Narcos in Afghanistan now US military targets
US Marines in Helmand Province. Photo courtesy of Eros Hoagland via The New York Times.
On Monday, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations released a report entitled “Afghanistan’s Narco War: Breaking the Link Between Drug Traffickers and Insurgents,” which includes several revealing pieces of information.
First, as the LA Times reports,
The two spy agencies [the CIA and DIA] believe that Taliban leaders receive about $70 million a year from Afghanistan’s lucrative poppy crop — far lower than the $400-million estimate released last year by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Now there’s a discrepancy for you. Apparently, the UNODC “is expected to revise its estimate of the drug money flowing to the Taliban, reducing the figure to about $125 million this year. U.N. analysts told Senate aides they had miscalculated the scope of the problem beyond Kandahar and Helmand provinces, where the Taliban is particularly strong.”
That, plus another “oops,” this time from the US side:
In one of its most disconcerting conclusions, the Senate report says the United States inadvertently contributed to the resurgent drug trade after the Sept. 11 attacks by backing warlords who derived income from the flow of illegal drugs. The CIA and U.S. Special Forces put such warlords on their payroll during the drive to overthrow the Taliban regime in late 2001.
“These warlords later traded on their stature as U.S. allies to take senior positions in the new Afghan government, laying the groundwork for the corrupt nexus between drugs and authority that pervades the power structure today,” the report says.
This reminds me of Peter Andreas’ fascinating research on Bosnia, where he found the postwar political and economic elite included smugglers who had proved essential to the war effort — an unintended result of the UN arms embargo.
Okay, so we supported drug-trafficking Afghan warlords. What do we do now? Along with the removal of aerial fumigation from the policy set, the Senate report lays out plans to include major drug traffickers in the military’s “joint integrated prioritized target list.” The New York Times clarifies, “That means they have been given the same target status as insurgent leaders, and can be captured or killed at any time.” Designation for this list requires “two credible sources and substantial additional evidence” that the individual is a major trafficker, and is providing support to the insurgency.
Now, about those credible sources…