In the Tulip Revolution, however, the London Independent reported on March 26, 2005 that, “According to hospital officials, two people had been killed and 360 wounded in the violence, and 173 were still in hospital.”13

In truth the so-called Tulip Revolution was no revolution in the true sense at all, but a palace coup, replacing the northern Kyrgyz coterie behind Akayev with a new southern coterie behind his replacement, Kurmanbek Bakiyev.Craig Smith in the New York Times acknowledged as much even before the coup was over:

„A malaise is settling over this country as the uprising a week ago begins to look less like a democratically inspired revolution and more like a garden-variety coup, with a handful of seasoned politicians vying for the spoils of the ousted government.

”Let’s not pretend that what happened here was democratic,” said Edil Baisalov, one of the country’s best-known democracy advocates, speaking to clearly disheartened students beneath huge Soviet-era portraits of Lenin, Marx and Engels in the auditorium of what has been the American University since 1997.

Mr. Baisalov bemoaned what he said Kyrgyzstan lost out on when the presidential palace was stormed and President Askar Akayev fled: the kind of cathartic national experience that he witnessed in Ukraine as its Orange Revolution unfolded. That was a slow-building, well-organized event that took two months to reach a successful conclusion.

”What Ukraine went through was very important to their democratic development,” he said. ”We didn’t have that great emotional experience of civic education.”14

As a symptom that the deep politics of Kyrgyzstan were unchanged, the U.S. Manas supply contracts, which earlier benefited Akayev’s family, were promptly taken over by Bakiyev’s son Maksym.

Nevertheless Ariel Cohen claimed in the Washington Times that “the people of Kyrgyzstan have won their freedom;” and he attributed the changeover, with good reason, to President George W. Bush’s words spoken in his Inaugural Address and State of the Union speech.”15

President Bush himself gave an imprimatur to the changeover. Visiting Georgia in May 2005, he told Georgian President Saakashvili,

Georgia will become the main partner of the United States in spreading democracy and freedom in the post-Soviet space. This is our proposal. We will always be with you in protecting freedom and democracy….. You are making many important contributions to freedom’s cause, but your most important contribution is your example. Hopeful changes are taking places from Baghdad to Beirut and Bishkek [Kyrgyzstan].16

And indeed it was true that, as the right-wing Jamestown Foundation in Washington revealed, “three Georgian parliamentarians, once active engineers of Georgia’s Rose Revolution, had paid an unofficial visit to Kyrgyzstan to support the attempted ‘Tulip Revolution’ there.”17

But this was only one aspect of a U.S.-coordinated effort. According to Der Spiegel in April 2005,

As early as February, Roza Otunbayeva [one of Bakiyev’s co-conspirators in 2005] pledged allegiance to a small group of partners and sponsors of the Kyrgyz revolution, to ‘our American friends’ at Freedom House (who donated a printing press in Bishkek to the opposition), and to George Soros, a speculator who previously helped unseat Edward Shevardnadze’s government in Georgia. Trying to help the democratic process, the Americans poured some $12 million into Kyrgyzstan in the form of scholarships and donations.18

The Post-Tulip Bakiyev Government – and Drugs

There seems little doubt that although the Akayev government had been corrupt, corruption only increased under the new post-Tulip Bakiyev regime. In the words of Columbia University Professor Alexander Cooley, the Bakiyev family “ran the country like a criminal syndicate.”19
More specifically, the Bakiyev family, according to Peter Leonard of Associated Press, took complete control of the drug traffic transiting the country.

Authorities and analysts have little doubt that Bakiyev and his relatives are at the heart of the drug trade.

“The whole Bakiyev family is involved in drug trafficking,” said Alexander Knyazev, a respected independent political analyst in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital.

“After Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to power, all drug lords were killed, and (his elder brother) Zhanybek Bakiyev consolidated most of the drug trafficking in his hands.”

Acting deputy prime minister and general prosecutor Azimbek Beknazarov also endorses the view that Bakiyev and his family have interests in the drug trade, although no specific criminal probes have yet been initiated into those allegations.20

In October 2009 Bakiyev abolished the Kyrgyz Drug Control Agency, leading the Jamestown Foundation to speculate that Bakiyev was “centralizing illegal control over the drug economy, [and was] disinterested in international initiatives to control narcotics.” It added that

Overall, roughly five identifiable criminal groups control drug transit through Kyrgyzstan. Although they are known to the security structures, these groups have ties to the government, or at times represent government and therefore are free to carry out their activities with impunity.21

In May 2010 former Kyrgyz Deputy Security Council Secretary Alik Orozov told a Bishkek newspaper that the Drug Control Agency had been closed by Janysh Bakiyev, who wished to take full control over drug trafficking. The charge was endorsed by the former deputy head of the former Drug Control Agency, Vitaliy Orozaliyev, who added that

problems started to emerge at the level of the US Department of State. All initiatives to extend the financing of the Drug Control Agency were axed exactly there. All previous US ambassadors were regular guests of the Drug Control Agency. However, with the arrival of [US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan] Tatiana Gfoeller [in 2008], all contacts were cut as if they were cut with a knife. She demonstrated full indifference to the agency, she fully distanced herself from this project and she did not accept our invitations. She even did not want to give accommodation to our US colleagues [in the DEA] – who wanted to set up something like a bureau of their own in Bishkek – in the territory of the US embassy. What caused such a sharp turn in US diplomacy to the problems of fighting drug-related crimes in Kyrgyzstan is only anyone’s guess.22

The Counter-Coup of April 2010

Bakiyev’s drug involvement does not appear to have aroused any protest in Washington. But in February of 2009 Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted 78-1 to close the U.S. air base at Manas, and in the same month Bakiyev announced in Moscow that he would close Manas and accept more than $2 billion in emergency assistance and investments from Russia. However,

the Kyrgyz government ended up double-crossing Moscow by accepting an initial $300 million payment before it renegotiated a higher rent with the United States for the renamed “Manas Transit Center.” As a result, relations between Moscow and Bishkek plummeted to an all-time low, while Bakiyev’s government gleefully cashed in the new checks provided by both Moscow mostly minority Uzbeks, say they were attacked by the Kyrgyz military and the police, and their accounts have been backed up by independent observers.23

But Bakiyev’s glee was short-lived. His political opponents, aware of and appalled by his mercenary manipulations, united in April 2010 in a successful, Russian-supported effort to overthrow him. According to the Christian Science Monitor

,

Many believe the coup in Kyrgyzstan was staged by the Russians, who were quietly unhappy with the previous leader. The Kremlin considered Mr. Bakiyev not loyal enough, as he appeared reluctant to close America’s Manas air base, which plays a critical role in resupplying US troops in nearby Afghanistan.24

Russia’s displeasure with Bakiyev was also spelled out by a writer for the PNAC-linked (Project for the New American Century) Jamestown Foundation:

Medvedev was uncompromising in asserting Russian domination of the post-Soviet space. He insisted that the government of the Kyrgyz President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was overthrown in a bloody revolution last week that left over 80 dead and some 1,500 wounded, due to Bakiyev’s inconsistency in opposing the US military presence in Central Asia. According to Medvedev, Bakiyev first ordered the US and its allies to leave the airbase, Manas, near the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek. Then he allowed the Americans to continue to use Manas to transfer personnel and supplies into Afghanistan, renaming the airbase into “a transit center” and increasing payments for the lease. Now, Medvedev joked, all may see the results of “such a consistent policy” (www.kremlin.ru, April 14).

The message sent to the Washington elite is obvious: keep out of Moscow’s sphere of influence. Medvedev insisted the US “must not teach Russia how to live” (RIA Novosti, April 14).25

Deep Forces and the Kyrgyz crisis of June 2010

It is too early to speak with confidence about who was responsible for the major ethnic violence of June 2010, with more bloodshed than in the previous episode of 1990. There seems no reason however to doubt the finding of UN observers that the fighting was not spontaneous, but “’orchestrated, targeted and well-planned’ — set off by organized groups of gunmen in ski masks.”26

Since the June events, the new Kyrgyz regime has charged that they were fomented by the Bakiyev family, in conjunction with at least one drug lord and representatives of the jihadi Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU):

The head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Security Service, Keneshbek Duishebaev, is claiming that relatives of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev conspired with Islamic militants to destabilize southern Kyrgyzstan.
According to Duishebaev, Maxim Bakiyev, the son of ousted president Bakiyev, met with representatives of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) in Dubai, while the former president’s brother Janysh brokered deals with Afghan Taliban and Tajik fighters. “The transfer of militants to the south of the republic was made on the eve of the June events from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province via Tajikistan’s Khorog and Murghab districts. Cooperation in transferring [the militants] was made by a former Tajik opposition commander and drug baron, whose contact was Janysh Bakiyev,” Duishebaev said.
Taliban, Tajik, IMU, and Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) fighters were offered $30 million in payment, he added….. Duishebaev warned that Islamic militants are seeking to exploit the unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan. “Recently, IMU leaders and warlords held a meeting in south Waziristan, Pakistan. The participants of the meeting concluded the current situation in Osh and Jalal-abad provinces are favorable for sparking destructive activities across the all over the region,” he said.27

The Times (London) reported these charges, and added:

The interim president, Roza Otunbayeva, said that “many instigators have been detained and they are giving evidence on Bakiyev’s involvement in the events”. Kyrgyzstan’s deputy security chief, Kubat Baibalov, claimed that a trained group of men from neighbouring Tajikistan had fired indiscriminately at Uzbeks and Kyrgyz last week from a car with darkened windows to provoke conflict.”28

According to many sources, the IMU is a network grouping ethnic Uzbeks from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and relying heavily on narcotics to finance its anti-government activities.29

However the new government’s charges against Bakiyev and the IMU may have been self-serving. It has become increasingly clear that the victims of the massacre were “mostly minority Uzbeks [who] say they were attacked by the Kyrgyz military and the police, and their accounts have been backed up by independent observers.”30 The Uzbek neighborhoods were left in ruins, while ethnic Kyrgyz areas were largely untouched.31 It may emerge that the violence grewout of a prior conflict in May involving local mafia leaders, in the wake of the April 2010 coup.32 This led in late May to riots that former President Bakiyev was suspected of organizing.33

The situation calls for an impartial international investigation. If the current conflict is not thoroughly resolved, it is likely that both Islamic extremists and local drug traffickers will be drawn into it.34

The Kyrgyz Crisis and TransnationalTerror-Drug Mafias

One cannot lightly dismiss the Kyrgyz government charge that the IMU had met in South Waziristan to plan violence in Central Asia. Even before the June riots, there had been a disturbing report that the IMU (and its Turkic split-off, the Islamic Jihad Union or IJU) had established control over parts of South Waziristan, and were planning and training for extended activities in Central Asia.35 Of particular concern was the following paragraph:

The News International recently reported that affluent settlers from the Uzbek and Tajik areas of Afghanistan had come to Waziristan and Tank and had established mini-states. The Uzbek- and Tajik-Afghans were growing in both numbers and wealth, posing a threat to local tribesmen, the story said.36

This raises the crucial question of the source of this jihadi wealth. Was it just from wealthy jihadi sympathizers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, as has been alleged of the IMU?37 Was it also a by-product of the heroin traffic, as others have surmised? Were external intelligence agencies exploiting the situation for their own political agendas? Or, most alarming of all, was it from a milieu fusing jihadi activity, the actions of intelligence networks, and the alarming heroin traffic?38 Whatever the answer, it is obvious that the current disturbances in Kyrgyzstan, and corresponding breakdown of weak central authority, are a boon to extremism and drug trafficking alike.

The last possibility, that there is a deep force behind drug, intelligence, and jihadi activity, would be consistent with the legacy of the CIA’s earlier interventions in Afghanistan, Laos, and Burma, and with America’s overall responsibility for the huge increases in global drug trafficking since World War II. It is important to understand that the more than doubling of Afghan opium drug production since the U.S. invasion of 2001 merely replicates the massive drug increases in Burma, Thailand, and Laos between the late 1940s and the 1970s. These countries also only became major sources of supply in the international drug traffic as a result of CIA assistance (after the French, in the case of Laos) to what would otherwise have been only local traffickers.

As early as 2001 Kyrgyzstan’s location had made it a focal point for transnational trafficking groups. According to a U.S. Library of Congress Report of 2002,

Kyrgyzstan has become a primary center of all aspects of the narcotics industry: manufacture, sale, and drug trafficking. Kyrgyzstan’s location adjacent to major routes across the Tajik mountains from Afghanistan combines with ineffectual domestic smuggling controls to attract figures from what a Kyrgyz newspaper report characterized as “an international organization uniting an unprecedentedly wide circle of members in the United States, Romania, Brazil, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan…These are no half-literate Tajik-Afghan drug runners, but professionals who have passed through a probation period in the mafia clans of the world narcotics system…”39

Others, notably Sibel Edmonds in the United States, have alleged that there is a network of drug-financed and intelligence-related terror activities stretching from Kyrgyzstan to Azerbaijan, Chechnya, and Turkey.40

It is because of this possible convergence of disparate elements on the Kyrgyz intelligence-terror-drug scene that I have described the topic of this paper as a syndrome, not as a single-minded scheme or stratagem. Some of the possible components in this syndrome are barely visible. In his monumental book Descent into Chaos, Ahmed Rashid refers to the existence of a “Gulf mafia,” to which the Taliban by 1998 was selling drugs directly.41 A search of Lexis-Nexis yields no results for “gulf mafia,” and there is no other hit in Google Books. Yet there is abundant evidence for such a mafia or mafias, even if little is known about it or them.42

Perhaps the most notorious example of such a drug mafia in the Persian Gulf is the D-Company of Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, one of the two men (the other is Mexico’s Joaquin Guzman) to be listed both on the Forbes’ Most Wanted Fugitives list and also on the Forbes list of billionaires. Dawood Ibrahim merits a special section in a recent Congressional Research Service report on the nexus between criminal syndicates and terrorist groups. Entitled “International Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Security Threats, U.S. Policy, and Considerations for Congress,” the report described Dawood’s involvement with al Qaeda, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).43 This detailed report did not mention the allegation by Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times, that Ibrahim had “worked with the U.S. to help finance the Afghan mujahideen during the 1980s, and that because he knows too much about the America’s ‘darker secrets’ in the region, Pakistan could never turn him over to India.’”44

The Congressional Research Service Report cites Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company as its prime example of what it calls a fusion crime-terror organization (its next example is the FARC in Colombia). It is possible that the leading Mexican cartels should also be regarded as fusion networks, since their practice of terroristic violence has become such an integral part of the political process in Mexico. We can perhaps predict that such fusion networks will continue to dominate both the heroin and the Cocaine traffics, because terrorism and trafficking are so useful to each other. Terrorism creates the kind of anarchy that favors drug production and trafficking, while drug trafficking provides the most convenient and local source of funds for terrorism. Add the demonstrated interest of ISI and other intelligence agencies in both activities, and you have the right environment to foster what I have called the coup-drug-terror syndrome.

In all there are many discrete components of the coup-drug-terror syndrome, beginning with the naïve American belief that imposing American political values on distant countries benefits all concerned, including the peace and security of the globe. The various elements do not have to collude together. But past experience suggests what are the likely outcomes of ill-considered policies that may have been meant to achieve something quite different.

Moscow, Washington, and the Kyrgyz Crisis

What is particularly alarming about this syndrome is that, both in Laos and in Afghanistan, the outcome was a decade of devastating and incompletely settled war. At present there are no signs that Moscow and Washington are willing to fight over Kyrgyzstan. Fortunately the new leader for the moment, Roza Otunbayeva, has good relations with both capitals, and they are promising her support.

Yet there are signs that in both capitals there is tension between the dominant policy and militant factions less willing to compromise. In Washington, for example, Michael McFaul, Obama’s senior director for Russian affairs, said of Bakiyev’s overthrow in April: “This is not some sponsored-by-the-Russians coup, there’s just no evidence of that.”45 As previously noted, there were many in Washington who disagreed, including the ideologically motivated Jamestown Foundation. Fred Weir has since described the April events in the Christian Science Monitor as “a Moscow-backed coup d’etat that was thinly disguised as a popular revolt.”46

In Moscow too there are signs that some desire a more militant approach to the Kyrgyz crisis than that advocated by President Medvedev. When Roza Otunbayeva appealed to Medvedev for Russian troops to help quell the spiraling ethnic crisis in Osh, Medvedev turned her down: “’”It is an internal conflict, and so far Russia doesn’t see conditions for participating in its resolution,’ Russian presidential press secretary Natalia Timakova said.”47 Medvedev’s caution reflected his underlying concern about the treacherous instability of Kyrgyzstan, and his concern not to involve in the conflict the ethnic Russians in Kyrgyzstan. (Russia did dispatch a paratrooper battalion to its base at Tank in the north of the country where most ethnic Russians reside.)48 As Medvedev warned Washington in April, “Kyrgyzstan risked splitting into North and South. If that happens, extremists might start flowing in, turning the country into a second Afghanistan.“49

The approach of Viktor Ivanov, a senior advisor to Putin, was more interventionist. He told a Russian newspaper on June 20 of this year that the Osh area was a major region of Islamist-controlled drug trafficking, and thus a Russian military base should be established there.50 Nevertheless, in Washington four days later, Medvedev repeated to Obama that, “I think that the Kyrgyz Republic must deal with these problems itself. Russia didn’t plan and is not going to send contingent of peacekeeping forces though consultations on this issue were held.”51 Later Nikolay Bordyuzha, Secretary-General of the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), asserted that “there was no decision made on setting up a Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan, particularly, near Osh.”52

Viktor Ivanov wears two hats: he is both a senior member of Russia’s National Antiterror Committee, and he also heads Russia’s Federal Service for the Control of Narcotics. For some time he has been in the forefront of those Russian officials expressing frustration at the American failure to limit Afghan drug production.53 He is far from alone in his concern about the virtual explosion of Afghan drugs reaching Russia since 2001, which many Russian observers have labeled “narco-aggression.”

As early as February 2002, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov raised the issue of “narco-aggression” with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, telling them that whereas Russian border guards seized only 2 kg of heroin in 1996 on the Afghan-Tajik border, and about 800 kg in 2000, in 2001 more than five metric tons of drugs were seized, and half of the drugs were heroin.54

According to Sergei Blagov, a reporter in Moscow for ISN Security Watch,

Russian officials have estimated that the country’s drug addiction rates have increased several fold since the US-led invasion and the offensive against the Taliban’s in 2002, which was followed by hikes in Afghan opium production. Russia is now the largest heroin consumer in the world, with an estimated 5 million addicts.

Facing what it perceives as western willingness to allow opium production to flourish in Afghanistan, Russia’s top officials have described the situation as “narco-aggression” against Russia and a new “opium war.” They also suggest that the international alliance undertake aerial spraying against Afghanistan’s poppy fields.

The Russian press has been even less diplomatic, claiming that US and NATO forces were directly involved in the drug trade. Russian media outlets allege that the bulk of the drugs produced in Afghanistan’s southern and western provinces are shipped abroad on US planes.

Not surprisingly, Russia regards with resentment NATO’s liberal approach toward the Afghan drug industry and the alliance’s reluctance to cooperate in fighting the drug trade. Continued NATO inaction on the drug issue could potentially undermine Russia’s security cooperation with the West on crucial matters such as strategic arms reduction and non-proliferation.55

Repeatedly Viktor Ivanov has appealed to America to eradicate poppy fields in Afghanistan as systematically as it has attacket Coca plantations in Colombia, and for the international community to join Russia in this appeal.56 On June 9, 2010, both he and President Medvedev addressed an International Forum on Afghan Drug Production (which I attended), in an effort to muster this international support.57 I myself share the American conclusion that spraying opium fields would be counterproductive, because it would fatally weaken efforts to woo Afghan farmers away from the Taliban. But I do think that the interests of peace and security in Central Asia would be well served if America brought Russia more closely into joint activities against the global drug trade.

And as a researcher, I believe that Russia has a legitimate grievance against America’s current Afghan strategy, which has left wide open a major drug corridor into Russia from the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan.

“Narco-Aggression” and America’s Skewed Opiate Strategy in Afghanistan

For this reason America should revise its skewed drug interdiction strategy in Afghanistan. At present this is explicitly limited to attacking drug traffickers supporting the insurgents, chiefly the Pashtun backers of the Taliban in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.58 Such strategies have the indirect effect of increasing the drug market share of the north and northeastern provinces.

These provinces support the past and present CIA assets in the Karzai regime (headed by Hamid Karzai, a former CIA asset),59 including the president’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, an active CIA asset, and Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former CIA asset.60 In effect America has allied itself with one drug faction in Afghanistan against another.61

This strategy has seen repeated attacks on the poppy fields and markets of the southern provinces. Meanwhile production in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, the home of the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, has continued, despite denials, to dominate the economy of that province.62

(The statistics for Badakhshan, the most inaccessible of the Afghan provinces, have been much contested. A UN map of Afghan poppy production for 2007-2008 showed Badakhshan as the provincewith the least opium cultivation: 200 hectares, as opposed to 103,590 for Helmand.63 But LonelyPlanet.com posted an article in 2009, claiming that “Badakhshan is second only to Helmand for opium production. Controlled by Northern Alliance, opium is the backbone of the local economy.“64 And a detailed article in 2010 reported,

The biggest economic asset of the province, the one business most of the would-be Badakhshan VIPs find necessary and profitable to enter into sooner or later, is in fact cross-border smuggling. Actually, some sources claim that the local control of routes and border crossings in Badakhshan corresponds to the map of political power grouping in the province. Even if Badakhshan has lost its former status as one of the principal opium producing regions in Afghanistan, the local expertise and trade links have been maintained. Many laboratories for heroin processing are active in the province…65

Meanwhile there have also been occasional reports over the last decade of IMU terrorist movements from South Waziristan through both Afghan and Tajik Badakhshan.

The Badakhshan drug corridor is a matter of urgent concern for Russia. The Afghan opiates entering Russia via Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the chief smuggling route, come from Badakhshan and other northeastern provinces. The reductions of the last three years in Afghan drug production, while inadequate overall, have minimally impacted the northeast, allowing opiate imports into Russia to continue to grow. Meanwhile the much-touted clearing of opium poppy from the Afghan northern provinces has in some cases simply seen a switch “from opium poppies to another illegal crop: cannabis, the herb from which Marihuana and hashish are derived.”66

As a result, according to U.N. officials, Afghanistan is now also the world’s biggest producer of hashish (another drug inundating Russia).67 This has added to the flow of drugs up the Badakhshan-Tajik-Kyrgyz corridor. In short, the political skewing of America’s Afghan anti-drug policies is a significant reason for the major drug problems faced by Russia today.

What are the reasons for America’s relative inactivity against Badakhshan drug flows? Some observers, not only Russian, have wondered if there is a larger strategy directed against Russia itself. An article in India’s major journal The Hindu, entitled “Russia: victim of narco-aggression,”included the following suggestive reference by John MacDougall, writing for Agence France-Presse:

In 1993, Russian border guards returned to Tajikistan in an effort to contain the flow of drugs from opium-producing Afghanistan. In 2002 alone they intercepted 6.7 tonnes of drugs, half of them heroin. However, in 2005 Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon, hoping to win financial aid from the U.S., asked the Russian border guards to leave, saying Tajikistan had recovered enough from a five-year civil war (from 1992-97) to shoulder the task. Within months of the Russian withdrawal, cross-border drug trafficking increased manifold.68

And we have already noted the Kyrgyz charge that in 2009 the U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Tatiana Gfoeller, “demonstrated full indifference” as Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s brother Janysh closed down the Drug Control Agency there.69

Whatever the causes for the spectacular drug flow, it should be both a global priority and an American priority to address this crisis more vigorously. The reasons for doing so are not just humanitarian. Earlier this year Ivanov told Newsweek,

I have no doubts that drug traffic feeds terrorism in Russia. Huge amounts of illegal money flow to radical groups from the drug trade. At a recent meeting of the Security Council in Mineralniye Vody [in the North Caucasus], we saw reports that the drug traffic coming to Dagestan has increased by 20 times over the last year. That is what fuels terrorism, because terrorists buy their communication equipment and weapons with drug money.70

Conclusion: The Global Banking System and the Global Drug Trade

I believe that Ivanov is correct in linking terrorism to local drug money. I fear also that there might be an additional dimension to the problem that he did not mention: transnational deep forces tapping into the even more lucrative market for drugs in western Europe and America. Undoubtedly proceeds from the global opiate traffic (estimated at $65 billion in 2009), are systematically channeled into major banks, as has also been well documented for the profits from Cocaine trafficking into U.S. banks. When just one U.S. bank – Wachovia – admits that it violated U.S. banking laws to handle $378 billion in illicit  ine funds, this supplies a measure of how important is the transnational dimension underlying local fusion drug-terror networks, whether in Dagestan or the Persian Gulf.71

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, has alleged that “Drugs money worth billions of dollars kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global crisis.” According to the London Observer, Costa

said he has seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were “the only liquid investment capital” available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year. He said that a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result… Costa said evidence that illegal money was being absorbed into the financial system was first drawn to his attention by intelligence agencies and prosecutors around 18 months ago. “In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system’s main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor,” he said.72

As a former diplomat, I sincerely hope that the U.S. and Russian governments will collaborate to address these drug-related problems together, in Kyrgyzstan, in Afghanistan, and on the level of curbing? a venal global banking system.

As a researcher, I have to say that I see the U.S. Government as part of the problem, not as a very likely solution to it. We have too often seen the U.S. habit of turning to drug traffickers as covert assets in areas where it is weak, from Burma in 1950 right down to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.73

I conclude that some other major force will have to be assembled to force a change in U.S. government behavior. Russia is right in bringing this problem to the attention of the Security Council, but this is a problem transcending governments. Perhaps religious organizations around the world could be one place to start mobilizing an extra-governmental force. Journalists and other researchers could also supply a component. Somehow the world must be made aware that it does indeed face a triple threat: the threat of drugs, the threat of drug-financed terrorism, and eventually the threat of war.

Meanwhile it is far too early to predict what may eventually transpire between America and Russia in Kyrgyzstan. But it is none too soon to assert that history is repeating itself in an alarming and predictable way, and to recall that the ingredients of the coup-drug-terror syndrome have led to major warfare in the past.

My personal conclusion is that deep forces, not fully understood, are at work now in Kyrgyzstan, as they have been earlier in Afghanistan and other drug-producing countries. My concern is heightened by my increasing awareness that for decades deep forces have also been at work in Washington.

This was demonstrated vividly by the U.S. government’s determined protection in the 1980s of the global drug activities of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which has been described as “the largest criminal corporate enterprise ever.”74 A U.S. Senate Report once called BCCI not just a “rogue bank… but a case study of the vulnerability of the world to international crime on a global scope that is beyond the current ability of governments to control.”75 Governments indeed long failed to regulate BCCI, because of its ability to influence governments; and when BCCI was finally brought down in 1991, it was as the result of relative outsiders like Robert Morgenthau, District Attorney of New York:

In going after BCCI, Morgenthau’s office quickly found that in addition to fighting off the bank, it would receive resistance from almost every other institution or entity connected to BCCI [including] the Bank of England, the British Serious Fraud Office, and the U.S. government.”76

I have tried to show elsewhere that BCCI was only one in a series of overlapping banks with similar intelligence connections, dating back to the 1940s.77

When I first wrote about Washington’s protection of BCCI, I assumed that the BCCI benefited from its status as an asset or instrument for covert U.S.and British intelligence strategies. Since then I have come to wonder if CIA and BCCI were not both alike instruments for some deeper force or forces, embedded in the state but not confined to it, which has or have been systematically exploiting the drug traffic as a means to global power.
Not until there is a more general awareness of this deep force problem can we expect Washington to respondwith a more rational drug policy. My hope in this essay is to provide a further step in the effort to clarify just what these deeper forces are, and the extent to which they are responsible for America’s current, grave, constitutional crisis.

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Drugs Oil and War,The Road to 9/11, The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. His American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan is in press, due in fall 2010 from Rowman & Littlefield.
He wrote this article for The Asia-Pacific Journal.

Die Regierung erlaubt die Präsenz von US-Truppen in costaricanischen Gewässern und im Luftraum. Angeblich sollen sie bei der Bekämpfung des Drogenschmuggels helfen. VON CECIBEL ROMERO

Kampfflugzeuge wie diese AV-8B Harrier dürfen demnächst über dem eigentlich entmilitarisierten Costa Rica kreisen. Foto: rts

SAN SALVADOR taz | Über 60 Jahre lang hat sich Costa Rica gerühmt, eines der friedlichsten Länder der Welt zu sein. 1948 wurde die Armee abgeschafft, das kleine Land in Zentralamerika war entmilitarisierte Zone. Das wird jetzt anders: Das Parlament hat mit den Stimmen der regierenden National-liberalen Partei (PLN) und der rechten „Libertären Erneuerungsbewegung Costa Ricas“ (RC) ein Dekret verabschiedet, das die massive Präsenz von US-Truppen in costaricanischen Gewässern und im Luftraum erlaubt. 46 Kriegsschiffe, 7.000 Marines, 200 Helikopter und 10 Kampfflugzeuge vom Typ AV-8B Harrier dürfen sich im Hoheitsgebiet des Landes tummeln. Ihr abgeblicher Auftrag: die Bekämpfung des Drogenhandels und ein bisschen humanitäre Hilfe. Die Erlaubnis gilt zunächst für sechs Monate.

Seit die Armee Costa Ricas am 1. Dezember 1948 abgeschafft und das auch in der Verfassung verankert wurde, gab es – abgesehen von illegalen Lagern der rechten nicaraguanischen Contra in den 80er-Jahren – keine Militärs im Land. Das Dekret, das nun der US-Armee Eintritt verschafft, wird deshalb von der Opposition als Einladung zur Besetzung verstanden: „Das ist ein Blankoscheck“, sagt Luis Fishman von der konservativen „Sozial-christlichen Einheit“ (PUSC). Die linke „Partei der Bürgeraktion“ (PAC) spricht von einer „Invasion in die nationale Souveränität“. Beide Parteien haben eine Verfassungsklage angekündigt.

Bereits seit 1999 gibt es ein Abkommen über gemeinsame Patrouillen der zur Polizei gehörenden Küstenwache Costa Ricas mit US-amerikanischen Drogenfahndern. Das Kommando haben die Costaricaner. Die Hoheitsgewässer des kleinen Landes werden von den Schnellbooten kolumbianischer Kokainkartelle auf ihrem Weg nach Mexiko und in die Vereinigten Staaten genutzt, der Luftraum wird von den kleinen Propellermaschinen der Drogenkuriere gekreuzt. Die Opposition hat nichts gegen diese gemeinsamen Patrouillen. Jetzt aber gehe es um eine massive Streitmacht, mit Flugzeugträgern und allem Drum und Dran.

Mit demselben Argument der Bekämpfung des Drogenhandels haben die USA im vergangenen Jahr mit Kolumbien ein Abkommen über die Nutzung von sieben Militärbasen des südamerikanischen Landes abgeschlossen. Das benachbarte linksregierte Venezuela verstand diesen Vertrag als direkte Bedrohung und zog seinen Botschafter aus Bogotá zurück. Es folgte eine andauernde politische Verstimmung zwischen den Nachbarländern. Die Militärpräsenz in Costa Rica dürfte weiter für Unruhe in den zentralamerikanischen Ländern sorgen, vor allem im direkten Nachbarland Nicaragua, das über das Wirtschaftsbündnis Alba politisch eng mit Venezuela verbandelt ist.

Die Alba-Mitglieder sehen in der US-Militärpräsenz zur angeblichen Bekämpfung des Drogenhandels einen Vorwand. Das eigentliche Ziel sei die Durchsetzung der politischen und wirtschaftlichen Interessen Washingtons in Lateinamerika. Präsident Barack Obama unterscheide sich da nicht von seinem Vorgänger George W. Bush. Erst in der vergangenen Woche hatte der von Militärs gestürzte frühere Präsident von Honduras Manuel Zelaya gesagt, der Putsch gegen ihn sei von US-Militärs ausgeheckt worden. Das Außenministerium in Washington wies diese Erklärung als „lächerlich“ zurück.

Quelle:http://www.taz.de/1/politik/amerika/artikel/1/blanko-scheck-zur-invasion/

For years, there has been much discussion about the best strategy to rid Afghanistan of its poppies. Eradication, said the George W Bush administration. Interdiction and alternative livelihoods, retorted the Barack Obama administration. Licensing and production for medicinal purposes, suggests the influential Senlis Council.

The issues have been fiercely debated: Would there be enough demand for Afghanistan’s legal morphine? Is the government too corrupt to implement this or that scheme? To what extent will eradication alienate farmers? Which crops should we substitute for poppies?

These questions are not unimportant, but fundamentally, they do not address the primary source of Afghan drug production: the
West’s (and Russia’s) insatiable demand for drugs.

Afghanistan accounts for about 90% of global illicit opium production. Western Europe and Russia are its two largest markets in terms of quantities consumed and market value (the United States is not an important market for Afghan opiates, importing the drugs from Latin America instead). Western Europe (26%) and Russia (21%) together consume almost half (47%) the heroin produced in the world, with four countries accounting for 60% of the European market: the United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany.

In economic terms, the world’s opiates market is valued at $65 billion, of which heroin accounts for $55 billion. Nearly half of the overall opiate market value is accounted for by Europe (some $20 billion) and Russia ($13 billion). Iran is also a large consumer of opium, with smaller amounts of heroin. The situation is similar for cocaine, for which the US and Europe are the two dominant markets (virtually all coca cultivation takes place in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia).

In short, it is the West that has a drug problem, not producer countries like Afghanistan (or Colombia): demand is king and drives the global industry.

How should we reduce opiate consumption and its negative consequences in the West and Russia? Drug policy research has typically offered four methods. There is a wide consensus among researchers that such methods should be ranked as follows, from most to least effective: 1) treatment of addicts, 2) prevention, 3) enforcement, and 4) overseas operations in producer countries. For example, 12 established analysts reached the following conclusions, published a few months ago:

Efforts by wealthy countries to curtail cultivation of drug-producing plants in poor countries have not reduced aggregate drug supply or use in downstream markets, and probably never will … it will fail even if current efforts are multiplied many times over.

A substantial expansion of [treatment] services, particularly for people dependent on opiates, is likely to produce the broadest range of benefits … yet, most societies invest in these services at a low level.

Also, a widely cited 1994 RAND study concluded that targeting “source countries” is 23 times less cost effective than “treatment” for addicts domestically, the most effective method; “interdiction” was estimated to be 11 times less cost effective and “domestic enforcement” seven times. The problem is that the West’s drug policy strategy has for years emphasized enforcement, combined to overseas adventures, to the detriment of treatment and prevention. Also, Russia has been complaining about the suspension of eradication in Afghanistan, but it has a very poor record of offering treatment to its own addicts, rejecting widely accepted scientific evidence. Moscow has chosen a strategy that “serves the end of social control and enforcement,” just like the US: criminalization is emphasized and the largest share of public resources is directed to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate drug users, instead of offering them treatment. This worsens Russia’s HIV epidemic, the fastest growing in the world – with nearly one million HIV infections, some 80% of which related to the sharing of drug needles – while syringe availability remains very limited. For instance, methadone and buprenorphine remain prohibited by law in Russia, even if they are effective in reducing the drug problem by shifting addicts from illegal opiates to safer, legal alternatives. Accordingly, a just released New York University report states that “Nothing that happens in Afghanistan, for good or ill, would affect the Russian drug problem nearly as much as the adoption of methadone” in Russia – which would also help Afghanistan reduce poppy cultivation. Obama announced last year that the US would have access to seven military bases in Colombia under the pretext of fighting a war on terror and a war on drugs. Likewise, Russia recently announced that it would set up a second military base in Kyrgyzstan, to combat drug trafficking. Victor Ivanov, the Director of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service, explained how he was inspired by US drug war tactics in Latin America:

The United States‘ experience is certainly quite effective. The powerful flow of cocaine from Colombia into the United States prompted Washington to set up seven military bases in the Latin American nation in question. The US then used aircraft to destroy some 230,000 hectares of coca plantations … Russia suggests building its military base in Kyrgyzstan since it is the republic’s Osh region that is a center of sorts whence drugs are channeled throughout Central Asia.

Europe’s record on drug policy has improved over the last two decades, important advances having been made to bring harm reduction into the mainstream of drug policy, and rates of drug usage for each category of drugs are lower in the European Union (EU) than in states with a far more criminalized drug policy, such as the US, Canada and Australia. But there is still room for improvement. For example, although opioid substitution treatment and needle and syringe exchange programs now reach more addicts, “important differences between [European] countries continue to exist in scale and coverage”, a recent review of harm reduction policies in Europe concludes. In particular, “Overall provision of substitution treatment in the Baltic States and the central and south-east European regions, except in Slovenia, remains low despite some recent increases. An estimate from Estonia suggests that only 5% of heroin users in the four major urban centers are covered by substitution programs, and that this rate is as low as 1% at national level.“ Lack of funds is no excuse, as there is plenty of money available, for instance, out of the $300 billion Europeans spend every year on their militaries, to maintain among other things their more than 30,000 troops in Afghanistan. The UK was put in charge of counter-narcotics in Afghanistan. However, domestically, leading specialists Peter Reuter and Alex Stevens report that “Despite rhetorical commitments to the rebalancing of drug policy spending towards treatment… the bulk of public expenditure continues to be devoted to criminal justice measures… this emphasis on enforcement in drug control expenditures also holds for the most explicitly harm reduction-oriented country, the Netherlands.“ In the UK, over 1994-2005, “the number of prison cell years handed out in annual sentences has tripled“ (although significant increases have also been made towards treatment). “The prison population has increased rapidly in the past decade [and] the use of imprisonment has increased even more rapidly for drug offenders than other offenders… These increases have contributed significantly to the current prison overcrowding crisis.“ British enforcement costs taxpayers dearly, but the government does not regularly or publicly calculate those costs. Through a Freedom of Information request a document was released that “calculated the annual cost of enforcing drug laws – including police, probation, prison and court costs – at approximately ฃ2.19 billion, of which about ฃ581 million was spent on imprisoning drug offenders.“ All this said, there is one way in which Afghanistan does have a drug problem, namely, its increasing number of addicts. A recent report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that drug use had increased dramatically over the last few years and that around one million Afghans now suffer from drug addiction, or 8% of the population – twice the global average. Since 2005, the number of regular opium users in Afghanistan has grown from 150,000 to 230,000 (a 53% increase) and for heroin, from 50,000 to 120,000 (a 140% increase). This spreads HIV/AIDS because most injecting drug users share needles. But treatment resources are very deficient. Only about 10% of addicts have ever received treatment, meaning that about 700,000 are left without it, which prompted UNODC chief Antonio Maria Costa to call for much greater resources for drug prevention and treatment in the country. The problem is that the Obama and Bush administrations could not care less: since 2005, the US has allocated less than $18 million to “demand reduction” activities in Afghanistan – less than 1% of the $2 billion they spent on eradication and interdiction. Clearly, US priorities have nothing to do with fighting a war on drugs.

source: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LG01Df02.html

Mittlerweile sind 10.000.000 Kinder und Jugendliche in den USA permanent unter den Einfluss von Drogen wie Ritalin, Prozac, Valium und anderen Medikamenten!

Das ist Wahnsinn, zeigt aber auch die verbrecherischen Machenschaften des US-Amerikanischen Systems!

oder auch hier in der Vollversion:

http://www.cinepx.com/2009/12/generation-rx-2008.html

Joshua Foust is an American military analyst. He blogs about Central Asia and Afghanistan at Registan.net . Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.

It would be an understatement to call opium cultivation in Afghanistan America’s headache. The issue of illegal drug cultivation and smuggling has vexed policymakers for three decades, and led to a multi-billion dollar campaign to combat the phenomenon.

Opium causes all of our problems, so they say—according to  a factsheet at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul (pdf), opium creates instability, funds the insurgency, and wreaks havoc on the government. They’re not alone –  entire books have been written on the subject.

The blame game on opium, however, ignores a critical – and quite uncomfortable – fact: it misses the point. The reality is, while the cultivation of opium does not help matters from a Western perspective, in Afghanistan it is actually a healthy economic activity. The concerns over its cultivation, too, are overblown: even a brief look at the numbers show it to be at best a trailing indicator of insecurity, insurgency, corruption, and economic malaise. Opium, therefore, is only an indicator of other, more substantial problems.

Consider, for example, what I call The Nangarhar Swing. According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, in 2005 Nangarhar produced nearly 1/5 of Afghanistan’s opium, but was virtually poppy-free in 2006.  2007 saw a 285 percent increase (pdf) in cultivation, making the province one of the country’s top poppy producers. Yet in 2008, it was  once again virtually poppy-free (pdf). This shift cannot be tied only to security, as many like to claim: according to the violence statistics compiled by the Long War Journal, even as Nangarhar has stopped the large scale cultivation of opium, it has become steadily more violent. Moreover, there are many other areas of the country, like Khost province along the border with Pakistan, or Kunar province further north, where the insurgency has become worse even as those provinces were emptied of opium.

The discrepancy is really a trick of language: When the UNODC declares a province poppy-free, what they mean is, production there is “negligible”, not non-existent. Whether that is in the context of total production, other provinces, or some sort of absolute number (a percentage of arable land or total worldwide opium production) isn’t really clear. In Nangarhar, several times declared “poppy free” by the UNODC, there remain active opium eradication missions in outlying districts such as Sherzad. What’s noteworthy about it is not the presence of some fairly smallish opium farms in southwestern Nangarhar, as most opium farms are small family affairs. What is interesting is the density of the farms. In a single 5 km stretch of the countryside, teams found and destroyed 100 poppy fields. For a supposedly poppy-free province, that is simply stunning.

It also covers up the substantial effect of destroying the opium economy. In many parts of Afghanistan, opium is the economy, and the World Bank estimated in 2008 it accounts for 1/3 of the country’s economy. In opium-adjacent communities, opium funds underpin the entire local economy: especially in the opium “heartland” in the South, the only way for small farmers to get microcredit loans or deal with exporters is through opium traders. Through a system of loans called salaam, they in essence create informal futures markets on crops… but only opium. Cereal crops and fruits, or other licit agriculture, are not included in this system (even though it is possible for other actors, whether the government or NGOs, to provide this service). In fact, the ways these markets have developed in the south is remarkably similar to how informal credit markets formed in rural medieval Europe. It is normal. The West just happens to dislike the crop.

But even in opium “success stories”, there are significant problems to simply removing the crop. In Nangarhar, the wild swings in opium prices and cultivation crashed the rural economy again and again. Most of the microcredit salaam loans farmers take out are not denominated in any currency – they pay in opium. So, when prices crash or an eradication team sweeps through, farmers become trapped in a horrendous debt cycle where the only means of escape is to grow yet more opium. There are even rumors of farmers selling a daughter or son to the traffickers in payment, and many families have fled to either Iran or Pakistan to avoid reprisals for unpaid opium debt.

There is a more fundamental economic problem to growing poppy, however: areas that grow opium actually tend to be the wealthiest. Sherzad District in Nangarhar, where there is still opium cultivation and eradication, actually has relatively high income compared to the rest of Nangarhar.  According to the International Monetary Fund (pdf), when Nangarhar province saw a huge drop in opium cultivation in 2005/6, province-wide GDP was about $1.3 billion (which was a big drop from the year before, when there was much more opium). The next year, 2006/7, when opium production spiked 285%, province-level GDP rose to $3.2 billion, only to fall the next year to $1.8 billion as the UNODC declared it poppy-free.

So what is to be done? The Obama administration has wisely recognized that opium eradication is a non-starter, and does far more harm than the marginal good of destroying some opium crops. UNODC Chief Antonio Maria Costa recently agreed, and suggested a “flood of drugs” in its place. Under this plan, somehow the borders of Afghanistan would be sealed so that no drugs can “escape”, in their words, thus crashing the price of opium. Feasible or not, Costa’s idea at least tries to examine other ways of reducing the need for opium cultivation. Looking at opium cultivation as an economic factor, however, leads one to many other conclusions that are inconvenient for a political and military apparatus designed to oppose the very idea of drug cultivation.

If opium is an economic puzzle, and not a political-military one, then there should be an economic (or at least non-military) solution to it. Several years ago, the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit published a study (pdf) comparing the factors behind the cultivation of opium in adjacent provinces in the “poppy-free” north. Water shortages, soil moisture and salinity, severe socioeconomic inequality driving food insecurity, a poor presence of formal institutions, all have decisive impacts on a household decision whether or not to cultivate opium.

More recently, a team of Norwegian researchers has noted a strong causation between violence and opium cultivation, but not in the way most think:  in their research paper (pdf), they assert that opium follows conflict, and not the other way around. In other words, opium cultivation is simply a feature of ungoverned conflict zones, and especially in Afghanistan, something people do as a last resort when other economic activities fail to provide for their families.

Taken together, these studies (and the many others like them—this is a growing field of study) point to a counterintuitive conclusion: do nothing. That is, focusing only on opium misses the point, and doesn’t address the reasons why it is grown. If opium cultivation were an indicator of an ungoverned or contested space, then that would indicate that making that space governed and uncontested would also address the opium.

There are a few examples even within Afghanistan where governance and security came first, and then opium cultivation simply dropped off. Badakhshan province was the only province in the country that was completely Taliban-free in 2001, and as a result was the only one to grow opium in any really measurable amount during the Taliban’s prohibition. Since the American invasion, it has remained mostly quiet, and has seen a growing success in both trade connections to neighboring areas and better governance by multiple levels of officials. As an aid worker active there told me recently, “the price of poppy has fallen fastest in the north (where the poppy has a lower morphine content), and in Badakhshan, farmers can already make more from okra or onions than opium.” Selling vegetables is relatively low risk and carries a good profit margin – something that cannot be said for the majority of Afghanistan’s non-subsistence farmers.

Drug traffickers have taken enormous measures to lower the risk of drug cultivation, but the development community has not taken the time to do so for legal agriculture. It remains prohibitively expensive to ship anything out of Afghanistan, and border politics especially with Pakistan (one worker recently complained that difficulties in crossing the border into Pakistan meant an entire crop of potatoes from Khost province rotted at the border crossing, unsold) keep export-driven agriculture uncertain and extremely risky. By focusing so much of its energies onto eradication or somehow controlling the cultivation of opium, both the International Community and the government of Afghanistan have ignored providing other ways for farmers to make money legally – even when Alternative Livelihood programs exist in an area, they’re poorly administered and often barely make a dent in the local economy.

So why not do nothing? Opium is not Afghanistan’s biggest problem – it is horrendous poverty, bad infrastructure and no security. When it comes to all three problems, Afghanistan faces two major hurdles – underinvestment (money, equipment, education, health, and security) and corruption-driven illegitimacy. Making matters worse, the overwhelming majority of aid in the country flows outside government channels or oversight, which undercuts Kabul’s legitimacy even among the people it helps.

Focusing only on opium, therefore, doesn’t actually focus on the more fundamental problems facing the country. It is an obsession on symptoms, while the causes go unaddressed. The missing piece of governance, and with it the development of the necessary institutions of society and economy, is the critically ignored piece of almost all plans to eliminate opium in Afghanistan. And as examples like Badakhshan have shown, when even moderate progress is made on these fronts, people will voluntarily switch to growing other crops, and they will make enough money to support themselves. It’s enough to make one wonder just why there needs to be a plan in the first place. It’s counterintuitive, but scrapping the West’s counternarcotics policies is surest way to actually achieve the counternarcotics goal of a poppy-free Afghanistan.

(Reuters photos: Opium fields in Farah province/Goran Tomasevic)