Osama and Al-Qaeda II: The “War on Drugs”

“Drug networks are important factors in the politics of every continent. The United States returns repeatedly to the posture of fighting wars in areas of petroleum reserves with the aid of drug-trafficking allies – drug proxies – with which it has a penchant to become involved.”

– Peter Dale Scott, writer, political analyst


US and NATO presence in Afghanistan had long been viewed as an increasing financial burden notwithstanding the rise in suicides and deaths, with many questioning why it is that the respective armies were even there. (50% more US soldiers committed suicide in Afghanistan in 2012 than were killed in the country). [1] As Islamic militants and various strains of Al-Qaeda rebels are currently fighting alongside US, Israeli and NATO backed forces in Syria, the irony has not been lost on many members of the public who are beginning to see that they’ve been had.

A March 2013 Harvard Kennedy School Faculty Research study by Linda J. Bilmes and Daniel Patrick Moynihan placed the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in their proper financial perspective by calculating the cost for US taxpayers at $4 trillion to $6 trillion. That is an almost unimaginable number. The so-called war on terror and the fight against Al-Qaeda is slowly losing credibility even amongst the most staunchly nationalistic. Since the US military used 1.8 billion rounds of ammunition a year and imported bullets from Israel, the most militarised country on earth, then we can get some idea of how important this region is. For every rebel killed, it costs around a quarter of a million dollars which means that it could not continue forever – at least not at the same level of expenditure.[2] Controlling the regional drug-trafficking in the country plays a huge role in covert operations as it provides enormous income for black ops away from Congressional oversight. Nonetheless, US/NATO forces were desperate to secure their drug fortunes before pulling out and leaving a skeleton force to watch over them.

opium-fields-15

“An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier provides security during a satellite patrol along a poppy field in Marjah, Afghanistan, April 17, 2012.” (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David A. Perez/Released, Source: Public Intelligence )

As we know from early posts in this series, after oil and the arms trade, drug trafficking is the third biggest global commodity with human trafficking following closely behind. Entry into Afghanistan wasn’t just a geo-political move but had multiple purposes, one of which was to allow Anglo-America to hark back to the British East India’s monopoly of Indochina opium by controlling the drug routes, with the CIA as one of the main suppliers. Drug smuggling and terrorism have a tried and tested symbiotic relationship. It is probable that one could not exist without the other. With the recent fines of imposed on HSBC bank for acting as chosen money launderer for drug cartels the world over it is not an exaggeration that underworld propped up the global economic architecture as toxic assets did their work. In 2015, it won’t be so easy.

The global narcotics market is estimated to be worth between $400-500 billion a year in profits with a more realistic figure being around $100 billion. [3] (Estimates focusing on profits, turnover and trade are routinely confused.) Heroin is the No.1 drug of choice for global addicts and organised crime, the intelligence community, commerce and banking which has effectively blurred to the point that there is no real distinction. International banking is saturated in drug money as a normal part of its financial architecture with IMF estimates at $590 billion and 1.5 trillion dollars in laundered money flowing through sequestered channels each year, representing 2-5 percent of global GDP. [4] That means competition for strategic control over these heroin routes.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that in 2003, opium production in Afghanistan generated “an income of one billion US dollars for farmers and US $1.3 billion for traffickers, equivalent to over half of its national income.”  [5] Almost a decade later, profits had increased by 18 percent alone between 2011 and 2012 according to the United Nations’ 2012 opium survey, which was undertaken with the Afghan Ministry of Counter-narcotics. This is one reason why Obama has reneged on yet another promise to withdraw US troops from the region. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a bilateral security agreement in November 2013 between the United States and Afghanistan that would allow for a lasting American troop presence through 2024. Billions of dollars of international assistance will be given to the government in Kabul, and by default, allow dominance in the drug trade to continue.

opium-fields-2

U.S. Marine Corp in Opium field 2012. (Source: Public Intelligence )

Afghanistan is the largest grower and exporter of opium on the planet with a 92 percent market share of the global opium trade. [6] It is therefore no coincidence that the US military still guards the poppy fields in order to protect their multi-billion dollar trade from the Taliban who know exactly why it is so important to US interests. It was only after the September 11th attacks and the rise of the Mujahedeen that the drugs trade began to really take off. After the Bush Administration gave the go ahead for the US military and NATO allies to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 under the ridiculous label of “Operation Enduring Freedom” opium cultivation increased by 657 percent. [7] Today, the CIA’s dominance in the Golden Crescent drug trafficking region was only made possible with help from the US proxy Afghan government members such as Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of President Hamid Karzai who had been on the CIA payroll just after the 9/11 attacks. [8] As well as weapons and training, drugs were a central part of the funding of the Afghan war and the role of the Mujahedeen with BCCI acting as launderer. International narcotics traffickers were crawling all over Afghanistan many of whom were on the payroll of the George H. W Bush’s CIA. The Pakistani government and the ISI were known to be a major facilitator of the drug trade. Even before the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, the CIA had been funding Mujahideen guerrilla groups in the region as a part ISI alliance building.

The CIA’s military-intelligence operation in Afghanistan, and the “Islamic brigades” it created was originally formulated as the usual tactic of triggering civil wars in order to capture resources, be it minerals, opium or oil. In 1973 Afghan Prince Muhammad Daoud deposed the Afghan king with a little help from the Soviet Union, and an Afghan Republic was established. Which is where the CIA jumped in with their plan to fund Islamist extremists, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who would go on to be not only the leader in the resistance movement opposing the Soviets, but the most powerful Mujahedeen drug lord in Afghanistan. [9]

hekmatyr1

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (Source: AP/BBC News)

In April, 1985 President Ronald Reagan signed a secret order called the “National Security Decision Directive 166,” which gave the CIA official directives to expel the Russians ‘by all means available.’ Over the next decade the U.S. spent $10 billion to arm and train the Mujahideen. By 1986, while the Iran-Contra scandal was about to loom over the horizon an “overwhelming arsenal of guns and missiles” descended upon Mujahideen from the Reagan administration. Along with these weapons was a massive propaganda push targeting the Afghan schools with “$43 million just for the school textbooks.” This was achieved with the help of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the CIA working together “providing education behind enemy lines,” and: “… military support against enemies lines.” Afghan war chiefs “…were allowed to decide the school curriculum and the content of the textbooks,” where the content included violence and images of war designed to breed new fighters and condition children resistance towards the Russian invasion. [10] The purposeful stimulation and creation of Islamic fundamentalism was predicated on the CIA’s drug money beginning with Hekmatyar and with a little help from Saudi Arabia, received more than $1 billion.  [11]

Located at the crossroads of Central, South, and Western Asia, overlapping Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, are multi-billion dollar drug routes protected by the US-sponsored government in Kabul. Michel Chossudovsky explains how the narcotics trade is determined by: “A hierarchy of prices” as a farming price in Afghanistan translated to retail price in fashionable cities in the West worth billions of dollars, “… sustained and supported by the US ‘War on Terrorism’.”


hsbcHSBC bank was fined over billion pounds for acting as money launderer for a variety of global drug cartels. Since it was only fined and not closed down it is free to continue its activities. HSBC and Barclays Bank are among many others in the banking industry who were also fined for rigging the market. Since these two banking corporations are the two main pillars of our present financial architecture closing them down wasn’t an option, as it would mean a total collapse. This was a deflection of objective reality that the core of global banking is both the purveyor, and completely dependent on, what is normalised fraud and corruption.


The proceeds of this vast drug trade is handled by the banks in the following fashion:

Drug money is laundered in the numerous offshore banking havens in Switzerland, Luxembourg, the British Channel Islands, the Cayman Islands and some 50 other locations around the globe. It is here that criminal syndicates involved in the drug trade and the representatives of the world’s largest commercial banks interact. Dirty money is deposited in these offshore havens, which are controlled by major Western banks and financial institutions. The latter, therefore, have a vested interest in maintaining and sustaining the drug trade.

… Once the money has been laundered, it can be recycled into bona fide investments not only in real estate, hotels, etc., but also in other areas such as the services economy and manufacturing. Dirty and covert money is also funneled into various financial instruments including speculative stock exchange transactions (derivatives), primary commodities, stocks and government bonds.  [12]

The repercussions of the CIA-Afghan drug lords and the domination of the opium fields meant heroin found an even greater supply from young Americans.  [13] In the 1980s drug related deaths shot through the roof as a result. Independent journalist Andrew Gavin Marshall summarises the impact: “… drug-related deaths in New York City rose 77 percent since 1979” and: “By 1981, the drug lords in Pakistan and Afghanistan supplied 60 percent of America’s heroin. Trucks going into Afghanistan with CIA arms from Pakistan would return with heroin ‘protected by ISI papers from police search.’ ”  [14]

By 1994, in a religious and economic vacuum Afghanistan saw the rise of the Taliban and its attempts to eradicate drugs and opium field production from the Afghan social landscape. The success in significantly reducing opium production, an economic livelihood for the CIA and Pakistani drug lords, was in large part the reason for the appearance of the Northern Alliance, a military-political umbrella organization created by the Islamic State of Afghanistan in late 1996 under the leadership of Defence Minister and CIA asset Ahmad Shah Massoud. The Afghan Taliban had a war on their hands which comprised of the Pakistan’s military, Al-Qaeda and most of the ethnic groups of Afghanistan including Tajiks, Pashtuns, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen and others.

In 2002, a campaign against genuine human rights abuses was highlighted as a pretext for removing the Taliban from power even though US/NATO forces had created its original power base in order to help fight the Soviet invasion. Now, presiding over a vast increase in military spending for NATO and the US and despite increasing economic problems at home, opium production went through the roof and straight into the pockets of various interested parties, including Afghan drug lords, Al-Qaeda, the CIA, Pakistani ISI and various Northern Alliance parties. It was carnival time.

What is also conveniently forgotten in so much media commentary is the nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits, identified by the US Pentagon officials which is another reason why the Ghazni Province has become such a jewel in the crown of imperial aspirations. Included in the deposits of iron, copper, cobalt and even gold is possibly the largest source of lithium which is crucial in the production of all electronic devices from lap-tops, to mobile phones, weapons to aircraft consoles, which is why the Pentagon has described it as the “Saudi Arabia of Lithium.”  [15]

As New York Times reporter John Risen explains in his 2010 article: “Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country. The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources.”  [16]

2010-06-19-14mineralsgraphicpopup

The United States presence in Afghanistan intended to drive a wedge between those oligarchs and encroaching Chinese interests so that it can corner the market in rare minerals as well as oil and narcotics. However, as the mid-1990s approached, the legacy of US interference in the region and the end of the Soviet-Afghan war had produced a maelstrom of militant Islamic training camps drawing in fighters from all over the world. Osama bin Laden returned from the Sudan in 1996 in order to command his own camps alongside warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who took the lion’s share of control as the civil war raged about them. Afghanistan has become another narco-state of US induced chaos or, as one warlord exclaims:

“… essentially a lawless country. There is no civil law, no government, no economy—only guns and drugs and anger. … “For us, Afghanistan is destroyed. It is turning to poison, and not only for us but for all others in the world. If you are a terrorist, you can have shelter here, no matter who you are. Day by day, there is the increase of drugs. Maybe one day [the US] will have to send hundreds of thousands of troops to deal with that. And if they step in, they will be stuck. We have a British grave in Afghanistan. We have a Soviet grave. And then we will have an American grave.”  [17]

Since 1982 – 1991 Afghan opium production rose from 250 tons to 2,000 tons thanks largely to CIA support and their funding of the Mujahideen. However, bin Laden suffered heavy financial losses in 1991 with the closure of BCCI by US officials and could no longer rely on funding from his CIA superiors. This turn of affairs forced him to launder money from the drug trade to recoup his losses which gradually grew into a financial network, fully merging Islamic militancy with the global drug trade.  [18] According to author Roland Jacquard, “… Some of the money was handed back to organizations such as the FIS [a political party in Algeria]. Another portion was transferred by Ayman al-Zawahiri to Switzerland, the Netherlands, London, Antwerp, and Malaysia.” Money was also “… transferred from BCCI to banks in Dubai, Jordan, and Sudan controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood.”  [19]

Author Adam Robinson stated in his investigation into bin Laden: “During the summer of 1991 he discreetly made contact with many of the wealthiest of these individuals, especially those with an international network of companies … Within months, Osama unveiled before an astonished al-Turabi what he called ‘the Brotherhood Group.’”

The Muslim Brotherhood and their vast wealth replaced the BCCI as the main source of funding for Islamic militants and allowed a fascist form of Islamism and the growth of Al-Qaeda to flourish, sometimes straining at the leash of the Anglo-American intelligence apparatus.  [20]

 


Notes

[1] ‘Suicides at 10-year high in US military’ Associated Press, guardian.co.uk, June 8, 2012. “In the first 155 days of 2012 there was 154 suicides among active troops, around 50% more than the number killed in action in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon statistics obtained by Associated Press. This is the highest number in 10 years. Combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of drugs and debt problems blamed for increase.”
[2] ‘US Forced to Import Bullets from Israel as troops use 250,000 for every Rebel killed’ By Andrew Buncombe, The Belfast Telegraph, January 10, 2011. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/
[3] United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (1997) – ‘World Drugs Report’ | ‘Size of the drug market’ Transfrom Drug policy Foundation http://www.tdpf.org.uk | “In the 2005 World Drugs Report the UNODC put the value at US$13bn at production level, $94bn at wholesale level and US$332bn based upon retail prices. It also acknowledged that the US$400bn figure had been criticised by some experts as being too high.”
[4] ‘HSBC money-laundering scandal almost puts Barclays in shade’ – “Being accused by Senate of operating money-laundering conduit for ‘drug kingpins and rogue nations’ is as bad as it gets” by Nils Pratley, The Guardian, 17 July 2012. | ‘Libor or Money-Laundering? Focus on Arcane Rate Rigging Reveals Deeper Media Prejudice’ By Martin Baccardax, International Business Times, July 17, 2012. | ‘Global banks are the financial services wing of the drug cartels’ By Ed Vulliamy, The Observer, July 21, 2012.
[5] The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) http://www.unodc.org/
[6] UNODC World Drug Report 2011: http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/WDR2011/World_Drug_Report_2011_ebook.pdf (p.20)
[7] ‘War on drugs revealed as total hoax – US military admits to guarding, assisting lucrative opium trade in Afghanistan’ by Ethan A. Huff, Natural News, November 16, 2011.www.naturalnews.com/
[8] ‘Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by C.I.A.’By Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen. The New York Times, October 27, 2009.
[9] op. cit. Dreyfuss (pp.260-263)
[10] ‘Back to school in Afghanistan’ CBC News Online, January 27, 2004. | The National, Airdate: May 6, 2002 Reporter: Carol Off, Producer: Heather Abbott ,Editor: Catherine McIsaac. | “American interests were well served. But after the defeat of the Soviet empire, the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan. The country descended into civil war. The U.S. gave almost no money to help rebuild after the war against the Soviets and no money to rewrite the school textbooks.”
[11] ‘Sources Claim CIA aid Fuelled Trade Center Blast’ by Colin Milner, Boston Herald, 1994.
[12] pp.232-233; America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky, Published by Global Research, 2005.
[13] The CIA has unquestionably been the agency at the forefront of the drugs and turning much of US society into a drug-dependent culture. On the CIA’s website wwwcia.gov/ we read “Helping Them Say No to Drugs” as the title on their “parents and teachers” page. They go on to say: “The CIA is proud to be at the forefront of the War on Drugs, but we only win this war with everyone’s help.” They even have a “kids page”. Rather like a serial killer giving advice on how to counsel his victims with the knife still at their throats.
[14] ‘The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda:The CIA’s Drug-Running Terrorists and the “Arc of Crisis” Part I By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Global Research, September 05, 2010.
[15]’‘U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan’By James Risen, The New York Times, June 13, 2010.
[16] Ibid.
[17] ‘Blow-back from the Afghan Battlefield’ By Tim Weiner, The New York Times, 1994.
[18] ‘Drug trade filled coffers of Taliban, Bin Laden Group,’ By James Rosen The Star Tribune, September 30,2001 | ‘Collapse of BCCI shorts Bin Laden’ By Richard Sale, United Press International, March 1, 2001.
[19] In the Name of Osama Bin Laden: Global Terrorism and the Bin Laden Brotherhood by Roland Jacquard, Samia Serageldin (Editor) Published by Diane Pub. Co. 2002. | ISBN-10: 0756767113 (p. 129)
[20] pp.138-139; Bin Laden: Behind the Mask of the Terrorist by Adam Morrison. Published by Arcade Publishing, 2002. | ISBN-10: 1559706406.

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