White Gold: Heroin & the Destabilization of Afghanistan (Preview)

08/30/20112 Comments

NOTE: The above video is a preview of this week's Eyeopener report. In order to watch the full video, please click here. Future editions of the Eyeopener will be available to subscribers to BoilingFrogsPost.com. Subscriptions to Boiling Frogs Post will be available in mid-September.


This is James Corbett of The Corbett Report with your Eyeopener report from BoilingFrogsPost.com on this 22nd day of August, 2011.

Violence continues to rock Afghanistan this week as two more government officials were gunned down yesterday, including a prosecutor in Helmand province and agricultural officer in Kandahar.

The attacks come after a series of high-profile incidents, including the assassination of Afghan president Hamid Karzai's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai last month and a daring attack on the British Council compound last Friday.

The recent uptick in violence comes precisely as NATO is beginning the process of handing control over to local authorities. In late June, Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy announced the beginning of a withdrawal that would see a drawdown in US and French troops this year and a pledge that UK forces be removed from combat duty in Afghanistan by 2015.

In late July, shortly before the wave of assassinations began, NATO handed over security operations in the relatively peaceful province of Bamiyan and the cities of Lashkar Gah and Mehtar Lam to local security forces. The upsurge in violence, however, casts doubt on the ability of Afghan forces to take on the task of policing the chaotic areas of Helmand and Kandahar, and some have already used recent attacks to call for rethinking these withdrawal plans.

Although the western media has been quick to attribute these attacks to the Taliban, it is unclear how the interests of the Taliban – who ostensibly want to take control of the country – would be served by disrupting NATO's withdrawal plans. Instead, some critics are alleging that NATO in fact has no plans to withdraw forces from Afghanistan and the violence may in fact be being incited to give NATO an excuse to stay in the country.

The assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, for instance, was treated as a Taliban hit, with The Washington Post setting the tone of the official story with a confused article headlined “Ahmed Wali Karzai's killer had been a Taliban foe” despite going on to claim, without proof, that Sardar Mohammed had “somehow” been recruited by the Taliban to kill Karzai.

A more coherent picture emerged when it became known that Mohammed in fact ran a network of spies reporting to the CIA and that no less than two of his brothers-in-law worked directly for the CIA. Combined with the fact that Karzai himself had been exposed as having been on the CIA payroll at the same time as he was a major drug dealer in Kandahar, and that his relationship with the agency had soured in 2008, when his CIA links were exposed, and the facts more closely suggest a CIA-sponsored or aided hit than the idea that Mohammed had been miraculously converted by the Taliban and sent on a suicidal assassin mission.

As critics note, however, the idea of a ubiquitous Taliban presence in Afghanistan is needed in order to ensure the continued occupation of the country by NATO forces long past the 2015 deadline for the handover of combat operations.

Numerous reasons have been suggested as to why the occupation of Afghanistan is important to the west, from its geostrategic importance to its mineral wealth, but one of the most compelling is the fact that the country now produces as much as 92% of the world supply of opium.

The Afghan poppy crop brings in about $1 billion for the opium farmers themselves, or about $5000 per family annually. $3 billion go to Afghan government officials, insurgents, warlords and traffickers. The street value of the drugs produced from the opium, however, is estimated to be as much as $200 billion a year, with the vast majority of that being laundered through the U.S. banking system.

The idea that the drug trade in Afghanistan is enabled and protected by western interests for their own benefit is by no means a new or controversial idea. Charts showing opium production in Afghanistan reveal that the opium crop was almost entirely eliminated by the Taliban during the year that they banned opium cultivation, with the chart spiking to record highs during the years of NATO occupation.

Late last month, I had the chance to talk to Professor Peter Dale Scott, the author of such works as Drugs, Oil & War: The United States in Afghanistan, Columbia, and Indochina, and American War Machine; Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection and the Road to Afghanistan.

I asked him about who is behind the refinement of Afghan opium into heroin and how they profit from the international drug trade.

Adding to the conclusion that the protection of the global drug trade is in fact a key aim of the NATO occupiers, this week it was announced that US Training Center Inc, a subsidiary of Blackwater International, has just been awarded a contract by the Pentagon for “counter-narcoterrorism activities in Afghanistan.”

How exactly a firm that is notorious for claims of its involvement in murder, weapons smuggling, money laundering, child prostitution, and schemes to deliberately overcharge the Pentagon for its services could possibly be of use in counter-narcoterrorism activities is not clear.

However, the fact that the U.S. Military's officially acknowledged policy is now to help the Afghan farmers grow and cultivate their poppy crop makes the involvement of an arm's-length military contractor of dubious integrity all the more understandable..

What these reports expose is that exactly contrary to government talking points about the poppy trade helping the Taliban, who in fact almost succeeded in eradicating opium production in the country during their rule, the crop is in fact being grown, cultivated and sold under the watchful eye of NATO troops.

This is not an incidental role for coalition troops in the region, but in fact a vital one, helping to prop up what has been estimated to be the third most lucrative commodity in the world behind oil and the arms trade. The total value of the global drug trade has been estimated at between 0.5 and 1.5 trillion dollars annually, with Professor Scott noting in his book American War Machine that about half of that total is funnelled through U.S. banks each year.

In 2001, a U.S. Senate investigation found that 10s of billions of dollars of drug money were being laundered through U.S. banks each year via a dimly-policed shadow financial system known as correspondent banking.

In 2006, a DC-9 carrying 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100 million, crashed near the Gulf of Mexico. An investigation found that the money had been purchased with funds laundered through Wachovia, and the US DEA, IRS and others unwound billions of dollars in drug money that had been laundered through the bank. Charges were brought against Wachovia, now a part of Wells Fargo, but the case was settled before coming to court. In the end, the bank was shown to have laundered over $378 billion in illicit funds, and ended up paying $160 million in fines and forfeitures.

In 2008, the Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes noted that US banks under pressure from the liquidity crisis of that year in fact used laundered drug money in order to stay solvent.

Given the central importance of the drug trade to the world economy, it should come as little surprise that US forces in Afghanistan are being ordered to guard the poppy fields, not eradicate them. And given that private contractors like Blackwater are now being hired to participate in Pentagon-funded counter-narcoterrorism activities, look for Afghan opium exports to hit record highs once again this year.

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  1. FNC says:

    Sarah Chayes has further confirmed that A. W. Karzai was on the CIA payroll in her recent book, Thieves of State. Relevant excerpt:


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