By Makhdoom Babar
( With Input from John Nelson and Mona Wardak in Afghanistan)
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani just recently visited Pakistan on a State visit, with apparent purpose to bolster friendly ties. However he came to Pakistan without taking a single step to prevent the menace of the drug production and trafficking across Afghanistan that has always been the main sources of financing of terrorism in Pakistan. He also came to Pakistan without initiating any step to dismantle the unholy nexus between his country’s National Directorate of Security(N DS) and Indian intelligence official of RAW and IB that is very vibrant in Afghanistan’s narco terrorism. Afghan President also held security discussion with Pakistan’s civil and military leadership. But he did all this at a time When Afghanistan’s drug army’s strength has surpassed the overall personnel strength of Afghanistan National Army (ANA) with US Probe body SIGAR has already pushed panic button over the issue that has emerged as a serious threat to the regional and global security, reveal the Investigations of The Daily Mail.
The Daily Mila’s investigations reveal that Special Inspector General on Afghanistan’s Reconstruction (SIGAR), a US body that investigates and audits certain financial matters in Afghanistan, in its recent report, presented to to US government on 31st of October, 2014, has pushed the panic button over the alarming state of affairs with regards to sky rocketing illicit drugs and narcotics industry in Afghanistan. According to this SIGAR report, the rapidly and constantly increasing drug industry in Afghanistan has become a permanent source of acute and absolute security concerns for region as well as across the globe. This report indicates that the money generated through Afghanistan drug activity is enormously used for financing terrorism and other heinous crimes, thus it becomes the root cause of serious security issues.
The SIGAR report says that Afghanistan’s opium economy provides more employment , “up to 411,000 full-time-equivalent jobs” , than even the country’s armed forces.
The country’s poppy cultivation is at an all-time high, covering more than 200,000 hectares, another SIGAR report found earlier last month.Opium and its derivatives are the country’s largest export, worth $US3 billion in 2013, an increase from $US2 billion in the year before.
“Despite the rampant growth of an illicit drug economy that stokes corruption and even finances the Taliban, the concern over opium has diminished. The US and its partners seem to have given up on opium eradication as a goal in the country. As the SIGAR report notes, it isn’t even mentioned in “the declarations and communiqués from the conferences on Afghanistan reconstruction that have become a mainstay of the international effort,” the report says.
Opium cultivation is paid only “oblique reference” in the 2012 document laying out the country’s reconstruction. Indeed, nowhere in the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework do the words “poppy” or “opium” appear, even as the industry plays an ever-bigger role in the life of Afghans.
Meanwhile, appropriations for the Department of Defence’s Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities Fund (or DOD CN) have plummeted since a steady climb in the august and a peak in 2012. Since 2002, the US has spent nearly $US7.8 billion trying to tackle Afghanistan’s opium problem.
SIGAR report highlights the danger of Afghanistan’s massive and unsustainable dependence on foreign aid. “Our concernswere borne out in September by press reports that the Ministry of Finance of Afghanistan had askeddonors to provide an emergency infusion of $537 million to cover government salaries until the end of the year”, report adds.
This report focuses on the threat that opium production poses to Afghanistan’s reconstruction. In Section One, SIGAR points out that counternarcotics appears to have fallen off the agenda of both the U.S. government and the international community, despite
the fact that it is impossible to develop a coherent and effective strategy for a post-2014 Afghanistan without taking full account of the opium economy. As long as insurgent commandersare able to fund themselves through the opium trade, and as long as corrupt officials profit from the illicit economy, there may be few incentives for making peace in some areas of the country. In a special report issued this quarter, SIGAR showed that opium-poppy cultivation levels are at another all-time high, despite $7.8 billion obligated for counternarcotics efforts. A SIGAR performance audit also found that U.S. assistance to the provincial units of the Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan cannot be tracked and that the United States cannot determine whether its investment in these provincial units has helped them become a capable, self-reliant, and sustainable force.
The SIGAR report also examines the reconstruction effort across the security, governance, and economic sectors. In the security sector, SIGAR was deeply troubled by the decision of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to classify the executivesummary of the report that assesses the capability of the ANSF. For years, SIGAR has used the ISAF report as a primary metric to show Congress and the public the effectiveness of the $61.5 billion U.S. investment to build, train, equip, and sustain those forces. Prior to this quarter, aggregate data on the operational effectiveness of the ANSF were unclassified in the Regional ANSF Status Report (RASR) as well as its predecessors, the Commanders’ Unit Assessment Tool (CUAT) and the Capability Milestone rating system. ISAF’s classification of the report summary deprives the global community of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that Afghanistan is by far the world’s largest source of opium, producing over90% of global supply. Opium production accordingly plays a key role inthe political economy of Afghanistan. While occupying less than 3% ofland under cultivation, opium is Afghanistan’s most valuable cash cropand opiates—opium, morphine, and heroin—are its largest export, withan estimated value of $3 billion at border prices.2 Furthermore, the opiumeconomy directly provides up to 411,000 full-time-equivalent jobs—more than the entire Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF),and supports additional secondary-effect jobs in the licit economy. These Investigations reveal that in the coming weeks, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime(UNODC) is expected to report further increases in the amount of opium poppy growth. Levels of cultivation have risen by more than 200,000 hectaressince 2001.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that there is reasonto believe that cultivation will continue to increase in 2015, after the NATOcombat mission in Afghanistan has drawn to a close. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and other observers have recognized that reconstruction must tackle the Opium economy. As Special Inspector General John F. Sopko told Congress earlier this year, “The narcotics trade is poisoning the Afghan financial sector and fueling a growing illicit economy. This, in turn, is undermining the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, nourishing criminal
networks, and providing significant financial support to the Taliban and other terrorist groups.” In sum, Sopko warned, “the expanding cultivation and trafficking of drugs is one of the most significant factors putting the entire U.S. and international donor investment in the reconstruction of Afghanistan at risk.”
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that despite the threat that the burgeoning opium economy poses to theAfghan state and reconstruction, counternarcotics has largely fallen offthe Afghan agenda of both the U.S. government and the international community.
It rarely appears in the declarations and communiqués from the conferences on Afghanistan reconstruction that have become a mainstay ofthe international effort. And there are only oblique references to the issue in the current Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF),6 the agreement that underpins future reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan. Ofeven greater concern is that there is no consideration of the fact that existing and planned reconstruction efforts—improved irrigation, roads, and agricultural assistance—can actually increase opium production if they fail to factor opium-economy realities into program design. There is an urgent need to recognize that it is impossible to develop a coherent and effective strategy for a post-2014 Afghanistan without taking full account of theopium economy.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that the United States has committed nearly $7.8 billion to fight narcoticsproduction and trafficking in Afghanistan since 2002, but it is simplisticto argue that counternarcotics interventions have failed on the basis ofrecord-breaking production figures. The continued rise in cultivation andits relocation to areas beyond the reach of the current Afghan state suggestthat the problem does not lie solely with a narrow set of interventions currentlyunderstood as counternarcotics. The problem also lies in the failure
of the wider reconstruction effort to address the underlying conditions in many rural areas, such as insecurity, poor governance, and limited economicopportunities, which led to widespread opium production.
UNODC estimates that opium poppy was grown on 209,000 hectares — more than half a million acres—in 2013, up 36% from 2012 and a “record high” for Afghanistan.11 This was not the first time Afghanistan set records for opium production. In 1999, at the height of the Taliban regime, opiumpoppycultivation had reached an “unprecedented level” of approximately91,000 hectares.
Another “unprecedented” level of 131,000 hectares of opium poppy was cultivated in 2004. This occurred shortly after the then Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani warned of the dangers of the burgeoningopium economy.
The increases in cultivation between 2012 and 2013 have been significant. A report released by SIGAR’s Office of Special Projects illustrates that opium-cultivation potential has been rising, and that large areas of potential production increases appear in the east, north, and southwest of Afghanistan. The transmittal letter by the Special IG notes, as one example, that Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, declared “poppy free” by the UN in 2008, “saw a fourfold increase in opium poppy cultivation between 2012 and 2013.”
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that there is little reason to believe cultivation will fall in 2015. The latestplanting season began in late October 2014. Farm-gate opium pricesremain relatively high17 at around $140 per kilogram.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that n late August 2010, revelations of embezzlement and other widespread financial crimes within Kabul Bank confirmed rumors within the Afghan business community and elsewhere that private financial institutions in Afghanistan were involved in rampant criminal activity, including money-laundering operations intimately tied to the narcotics trade and that too with very obvious Indian links.
These investigations further indicate that in an effort to disrupt such activities, the U.S. Department of theTreasury, on February 18, 2011, sanctioned Afghanistan’s largest commercialhawala, , India headquartered New Ansari Money Exchange, and 15 affiliated individualsand entities under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act forfacilitating the money-laundering activities of major regional narcoticstraffickers linked to Taliban financing activities. Other financial sanctionsfollowed, including U.S. and UN counterterrorism sanctions in June
2012 against the Haji Khairullah and Haji Sattar Money Exchange and the Roshan Money Exchange for storing and moving money on behalf of the Taliban.
According to a public release from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, both exchange houses facilitated money transfers in support of the Taliban’s narcotics trade and terrorist operations. Additional U.S. and UN sanctions were imposed five months later against Rahat LTD, another hawala which had been used extensively by senior Taliban leaders, including then-Helmand Taliban shadow governor Mullah Naim Barich, who had been sanctioned just five days earlier by the Department of the Treasury
under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act for his extensive narcotics production and distribution activities. However, US comprehensively ovioded mentioning of the Indian connection in this direction while on the other side, Indian government never too any action either. It remained a fact that all these Hawala transactions by the above mentioned Money Exchangers were made with the blessing of Ajit Kumar Doval and senior RAW official Sanjeev Tripathy to organize the unauthorized operation via Chhota Rajan Gang.
These findings further indicate that in late June 2014, Afghanistan narrowly avoided blacklisting by theFinancial Action Task Force (FATF) by passing new anti-money laundering(AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) legislation. The newAML and CFT laws were deemed more compliant with international standardsthan that country’s previous statutes.
The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that few years back, former Chief of ISI, Lt. General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, while briefing a special committee of the Parliament at Islamabad stated that Afghan soil was being used for terrorism in Pakistan and that Afghanistan’s drug money was the major financial source of funding this terrorism, he was having more than 100 percent authentic evidences to prove the same which shocked the MPs and the disclosures of the ISI boss shocked many of them, belonging to the ruling alliance.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that the clandestine community across the world was also alarmed by the findings of the drugs survey conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that revealed that the volume of the drug money that is generated from
Afghanistan touches nothing less than three trillion US Dollars per year. Contrary to the belief that an American military presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia would discourage the illicit trade in narcotics, recent studies by the ODC have confirmed that Afghanistan’s drug trade has actually risen to new heights. It has not only successfully recovered from the opium ban, imposed by the former Taliban regime but has in fact surpassed all previous records of opium production in Afghanistan. Under the Taliban imposed ban, Afghanistan’s share of the global opium yield in 2001 diminished to 10% in 2001 from approximately 70 % the year before. However, according to the latest ODC data, the share of Afghanistan in world’s drug trade has again skyrocketed to 92%. Once, while presenting the World Drug Report at the National Press Club in Washington, the then UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said, “Afghanistan’s drug situation remains vulnerable to reversal because of mass poverty, lack of security and the fact that the authorities have inadequate control over its territory,” Investigations carried out by The Daily Mail in this direction reveal that in addition to opium poppy cultivation, another serious development, which has further complicated the situation, is the emergence of a large number of heroin laboratories in Afghanistan. While previously Afghanistan was responsible for the proliferation of opium poppy throughout the world, now the poppy is being increasingly processed into opium and heroin within Afghanistan. This “value-addiction” has, on the one hand, significantly increased profit margins for the drug barons and on the other hand created immense problems for the countries neighbouring Afghanistan, which are facing a tremendous surge in the influx of opium and heroin form that country. The increase in the number of seizures of opium and heroin along the Iran-Afghanistan and Pakistan-Afghanistan as compared to raw poppy seizures bear testimony to the fact that Afghan smugglers are now resorting to heroin production within Afghanistan. One has also, therefore, to look into the smuggling of Acetic Anhydride into Afghanistan from the region. Acetic Anhydride is one of the precursor chemicals, which are used in the processing of opium poppy into heroin, and its production and trade is supposed to be under strict international control in accordance with the international drug control treaties.
Not only is the drug money being used in sustaining instability within Afghanistan but it is also one of the major financial sources for terrorist attacks in the neighbouring countries, mainly Pakistan. In a bid to capitalize on the political chaos and war-lord culture prevailing in Afghanistan, India opened four new Consulates in Mazar-i-Sharif, Heart, Jalalabad and Kandahar besides reopening an oversized Embassy in Kabul, closed after the departure of Soviet backed regime in Afghanistan. This makes Indian diplomatic representation the largest in Afghanistan, bigger even than that of the US. India does not have any big legitimate commercial interests tied to these Afghan cities, neither does it have any expatriate Indian Community nor frequent travelers to or from India and Afghanistan, seeking visas or passport assistance.. These Indian Consulates are actually working to strengthen bonds with the Afghan warlords and drug barons who are one and the same owing to the entrenchment of drug culture in the Afghan political structure and the activity has gone more than double after Ajit Kumar Doval took over as India’s National Security Advisor and laid down a new national Security Policy. He is getting a comprehensive support and cooperation from Afghanistan’s NDS
The Government of Pakistan has gathered sufficient evidence linking recent incidents of terrorism in Pakistan with the financial assistance from the drug dealers. While training to the terrorists of The Terror Brotherhood is being provided by Indian intelligence agency RAW’s personnel stationed in the Indian Consulates in Afghanistan, financing for terrorism against Pakistan is invariably being done through drug money. Disclosure of a former Interior Minister Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat about the existence of six Indian terrorism training camps in Afghanistan is a clear pointer in this direction.
According to some reports, Pakistani Intelligence agencies that have made maximum arrests of the al-Qaeda operatives and other terror groups or individuals and interrogated them comprehensively, also learnt from certain arrested accused that these groups were sufficing on the money, generated through the afghan Drug Trade. On the other side, Pakistan’s Anti Narcotics authorities have often been asking the Pakistan government and Islamabad’s Foreign Office to take up the drug trafficking issue with Kabul.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that to add to the miseries of Pakistan, the US officials have actually been making huge payments to the Afghan drug mafia’s “Route Guards” as protection money for safety on certain transportation routes across Afghanistan. According to the findings of a US magazine The Nation, the contractors both US and Afghan pay protection money to the Taliban (and warlords) to ensure that supply convoys are able to travel through Afghanistan without being attacked while some of these contractors have US connections and/or connections with Afghan politicians and up to 10 per cent of funds allocated for transport go for protection from attack.
The million dollars question is that Can new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani do anything to streamline the affairs of its NDS? Can he bring a sudden end to the Indo-Afghan narco nexus? Can he do what his predecessor Hamid Karzai never even thought of doing and in fact what he himself let flourished? If Ashraf Ghani fails to do so, he would never be able to ensure peace in Afghanistan and specially would miserably fail in ensuring Pakistan of his and his government’s sincerity in peace with Pakistan.
1. SIGAR report 2014
2. Tamara Makarenko: “Crime, Terror and the Central Asian Drug Trade”. Makarenko is a consulting editor for Jane’s Intelligence Review.
3. Hearing testimony of Bernard Frahi, chief Operations Branch of ODC, at the US House Committee on International Relations on 19 June 2003.
4. Data is available through intelligence sources of the US, UNODC own surveys and intelligence provided by neighbouring countries such as Pakistan.
The 2018 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) annual conference is scheduled for April 8 to 11 in Boao, Hainan Province. The forum will be themed "An Open and Innovative Asia for a World of Greater Prosperity."
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily