As a companion piece to the NYT article about losing the 'good war,' I strongly suggest that you read this recent article by former UK Ambassador to Uzebekistan, Craig Murray from late last month. Murray explains that Afghanistan is run by drug lords.
Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds often points to the fact that whenever the media does mention the heroin industry, they almost never go beyond reporting about the poor farmers in the Afghan poppy fields. Sibel asks the leading question: "Who are the real lords of Afghanistan’s poppy fields?"
Before I proceed, let's start with a little background into Sibel's case. When Sibel worked as a translator for the FBI, one of the main cases she was working on was a counter-intelligence operation against Turkey's equivalent of AIPAC, the American Turkish Council (ATC). On the Turkish side, the ATC is (largely) represented by Turkey's "Deep State – the politicians, military officers and intelligence officials who worked with drug bosses to move drugs from Afghanistan..." (On the American side, the ATC is represented by the 'Defense' contractors, and Turkey's American lobbyists - people like Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, former House Speaker Bob Livingston, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, former Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and others.)
Now, we've all heard the statistics that Afghanistan is the source of 90% of the world's opium etc - but what many people don't know is that most of that opium is imported into Turkey where it is transformed, on an industrial scale, into heroin. It is warehoused on an industrial scale, repackaged and marketed on an industrial scale, and re-exported on an industrial scale.
As Sibel says:
"This multi billion-dollar industry requires highly sophisticated networks and people. So, who are the real lords of Afghanistan’s poppy fields?
These operations are run by mafia groups closely controlled by the MIT (Turkish Intelligence Agency) and the military. According to statistics compiled in 1998, Turkey’s heroin trafficking brought in $25 billion in 1995 and $37.5 billion in 1996. That amount makes up nearly a quarter of Turkey’s GDP. Only criminal networks working in close cooperation with the police and the army could possibly organize trafficking on such a scale. The Turkish government, MIT and the Turkish military, not only sanctions, but also actively participates in and oversees the narcotics activities and networks.
In other words, the folks who supply much of the world's heroin break bread (and share lots of dough) with their American counterparts at places like the American Turkish Council.
Sibel says that there are at least four people in Congress that she knows of who are being bribed by the Turkish gang, and according to Ed Bradley on 60 Minutes, they also have "spies... inside the US State Department and at the Pentagon."
In Craig Murray's article, he notes all of the impressive statistics regarding Afghanistan's opium production - 2006 beat the previous record by 60%, and this year promises to be stronger still - and then he makes two important points. Firstly, he says that all of the 'value-add' activity that was previously performed in Turkey (turning poppies into heroin) is now conducted within Afghanistan. We don't know whether this is a massive shift in the underlying structure of the industry, or whether the incumbent gangs that Sibel refers to have simply decided to 'off-shore' their production from Turkey to Afghanistan. I suspect that it is the latter, simply because we haven't seen the type of blood-bath that we would expect to see if there was a serious turf-war taking place.
From Murray's piece:
" According to the United Nations, 2006 was the biggest opium harvest in history, smashing the previous record by 60 per cent. This year will be even bigger.
Our economic achievement in Afghanistan goes well beyond the simple production of raw opium. In fact Afghanistan no longer exports much raw opium at all. It has succeeded in what our international aid efforts urge every developing country to do. Afghanistan has gone into manufacturing and 'value-added' operations.
It now exports not opium, but heroin. Opium is converted into heroin on an industrial scale, not in kitchens but in factories. Millions of gallons of the chemicals needed for this process are shipped into Afghanistan by tanker. The tankers and bulk opium lorries on the way to the factories share the roads, improved by American aid, with Nato troops.
(FTR, I have seen no evidence for Murray's claim that Afghanistan is now primarily exporting heroin rather than opium)
The second point that Murray makes is that this activity takes place with the the active participation of the authorities, just as Sibel said was the case in Turkey.
How can this have happened, and on this scale? The answer is simple. The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government – the government that our soldiers are fighting and dying to protect.
When we attacked Afghanistan, America bombed from the air while the CIA paid, armed and equipped the dispirited warlord drug barons – especially those grouped in the Northern Alliance – to do the ground occupation. We bombed the Taliban and their allies into submission, while the warlords moved in to claim the spoils. Then we made them ministers.
President Karzai is a good man. He has never had an opponent killed, which may not sound like much but is highly unusual in this region and possibly unique in an Afghan leader. But nobody really believes he is running the country. He asked America to stop its recent bombing campaign in the south because it was leading to an increase in support for the Taliban. The United States simply ignored him. Above all, he has no control at all over the warlords among his ministers and governors, each of whom runs his own kingdom and whose primary concern is self-enrichment through heroin.
He became concerned at the vast amounts of heroin coming from Afghanistan, in particular from the fiefdom of the (now) Head of the Afghan armed forces, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, in north and east Afghanistan.
Dostum is an Uzbek, and the heroin passes over the Friendship Bridge from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan, where it is taken over by President Islam Karimov's people...
The heroin Jeeps run from General Dostum to President Karimov. The UK, United States and Germany have all invested large sums in donating the most sophisticated detection and screening equipment to the Uzbek customs centre at Termez to stop the heroin coming through.
But the convoys of Jeeps running between Dostum and Karimov are simply waved around the side of the facility.
"In Afghanistan, General Dostum (Head of the Afghan armed forces)is vital to Karzai's coalition, and to the West's pretence of a stable, democratic government.
Opium is produced all over Afghanistan, but especially in the north and north-east – Dostum's territory. Again, our Government's spin doctors have tried hard to obscure this fact and make out that the bulk of the heroin is produced in the tiny areas of the south under Taliban control. But these are the most desolate, infertile rocky areas. It is a physical impossibility to produce the bulk of the vast opium harvest there.
That General Dostum is head of the Afghan armed forces and Deputy Minister of Defence is in itself a symbol of the bankruptcy of our policy. "
None of this information was included in the NYT's 7 page article on how we 'lost' Afghanistan.
In fact, in a fantastic recent interview, Sibel wonders aloud whether the media silence is intentional:
"Who prevents the media, or is it happening, from publishing the real facts? The Turks, their involvement, UAE and their position in laundering this money, Pakistan and narcotics. It's saying "Oops! They are our 'allies' and we don't want to touch them. We don't want to turn them off." In fact, we have a lot of business, "sensitive diplomatic relations", as John Ashcroft put it."
As if to prove Sibel's point, just last week, ABC's blog The Blotter reported:
Heroin Found in Car Allegedly Owned by Top Afghan Border Official
A manhunt is on in Afghanistan for the man President Hamid Karzai wanted to name head of his country's border police, ABC News has learned, following the discovery that the official owned a car filled with heroin intercepted by members of the Kabul City Criminal Investigations Division.
U.S. authorities confirmed the seizure of 130 kilograms of heroin in June in a car that allegedly belonged to Haji Zahir Qadir, the former chief of the border police for northern Takhar province.
Haji Zahir was not in the car when it was intercepted. His cousin and "right hand," Bilal, was present and arrested.
Afghan officials say Karzai wanted to name Haji Zahir to head the border police, but a U.S. military intelligence assessment obtained by ABC News in 2006 named Zahir as a drug smuggler.
News of the seizure and the manhunt came at a most embarrassing time for Karzai, who was at Camp David with President George Bush to meet on regional issues, including the upsurge in violence in Afghanistan and cross-border issues with Pakistan.
The information fed to The Blotter was apparently designed to cause some embarrassment (coming 6 weeks after the event), but it wasn't very embrassing at all. As best as I could tell, ABC's blog entry was the only mention of this story at all, anywhere (1,2,3).
For more on my coverage of the heroin angle of Sibel's case, see Sibel Edmonds: America's Watergate, Sibel Edmonds & the Neocons' Turkish Gravy-Train, and Daniel Ellsberg: Hastert got suitcases of Al Qaeda heroin cash, should be in jail.
I'll give Craig Murray the final word:
"Remember this article next time you hear a politician calling for more troops to go into Afghanistan. And when you hear of another brave British life wasted there, remember you can add to the casualty figures all the young lives ruined, made miserable or ended by heroin in the UK.
They, too, are casualties of our Afghan policy."
Let Sibel Edmonds Speak
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