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Tuesday, May 04, 2010


An article in Asia Times on whether our leader's claim that one of the reasons to be in Afghanistan is because the Taliban are using drug money to finance terrorism:

"Taliban insurgents draw some US$125 million annually from drugs...

Taliban play a more minor role in the opium economy than UNODC would have us believe and drug money is probably a secondary source of funding for them. Indeed, the report estimates that only 10-15% of Taliban funding is drawn from drugs and 85% comes from "non-opium sources".

The total revenue generated by opiates within Afghanistan is about $3.4 billion per year. Of this figure, according to UNODC, the Taliban get only 4% of the sum. Farmers, meanwhile, get 21%.

And the remaining 75%? Al-Qaeda? No: The report specifies that it "does not appear to have a direct role in the Afghan opiates trade," although it may participate in "low-level drugs and/or arms smuggling" along the Pakistani border.

Instead, the remaining 75% is captured by government officials, the police, local and regional power brokers and traffickers - in short, many of the groups now supported (or tolerated) by the United States and NATO are important actors in the drug trade.

The New York Times recently revealed that Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai's brother, has long been on the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA's) payroll, in addition to his probable shady dealings in drugs. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, as US and NATO forces have long supported warlords, commanders and illegal militias with a record of human-rights abuses and involvement in narcotics. A former CIA officer said, "Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade." According to a New York University report, General Nazri Mahmad, a warlord who "control[s] a significant portion of the province's lucrative opium industry," has the contract to provide security for the German Provincial Reconstruction Team...

But the roots of Afghanistan's upsurge in drug production since 2001 are directly related to US policies and the government that was installed in the wake of the invasion. The United States attacked Afghanistan in 2001, in alliance with anti-Taliban warlords and drug lords, showering them with millions of dollars and other forms of support. The empowerment and enrichment of the warlords with whom the US allied itself enabled them to tax and protect opium traffickers, leading to the quick resumption of opium production after the hiatus of the 2000 Taliban ban...

In fact, buried deep in the report, its authors admit that reducing drug production would have only "minimal impact on the insurgency's strategic threat". The Taliban receive "significant funding from private donors all over the world", a contribution which "dwarfs" drug money. Although the report will be publicized by many as a vindication of calls to target the opium economy in order to weaken the Taliban, the authors themselves are not convinced of the validity of this argument.

Of the $65 billion turnover of the global market for opiates, only 5-10% ($3-5 billion) is estimated to be laundered by informal banking systems. The rest is laundered through legal trade activities and the banking system.This is an important claim that points to the enormous amounts of drug money swallowed by the world financial system, including Western banks.

The report says that over the last seven years (2002-2008), the transnational trade in Afghan opiates resulted in worldwide sales of $400-$500 billion (retail value). Only 5-10% of this is estimated to be laundered by informal banking systems (such as hawala). The remainder is laundered through the legal economy, and importantly, through Western banks.

In fact, Antonio Maria Costa was quoted as saying that drug money may have recently rescued some failing banks: "Interbank loans were funded by money that originated from drug trade and other illegal activities", and there were "signs that some banks were rescued in that way". "At a time of major bank failures, money doesn't smell, bankers seem to believe," ...

UNODC associates drugs with the Taliban by pointing to the fact that most poppy cultivation takes places in regions where the Taliban are concentrated. Maps show "poppy-free" provinces in the north and a concentration of cultivation in the southern provinces, linking the Taliban with drugs.

It is true that cultivation is concentrated in the south, but such maps obscure the fact that there is plenty of drug money in the north, a region over which the Afghan government has more control. For instance, Balkh province may be poppy-free, but its center, Mazar-i Sharif, is awash in drug money. Nangarhar was also poppy-free in 2008, although it still remains a province where a large amount of opiates is trafficked.

Some Western officials are now implying that political elites in northern Afghanistan are engaging in successful counter-narcotics while the southern drug economy expands. But the fact is that although the commanders who control northern Afghanistan today may have eliminated cultivation, none have moved against trafficking. Most of them continue to profit from it, and some are believed to have become millionaires.

One definition of "news" is something that somebody doesn't want you to know. This is that sort of news. By comparison we would not see such stuff in our papers & never on the BBC. This is what good journalism is about & why people having a "democratic choice" is meaningless if the facts needed for a real choice are censored. Our media have largely given up real journalism for its much more congenial opposite - rewriting press releases from government departments, government funded fakecharities & the nomenklatura (known in Britain as the "great & good").

Even in this article the question of who is financing al Quaeda/Taliban is glossed over. If $125 million is 10-15% of their revenue the other 85% they are getting amounts to $700 - 1060 million. I assume this is coming from Saudi & the Gulf Emirates. I cannot believe it is impossible to trace any of this which leaves the only possible assumption that our troops are in Afghanistan simply because our leaders don't have the integrity to confront the real paymasters of terrorism. Mark Thatcher is not the only politically connected person to have made their fortune from "introduction fees" from rich arabs.

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Our media have largely given up real journalism for its much more congenial opposite - rewriting press releases from government departments, government funded fakecharities & the nomenklatura (known in Britain as the "great & good")

Yes, exactly. That, endless repetitive sport cliches, trivia, celebrity gossip and book/film advertising. Actual journalism being hard and costly is more or less ignored.
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