Drug trade goes on unchecked in Afghanistan
If one goes by the American measurement, the saying goes that they do not start a venture unless they are sure about its cost not going from their own kitty. The Afghan venture does not seemingly pay them as does Iraq’s but permitting poppy cultivation to the Afghan warlords and bigwigs favouring the US intervention was the bid to justify finances of their stay in that country.
It is now an open secret, and everyone knows it, as to who runs the largest global business of narcotics smuggling and weapons trade. Dig down just a little of these areas and you’ll find the American CIA sitting behind the scenes, smiling broadly and exposing widely its ugly teeth. There are certain local aides in various countries, which also play as the front men. We all know as to who urged and supported the Afghans to restart growing poppy after the fall of Taliban regime. The American intelligence is known for continuously playing dirty games in the South American countries which are considered as heavens for production and trade of narcotics.
No one can judge as the Americans fund Pakistan’s Anti-Narcotics Force, coupled with diplomatic pressures, to stop drug trafficking in the country, but when it comes to ISAF and the government in Kabul, the story comes out far more different. The fact that poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has increased and its income is being utilised by terrorists to buy weapons surprises many in the world.
Poppy cultivation is increasing in 28 of the country’s 32 provinces. Today, between 90 to 95 percent of the world’s supply of opium comes from Afghanistan. This is despite Mr Karzai laid out a comprehensive National Drug Control Strategy for Afghanistan based on four key priorities: (a) disrupting the drug trade by targeting traffickers and their backers; (b) strengthening and diversifying legal rural livelihood; (c) reducing the demand for illicit drugs and treatment of problems of drug users; (d) developing state institutions at the central and provincial levels. This is despite a NATO drive, as reported in a recent New York Times report, to disrupt Afghanistan’s drug trade. The reason being cited is that the NATO and ISAF member countries’ law at home does not allow the soldiers to carry out operations against the poppy cultivation, etc. The objections were raised despite an agreement that the alliance’s campaign in Afghanistan would be broadened to include attacks on narcotics facilities, traffickers, and middlemen and drug lords whose profits helped to finance insurgent groups.
American policymakers and military officers used to say that it was critical to choke off the drug money that sustained the insurgency, much as they were working with Pakistan to “halt the use of its tribal areas as a haven by the Taliban and other antigovernment forces just across the border from Afghanistan.”
Twelve years after the rout of al-Qaeda and the fall of Taliban, disagreements over how aggressively NATO forces should have gone after the insurgency’s chief source of revenue are only the latest hurdle in a campaign that has been troubled by disputes between the United States and some of its allies about what role NATO soldiers should play in a mission cast as “security assistance.” The UN figures show that Afghan insurgents reap more than $100 million a year from the drug trade, although some estimates put the figure at five times as much. A NATO commander said profit from the narcotics trade “buys the bomb makers and the bombs, the bullets and the trigger-pullers that are killing our soldiers and marines and airmen, and we have to stop them.”
Such efforts, if made by NATO and allies, failed to control poppy cultivation. Recent survey conducted jointly by the Afghan Ministry of Counter-Narcotics and the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes predicted an upsurge in the poppy cultivation area. The survey showed an increasing trend in the poppy cultivation in 13 provinces, especially Helmand, Ghor, Uruzgan, Zabul, Nangarhar, Leghman and Badakshan. Opium serves as “the main engine of economic growth” in Afghanistan but “there is little on the ground to suggest that practical steps have been taken to set off this menace,” said an Afghan journalist based in Peshawar.
As the Peshawar-based Afghan journalist Eschmall Sardar reported in her article that NATO and EU officials had refused to lead a hand-on role in fighting the narco problem. “One reality is that ISAF has only some 52,000 troops on the ground: the Helmand province is home to a significant proportion of ISAF troops and yet still cultivates some 50% of the opium produced in Afghanistan.” The irony of current times is the ease with which the biggest culprits on globe could manipulate the facts and figures to paint a whole scenario based upon certain illusions and holograms.
There is no denying the fact that the Indians and Afghans are deeply involved in destabilizing Pakistan, especially in the tribal areas, which is evident from a report that made startling disclosures as the three arrested terrorists Khurram Ishtiaq, Ghulam Mustafa and Shamim confessed that RAW was behind the suicide attacks in Pakistan and it had funneled Rs680m through its links with Afghan secret agency.
“The gang working under Qari Hussain, Farrukh Usman, Shahjee and Ustad Tayyab Baba admitted that they belonged to the group who had been deputed to “destabilize Pakistan”. The militants were caught red-handed possessing complete suicide kits with two jackets and 70 kg of explosive and detonators. But the most startling was the disclosure that the Indian RAW, in collaboration with CIA and allied countries’ intelligence agencies, was involved in drug trafficking in order to fund insurgency inside Pakistan.
Veteran journalist Rahimullah recalls that the only era in which the poppy cultivation was stopped was that of Mullah Omar during the Taliban regime. “This seems untrue that the Taliban ‘insurgents’ today depend on a trade which they practically banned during their period of government.” In fact it is only being propagated that the Taliban are involved, while the fact of the matter is NATO and ISAF forces are directly are indirectly allowing this trade to flourish because this way they can win the hearts of the warlords who have provided them shield in their respective areas against the Taliban. The whole process of poppy cultivation, transportation, processing, and the like is more than a Taliban-al-Qaeda event; it is pervasive through much of the Afghan society, and divides the population from both ISAF and national governance. “It is not surprising, therefore, that some 60% to 70% of the Afghan parliament is occupied by former mujahideen, former Communists, drug barons, and warlords, who not only control both houses of parliament but, as a result, prevent the establishment of the central government’s writ across the country.”
The Kabul government is hardly in a position to marginalize the members of parliament who play drug games from their respective constituencies. Undoubtedly, the drug menace of Afghanistan has indirectly got massive encouragement from the Americans themselves, who allowed the warlords to re-establish their hold in many parts of Afghanistan. The warlords restarted opium cultivation towards which the Americans turned a blind eye as they needed support to strengthen their installed regime in Kabul and to keep the Taliban at bay. As per AP report for the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, money comes from extortion, crime and drugs. Narco-dollar is their major funding source besides extortion and kidnapping.
Shumaila Raja is a freelance journalist based in Rawalpindi. She can be reached at [email protected]