Trump Sends Kim The Mother Of Messages


Trump pledges to take care of N. Korea after authorizing dropping of massive bomb in Afghanistan
U.S. President Donald Trump pledged again Thursday to take care of the problem of North Korea after authorizing the dropping of the largest U.S. non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan in a move sure to serve as a warning to Pyongyang.
The U.S. military announced that it used the GBU-43B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb to strike an Islamic State (IS) tunnel complex. It was the first time that the 21,000-pound bomb, also known as as “Mother Of All Bombs,” has been used in battle.
The bombing came as tensions are running high on the Korean Peninsula amid fears that the communist North could go ahead with its sixth nuclear test this weekend to mark the birthday of the North’s late founder and grandfather of leader Kim Jong-un.
The U.S. Pacific Command has already redirected a massive aircraft carrier strike group led by USS Carl Vinson to waters off the Korean Peninsula in a show of force aimed at warning Pyongyang against provocations.
Asked if the first use of the massive bomb is designed to send a message to North Korea, Trump said, “I don’t know if this sends a message. It doesn’t make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of.”
“I think China has really been working very hard. I have really gotten delight and respect, as you know, President Xi is a terrific person. We spent a lot of time together in Florida and he is a very special man. So we’ll see how he does. I think he’s going to try very hard,” Trump said during a White House meeting with first responders.
Earlier in the day, Trump also said he’s confident China will rein in the North.
“I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will! U.S.A.,” Trump said in a Twitter message.
It was the latest in a series of remarks that Trump has made in recent days to call for China to exercise its influence as the main food and energy provider for the impoverished North to stop the regime from additional provocations.
On Wednesday, Trump said during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the way for China to get a good trade deal is to help the U.S. with the North.
Trump also said that China appears to have already started working to increase pressure on the North, citing Beijing’s decision to return shipments of coal imports from North Korea back to the country. Trump called the decision a “big step.”
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump also said that he decided not to designate China as a currency manipulator because it could endanger his efforts to enlist Chinese help in dealing with North Korea.
At the same time, Trump also warned of the possibility of military action against the North.
“We are sending an armada, very powerful,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business aired Wednesday, referring to the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group, in an an apparent warning against the North undertaking provocations.
“We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier, that I can tell you. And we have the best military people on Earth,” Trump said. “And I will say this. He is doing the wrong thing … He’s making a big mistake.”
Asked what he was going to do with the North, Trump said he doesn’t reveal those things.
“I’m not like Obama,” Trump said, criticizing his predecessor for announcing his plans to strike the Iraqi city of Mosul in the fight against the militant group Islamic State so as to give adversaries enough time to get prepared for the strikes. (Yonhap)

Another Reason For The Afghanistan War

US invasion of Afghanistan was aimed at spying on Pakistan’s nuclear program and other regional actors, says Russian envoy in Kabul
Daily Pakistan
KABUL – The United States, wary of Pakistan’s nuclear program, invaded Afghanistan to keep an eye on Pakistan, China and Soviet Union, a senior Russian diplomat has said.
Zamir Kabulov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan and director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department, said in an interview that the number of U.S military bases in Afghanistan and the United States’ continued presence was a matter of concern to Russia.
d10
Speaking to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency, he said: “In Turkey, the U.S. has only one military base but, in Afghanistan, they have the right to use nine big military bases plus almost 10 more.” “Why?” he asked.
In response to his own question, he said this was a matter of concern for Russia adding that if Russia was to do the same in Mexico, “it would be disturbing for America.” “Why are they doing that after all this 15-year-old anti-terror rhetoric in Afghanistan? They stupidly try to say that “it is for training.”
“Come on! You are not talking to stupid or foolish people. We know the reasons [for the ongoing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan]. Russia will never tolerate this,” he said.
On October 7, 2001, the United States, supported by some NATO countries including the United Kingdom and Australia, as well as other allies, began an invasion of Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom. The invasion was launched to capture Osama bin Laden, who was accused of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
d4
Mr. Kabulov inferred that after being kicked out of Iran in 1979, the U.S needed a central Asian base, hence Afghanistan being an available option. Having bases in Afghanistan, the U.S was close to Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan among others, hence keeping an eye on the neighboring countries.
“Having this infrastructure as [a] basis, America will need two to four weeks to redeploy up to 100,000 soldiers on the same bases.
“Such a [move] would not be an invasion in terms of a U.S.-Afghanistan bilateral security agreement.
“We warned Afghans from the very beginning it [the bilateral agreement] may have implications for our bilateral relations if Americans use this infrastructure against our national interest. They said the Americans had promised. Well, we know the value of American promises” the Russian added.
On the subject of incoming US president Donald Trump, he said: “We expect that Donald Trump will tailor a new American approach to Afghanistan and he should address several issues which are a matter of concern not only to Russia, but important to regional actors, like China, Iran, Pakistan, and others.”
d9
Speaking on past relations with Afghanistan, Kabulov said that destabilization in the country following the 1979 Soviet invasion might have led to the emergence of radical groups such as al-Qaeda and Daesh.
d1
“One of the main slogans of support for Afghanistan [during the invasion] was that the Soviet Union came to eliminate Islam. So it was a good enough slogan,” said Kabulov.
d2
Kabulov said such slogans encouraged many people to go to fight in Afghanistan and do their jihad there.
“Osama bin Laden, a Yemeni-origin Saudi citizen, and many others who were unhappy with things going on in the Muslim world wanted to meet the challenges, including the ones that they saw as a threat to Islam.”
“Afghanistan became a convenient place for like-minded people to meet,” he said, adding that those people “added even more destabilization” to the country.
About the Taliban today being a local entity or an internationally managed group, Kabulov said it is predominately a local force.
d5
“First of all, the Taliban is not homogenous. Within the Taliban, there are different wings with almost different ideological backgrounds.”
He said the Taliban was speaking “the same language that Daesh speaks today.”
“The same scenario, same ideology, different people,” he says, recalling seeing an “Islamic caliphate” map in Afghanistan which he said included Afghanistan, some countries in The Middle East, parts of India, Central Asia, and reached “almost up to our suburbs of Moscow.”
“Within today’s Taliban there are very influential groups whose ideology is more radical, closer to Daesh.”
Last month, Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Alexander Mantyskiy, announced that the Russian government had made a diplomatic outreach to the Taliban’s leaders. In a press conference, Mantyskiy countered international criticism of Russia’s Taliban links by insisting that Moscow’s contacts with the extremist group were limited and aimed at ensuring the safety of Russian civilians.
In December, Russia also snubbed India, which poses as a regional bully after building closer ties with US-backed government in Afghanistan, during the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Amritsar.
Zamir Kabulov, in his address at the conference, said the allegations made against Pakistan by India and Afghanistan were totally baseless.
“Let it be known that the allegations’ game needs to be stopped and that criticizing Pakistan is wrong,” the Russian envoy said while terming Sartaj’s speech as constructive and friendly.
He also revealed that Russia is working on building cordial relationships with the countries within the region.

Obama Continues To Promote The Heroin Epidemic (2 Chronicles 36:13)

Obama 2

Barack Obama ended opium eradication efforts in Afghanistan in 2009, effectively green lighting Afghan opium production and the Afghan heroin trade. By 2010, all US efforts to eradicate Afghan opium ceased. It has been US policy to allow Afghan opium growing and the heroin trade since. US heroin deaths tripled from 3,036 in 2010 to 10,574 in 2014 as a result.
Vanda Felbab-Brown at the Brookings Institution. a liberal think tank that often writes reports supporting the Obama Administration, penned “No Easy Exit: Drugs and Counternarcotics Strategies in Afghanistan” in advance of the April 2016 UN Summit on Drugs (UNGASS). No way out for Uncle Sam is more like it. The report is notable for what it omits, which is any mention of the heroin epidemic, the deadliest illicit drug epidemic in history, or any of the tens of thousands of Americans killed by heroin since Obama took office.
The Bush Administration had an Afghan opium eradication program in effect, carried out by DynCorp. Obama didn’t renew DynCorp’s eradication contracts, effectively ending all US efforts to eradicate opium. (Afghan government eradication efforts in 2014, resulted in 1.1% of the Afghan opium crop being eradicated. The NY Times reported that the Afghan government will no longer eradicate opium crops as of 2016.) Heroin is made from opium.
Ms. Felbab-Brown might as well have said “let them eat cake” to the tens of thousands of Americans killed by heroin since 2009, the millions now hooked on heroin and the tens of millions living in terror because of loved ones now hooked on this deadly poison.
US policy changed to permit opium growing and the heroin trade during Obama’s first year in office, as a way to minimize US troop casualties in Afghanistan. And to maximize US civilian casualties in the US from heroin.
The CIA defines blowback as the ‘consequences at home of operations overseas.’
Since ending eradication efforts, US heroin deaths shot up from 3,036 (2010) to 5,925 (2012) to 10,574 in 2014. The heroin death toll continues to shoot up as does the number of heroin users, from the 1,500,000 US heroin users in 2010 to 4,500,000 users in 2015. As heroin deaths under Obama tripled, so has heroin usage.
There were 7,600 hectares of Afghan opium poppies when the War in Afghanistan began in 2001. (1 hectare = 2.5 US acres.) In 2009, there were 123,000 hectares. By 2014, Afghan poppy fields spread to 224,000 hectares resulting in a bumper crop of 6,400 tons of opium, enough to make 640,000 kilograms of heroin, thanks to Obama. Opium yields far greater profit than foods like wheat or corn, so opium production will continue to rise without serious eradication efforts.
Afghanistan is by far the number one producer of opium and heroin. Total worldwide opium production was 7,554 tons in 2014, of which 85% came from Afghanistan. The remaining 1,154 tons are primarily from Myanmar, Laos, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam.

US troops in opium field in Afghanistan

Mexico produced 162 tons of opium in 2014, enough to make 16,200 kilograms of heroin. An average heroin addict takes 0.15 kg of heroin a year, meaning Mexican heroin could only supply 108,000 heroin addicts. Heroin from Mexico cannot supply even 10% of US heroin demand.
Yet the DEA claims most heroin in the US is from Mexico. I asked Barbara Carreno and Russell Baer at the DEA questions like how such a mathematical impossibility was told by the DEA. They dodged many questions, claiming only 4% of heroin is from Afghanistan and the rest is mostly from Mexico. Carreno and Baer acknowledged 90% of heroin in Canada is from Afghanistan, but wouldn’t acknowledge that the USA has a border with Canada, only with Mexico.
We’re getting hit with the largest ever illicit drug epidemic in American history and the DEA is asleep at the wheel.
USA’s now #1 for heroin use. US heroin demand is 415,000 kilograms a year. The whole world, except Afghanistan, could only produce 115,400 kilograms of heroin (2014), not enough for even a third of the mushrooming US demand. Most heroin in the US is coming from US-occupied Afghanistan, there is no other mathematical possibility. There is no other physical possibility.
Carreno and Baer stated “we are a small press office with many queries to answer, and your line of questioning is expanding. I’m sorry to have to say that we will not able to assist you further.” I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about what the DEA has been doing (if anything) about Afghan opium and heroin.
I also asked the DEA people if they know how bad the heroin epidemic’s gotten or have any sense of urgency about it, they dodged these questions too. An American now gets killed every 32 minutes by heroin. Carreno and Baer seemed like they couldn’t care less and they don’t feel like answering most questions asked.
Perhaps the DEA people would answer questions (or plead the 5th) at Congressional Hearings.
Basic math shows that Mexico cannot produce enough heroin for even 1/10th of US demand. Besides 4,500,000 American heroin users (2,500,000 addicts and 2,000,000 casual users) and 10,000+ US heroin deaths a year, are the tens of millions of loved ones and neighbors living through hell because of this biggest ever drug epidemic in history.
One New Yorker summed it up “with heroin addicts on every block now, it’s like a zombie invasion.” One small American town has 190 HIV+ people due to IV narcotics use. The War in Afghanistan is the longest ever war in US history and the “collateral damage” of Americans being killed by Afghan heroin is shooting up.
Afghanistan has been known as the Graveyard of the Empires since Alexander the Great. Afghan heroin may yet destroy the American Empire. Since Obama green lighted Afghan opium and heroin, crime’s been shooting up in many places like Baltimore, considered to be ground zero for the heroin epidemic and the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the nation.
False narratives have proliferated recently about the heroin epidemic. One such narrative is ‘the Mexicans did it.’ Mexico, producing enough opium for 16.2 tons of heroin (2014), has enough for only 4% of current US heroin demand. The Mexicans didn’t do the heroin epidemic. (Colombia produced 2 tons of heroin in 2014, not enough for even 1% of the US heroin market.)
Another false narrative, ‘the doctors did it’ alleges patients got hooked on painkillers then turned to heroin. Not true. Only 3.6% of patients taking narcotic painkillers go on to take heroin.
‘Myanmar did it.’ Myanmar, a distant 2nd for heroin production, produced enough opium for 67 tons of heroin (2014), not enough for even 1/4th of US demand. Plus, Myanmar’s heroin goes to Asia, Australia and Europe. Not US.
“Genetics did it” which says ‘10% of people are prone to addiction, so genetics is the reason for the heroin epidemic.’ Human genetics hasn’t changed much the past 15 years. What has changed is Afghan opium production shot up from 7,600 hectares (2001) to 224,000 hectares (2014), a 29-fold increase.
‘Treatment is the solution.’ Treatment is a few fingers in a dyke that has sprung millions of holes. As Afghan heroin floods in, heroin use shoots up.
In Afghanistan, where heroin’s been as readily available as Coca-Cola since 2009, 8% of the people are addicted to narcotics. Following the footsteps of US policy in Afghanistan would mean 8% of the US population, 25,500,000 Americans, becoming addicted, which would be more like a zombie victory than a zombie invasion and would solidify Obama’s legacy as Heroin Dealer In Chief.
‘Decriminalize’ and “marijuana is like heroin” are additional narratives, about marijuana legalization in some places and Portugal’s decriminalization of personal possession of all drugs in 2001. Heroin’s not marijuana and trafficking tons of heroin is not personal possession. Apples and oranges.
Heroin is physically addictive within 30 days of daily use. Heroin kills 40x more than cocaine does and over 100x more than marijuana. Just as there are vast differences between swallowing a pint-size OJ, a Heineken or 3 liters of rum, so too there are vast differences between drugs. Decriminalizing personal possession of drugs is not comparable to decriminalizing trafficking tons of heroin.
Heroin traffickers no doubt want decriminalization instead of life imprisonment just as the makers of the world’s #1 narco state, Afghanistan, want people confused and distracted away from what they did.
The latest DEA narratives: ‘W-18 did it’ and ‘heroin deaths are over-reported’. Synthetics like W-18 are a drop in the overflowing heroin epidemic bucket. Heroin breaks down to morphine in the body within hours, gets recorded by American coroners as morphine (prescription drug) overdoses, resulting in under-reporting of heroin deaths by as much as 100%. The real US heroin death count in 2014 was closer to 20,000 than to 10,574.
It’s as if the recent media flurry of false narratives and distracting narratives have been to try to confuse and distract people away from the most lethal ever illicit drug epidemic (the heroin epidemic 2009-present), Afghanistan (source of 85% of all heroin) and how the heroin is getting to US. It appears as if certain elements within the US government are afraid of the epidemic of Afghan heroin being discussed and Congressional Hearings, sanctions (or worse) for what they did in making Afghanistan into the deadliest narco state ever in human history.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until Fall 2001. In mid-2000, the Taliban outlawed opium, within a year it was all but gone, from 91,000 hectares (1999) to 7,600 hectares (2001). Since the Taliban effectively outlawed opium within a year, then why hasn’t the latest US-supported Afghan regime and US Administration done the same?
If serious efforts are not made to eradicate heroin at it’s source, then the heroin epidemic will get worse.
Besides prioritizing eradication first, which will take a year if done in earnest, there are additional solutions.
Second, outlaw precursor chemicals, like acetic anhydride, needed to make heroin from opium. The chemicals to make methaqualone were outlawed in the 1980s. Methaqualone overdoses then stopped.
Third, US government and government-chartered planes can be searched.
Fourth, buying opium for medical morphine in the meantime, until eradication is complete, will alleviate this surge of heroin shocking and awing America.
Fifth, millions of addicts need treatment. There aren’t enough inpatient beds or outpatient seats for even 1/8th of the surge in narcotic users. $25 billion constructs 100,000 inpatient treatment beds and $10 billion annually provides another million seats in outpatient treatment. So far, Obama has ponied up less than 1% of the money needed for treatment, only $0.116 billion, for the heroin disaster he made. Day late, dollar short.
Sixth, decriminalizing personal possession in order to focus on big heroin traffickers would result in lower overall prison costs and fewer non-violent drug users serving expensive lengthy sentences.
US government agencies and departments involved in Afghanistan, 2000 to present, can come clean and tell all about Afghan opium and heroin.
One giant step forward would be Congressional Hearings to determine facts:
1)how did Afghan opium surge from 7,600 hectares to 224,000 hectares, 2) why did annual heroin deaths surge from 1,779 to 10,574 on up,
3)how did the Taliban effectively eradicate Afghan opium within a year, 4) why hasn’t the current Administration done likewise,
5)what exactly have the DEA, CIA and DoD been doing about Afghan opium and heroin, and
6) why did Obama green light the Afghan opium trade and heroin trade leading to the most lethal illicit drug epidemic ever.
The UN has been given the power to hold inquiries focusing on getting honest answers to honest questions and voting on censure or sanctions against the US government and current Afghanistan regime until opium is eradicated as it was under the Taliban in 2001.
Obama green lighted the end of US eradication efforts against Afghan opium in 2009, which green lighted the Afghan opium and heroin trade, which green lighted the deadliest illicit drug epidemic ever. The 10,000+ Americans getting killed every year by heroin, that’s just “collateral damage” to “the little people” from the lingering War in Afghanistan, Mr. President?
Eradicate the Afghan opium crops, stat, the way the Taliban eradicated the Afghan opium crops, within a year. No need to re-invent the wheel on this one.

Why We Have A Narcotic Epidemic In The US (Ezekiel 17)

In the 13 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the country’s opium production has doubled, now accounting for about 90 percent of the world’s supply. To learn more, we are joined by Matthieu Aikins, a Kabul-based journalist whose latest report for Rolling Stone magazine explores Afghanistan’s heroin boom. “What has happened in Afghanistan over the last 13 years has been the flourishing of a narco-state that is really without any parallel in history,” Aikins says. “This is something that is extraordinary, that is catastrophic, that has grave danger for the future and yet there has been virtually no discussion of in recent years.”


TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan officially concluded its combat mission Sunday, 13 years after it started in 2001, ending the longest war in U.S. history, we continue speaking with Matt Aikins, a journalist usually based in Kabul. He’s speaking to us by Democracy Now! video stream from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada. His recent article for Rolling Stone magazine is headlined “Afghanistan: The Making of a Narco State.” Why don’t you lay out for us what has happened in Afghanistan around the growing of heroin, Matt Aikins?

MATTHIEU AIKINS: Sure. Well, today Afghanistan produces twice as much opium as it did in the year 2000. And this spring I traveled to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan to witness what would be the largest harvest of opium in Afghanistan’s history. It’s a record year. And all over the south, east, west and north of the country, hundreds of thousands of people were taking part in this labor-intensive opium harvest. So, what has happened in Afghanistan over the last 13 years has been the flourishing of a narco-state that really is without any parallel in history. It accounts for 15 percent of the GDP, which is more than double what cocaine accounted for at the height of Escobar-era Colombia. So, this is something that’s extraordinary, that’s catastrophic, that has grave danger for the future, and yet there’s been virtually no discussion of in recent years.

AMY GOODMAN: Who’s growing it? Who’s profiting?

MATTHIEU AIKINS: Everyone is growing it. Everyone is profiting. It touches all levels of Afghan society, both sides of the conflict, the Taliban and the government. The Taliban is definitely involved. They profit by taxing the trade, by taxing growers in their areas. But the government is even more involved. Government-linked officials are believed to earn an even higher piece of revenue from the opium trade.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk more about the involvement of the Afghanistan government. Again, quite an amazing fact that Afghanistan provides 90 percent of the opium in the world.

MATTHIEU AIKINS: Well, what’s important to remember is the history here. So, after 2001, the U.S., in its quest for vengeance against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, partnered with the very warlords whose criminality and human rights abuses had created the conditions that led to the rise of the Taliban in the first place. And in many cases, these are the same individuals who were responsible for bringing large-scale opium cultivation to Afghanistan during the war against the Soviets. When they were backed by the CIA and Pakistan’s military, they became involved in heroin trafficking and opium production.

So, for example, in Helmand, which is the most—the largest opium-producing province in Afghanistan, they brought back a member of the Akhundzada family. Karzai appointed him as governor. He was a key ally of the U.S. special forces there. And this is the same guy who had been responsible for bringing opium production to Afghanistan. So, the reason that opium has flourished in Afghanistan is because we have brought in, supported, tolerated figures who are involved in very grave criminality and in human rights abuses and in torture. And we’ve done this because it’s been deemed militarily expedient. The generals and diplomats have decided that to pursue these, you know, narrow goals of defeating the Taliban, we needed some—to support these criminals.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Marjah more. Talk about its going from poppy-free to what it is today.

MATTHIEU AIKINS: Yes. Well, you probably remember Marjah was the site of one of the largest battles of the war, the Battle of Marjah, where the Marines air-assaulted into this stretch of irrigated canal land, that had actually, in a rather ironic twist of history, been built by a USAID-funded project in the 1950s and ’60s as part of the Cold War rivalry with the Soviets. They built this huge canal-irrigated zone west of Helmand that brought, you know, agriculture to the desert. And that was eventually turned into a center for poppy cultivation and a bastion of the Taliban, you know, by the mid-2000s.

So the Marines air-assaulted in. There was this very televised battle. They threw the Taliban out. And for a few years, the area was indeed poppy-free. But since then, as the Marines have left, as the Afghan government has become very distracted by the elections, farmers there had taken to poppy cultivation again. It was part of a general trend across the country that what small gains had been made in reducing poppy cultivation were being reversed, because they had largely been driven by short-term incentives.

And so, I went to Marjah and hung out with these farmers and saw their opium harvest, and it was really remarkable, because, you know, I was sitting in a living room with this guy, and he brings out a basketball-sized lump of opium. And I asked him how much he was thinking he was going to sell this for. He said, you know, he hoped to sell it for $600. And I asked him, you know, “Do you know how much this will be worth on the streets of Europe?” And he said he didn’t. So I did a quick calculation in my head, and it worked out to over $100,000, if it was converted into heroin and sold by the gram. So, you know, $100,000 sitting on the floor of a guy without plumbing or electricity really gives you a sense of how Afghanistan, in fact, is just at one end of this vast global economy that is the international drug trade.

AMY GOODMAN: You also write about the history of U.S. involvement and CIA involvement with drug traffickers in Afghanistan. Can you talk about that?

MATTHIEU AIKINS: Yeah, well, you know, the CIA’s dirty wars that it fought in Afghanistan involved patronizing mujahideen commanders who in many cases were directly involved in the narcotics trade, people like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who was responsible for the flourishing heroin laboratory seen in Pakistani tribal areas in the 1980s; Mullah Nasim Akhundzada, who was—I already mentioned—a major drug baron in southwestern Afghanistan. These are all people who’d receive U.S.-supplied weaponry and funding.

AMY GOODMAN: And you note that the U.N. has estimated the Taliban makes hundreds of millions of dollars from taxing opium and other illicit activities. But in the summer of 2000, the country’s fundamentalist leaders actually announced a total ban on opium cultivation. What changed?

MATTHIEU AIKINS: Well, you know, the Taliban’s decision to ban poppy cultivation in 2000, which was actually remarkably successful—the only poppy that was really cultivated in the country that year was in the corner of the country still controlled by the Northern Alliance, who later became our allies. So, there’s still a lot of debate as to why the Taliban made that decision. Probably it was just a rash one based on ideological beliefs—they were against opium as an intoxicant, being forbidden in Islam—one that where they were seeking to break their international isolation and get some desperately needed development aid. But in any case, since the invasion, you know, since the war, the Taliban has found it expedient to become involved in not just drug trafficking but all sorts of illicit activities—marble and timber smuggling, contraband goods. And so, yes, the Taliban and other militant groups are definitely involved in the drug trade, and that is another reason why it’s so cancerous for the region. It funds all sorts of militant groups. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is something that is as much at the doorstep of the Afghan government as is the Taliban.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us about Hajji Lal Jan?

MATTHIEU AIKINS: Yeah, Hajji Lal Jan is an interesting case that really highlights the limitations of the approach that we’ve tried to take to opium there. We had been—the U.S. had been supporting the specialized counternarcotics unit within the Ministry of the Interior in the hopes that this would provide the seed for Afghan efforts to go after drug trafficking, because there was sort of a decision made at the interagency level not to directly prosecute corrupt Afghan officials, because that would be too harmful to our war effort. So, the hope was the Afghans would do it themselves.

And in 2012, this major drug kingpin—he had been designated as a foreign narcotics kingpin by President Obama, but he had been living openly in Kandahar for many years, allegedly under the protection of President Karzai’s powerful half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai. So he was actually arrested by this Afghan commando unit, with international advisers. He allegedly, you know, according to court documents and prosecutors that I spoke to, he managed to escape when the raid was happening, went nearby, placed a call to Kandahar’s governor, Toryalai Wesa, on the phone. Wesa, again, allegedly, according to the wiretaps, told him that—just to sit tight, and he would call President Karzai and see what was happening. They did—then, based on that phone call, they tracked him to a second location, got him. He was taken to Kabul and put in a special counternarcotics court, where he was successfully prosecuted, convicted. It went to the appeals court. He was given 20 years in prison.

And then a sort of chain of events occurred that, for many people, highlighted just how deeply the narcotics industry reaches, you know, the highest levels of the executive and judicial branches. At the Supreme Court, his sentence was reduced to 15 years in prison. He was then transferred, after an order from the presidential palace, back to Kandahar to serve his time there. In Kandahar prison, a local court, based on an outdated provision in the Afghan criminal code that allowed for release for good behavior after nine months for sentences that were 15 years or less, ordered him to be released on parole. He immediately fled across the border to Pakistan. So, it certainly seemed to many observers like an orchestrated conspiracy to free a notorious and powerful drug trafficker who, again, allegedly was making payments both to the Afghan government and the Taliban in order to facilitate his heroin business.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see the opium economy changing with the U.S.’s changing role, though it certainly hasn’t pulled out entirely?

MATTHIEU AIKINS: Unfortunately, it seems like it’s just increasing year after year. And at this point, you know, given how catastrophically things have gone—I mean, you know, of course opium was a deeply entrenched problem in Afghanistan in the year 2001, but for it to have gotten twice as bad would require some remarkable failures in policy over the last 13 years. So, given that we’ve gotten to that point, any gains, any reductions in poppy cultivation will be incremental and long-term.
It should be remembered that, one, Afghanistan—Afghan farmers only touch 1 percent of the value of the global opium trade. This is a world problem. This has to do with the fact that the world desires, people desire, millions of people desire to consume illegal drugs. We’ve made that illegal and waged a war against it, so there will always be narco-states like Afghanistan under such a system. And, two, there are huge segments of the Afghan population whose human security is dependent on poppy. You know, these are impoverished farmers in many cases. And if we pursue some brutal campaign of eradication against them, it’s going to immiserate the rural population.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Matt, I want to thank you for being with us, George Polk Award-winning journalist, usually based in Kabul, joining us now from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada. We’ll link to your recent piece in Rolling Stone, “Afghanistan: The Making of a Narco State.”

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll be joined by a New York police officer. He says the hundreds of officers who turned their back on Mayor de Blasio as he gave his eulogy at the funeral of a slain police officer don’t represent most police officers here in New York. Stay with us.

Babylon Has Forgotten The Third Horn Of Pakistan (Daniel 8)


The U.S. cannot afford to forget Afghanistan and Pakistan

By David Ignatius Opinion writer October 6 at 8:14 PM
Follow @ignatiuspost

Last weekend’s deadly attack on an international hospital in Afghanistan was a reminder of the terrible war that grinds on there, with Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire.

Doctors Without Borders, a globally respected group, has charged that the deaths of 22 patients and staff members at its hospital in Kunduz was a “war crime.” The United States has promised to investigate what Gen. John Campbell, the NATO commander in Kabul, says was a mistake.

The hospital bombing comes as the United States is quietly exploring some diplomatic options that could reduce the violence in Afghanistan — and perhaps even curb the danger of a nuclear Pakistan next door. As with most diplomacy in South Asia, these prospects are “iffy,” at best. But they open a window on what’s happening in a part of the world that, except for disasters such as the Kunduz incident, gets little attention these days.

The United States recognized more than four years ago that the best way out of the Afghanistan conflict would be a diplomatic settlement that involved the Taliban and its sometime sponsors in Pakistan. State Department officials have been conducting secret peace talks, on and off, since 2011. That effort hasn’t borne fruit yet, as the Taliban’s recent offensive in Kunduz shows.

But the pace of negotiations has quickened this year, thanks to an unlikely U.S. diplomatic partnership with China. A senior administration official said Monday that “we’re hopeful that there will be a willingness on the part of the Taliban to resume negotiations,” despite the intense fighting in Kunduz and elsewhere. Beijing’s involvement is a “new dynamic” and shows an instance where “U.S. interests overlap with those of China.”

The first round of talks took place in late May in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province in western China. The United States and Pakistan were observers to discussions there between Afghan government and Taliban representatives. A second round took place in early July at Murree, a Pakistani resort town near Islamabad. According to a New York Times account, “the two sides agreed to seek a peaceful end to the conflict by attending regular meetings.”

A third round was scheduled for early August in Murree. But it was torpedoed by the leak from Afghanistan that Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s supposed leader, had actually been dead for two years. After a brief interlude, Akhtar Mohammed Mansour became leader of the Taliban. U.S. officials believe he launched the recent offensive in Afghanistan to consolidate his control of the group, and they’re wary of resuming the talks until the violence ebbs.

The White House is also exploring what could be a diplomatic blockbuster: possible new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Such an accord might eventually open a path toward a Pakistani version of the civil nuclear deal that was launched with India in 2005.
The nuclear dialogue is especially important because it would begin to address what U.S. officials for two decades have viewed as one of the world’s most dangerous security problems. A source familiar with the talks said Pakistan has been asked to consider what are described as “brackets.” Pakistan would agree to restrict its nuclear program to weapons and delivery systems that are appropriate to its actual defense needs against India’s nuclear threat. Pakistan might agree not to deploy missiles capable of reaching beyond a certain range, for example.

In return for such an agreement, the source said, the United States might support an eventual waiver for Pakistan by the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, of which the United States is a member. At U.S. urging, that group agreed to exempt India from rules that banned nuclear trade with countries that evaded the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This so-called “civil nuclear agreement” allowed India partial entry into the club of nuclear powers, in exchange for its willingness to apply International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to its civilian program.

Pakistan prizes its nuclear program, so negotiations would be slow and difficult, and it’s not clear that Islamabad would be willing to accept the limitations that would be required. But the issue is being discussed quietly in the run-up to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington Oct. 22. Any progress would break a stalemate that has existed since the United States detected Pakistan’s nuclear program in the mid-1980s, and especially after Pakistan exploded its first weapon in 1998.

The United States may have forgotten Afghanistan and Pakistan, but those volatile countries haven’t forgotten about the United States. The dangers are as real as ever, and so is the need for aggressive diplomacy to reduce the threat.

The Pakistani Nuclear Horn Grows (Daniel 8:8)

China opens ‘largest’ embassy in Pakistan, strengthens South Asia presence

By Feb 17, 2015 8:46PM UTC

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, speaks during a meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, in Islamabad, Pakistan last week. Pic: AP.

You might expect the largest Chinese embassy to be in the United States, the world’s biggest economy. Or in Japan, China’s most powerful neighbor. Or, given the growing sympathies between China and Russia, it might be headquartered in Moscow.

Instead, it is in Pakistan. The new embassy was inaugurated on February 13 in the presence of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who described China’s new diplomatic mission as a “symbol of friendship”. No further details were offered to the public, but the number of exclamation marks dotting the Foreign Ministry’s report seems to prove that a certain amount of excitement was part of the enterprise.

According to the official version of the event, “Wang Yi said that the five-starred red flag, won by martyrs with their blood, carries the Chinese nation’s tradition of unremitting efforts for self-improvement and opens up bright prospects for us, and it will wave in the heart of every Chinese forever!” Furthermore, “as a symbol of the special friendship between China and Pakistan, it will definitely play its due role in China-Pakistan all-weather friendly relations!”

Hype aside, the fact that China’s largest embassy is now in Islamabad says a lot about Beijing’s interest in South and Central Asian affairs. The two countries have been long-standing allies and are currently trying to establish a China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) that will link the port of Gwadar on the Pakistani coast to the western province of Xinjiang with railways, roads and pipelines for gas and oil. The project is meant to be an important part of China’s New Silk Road initiative, as Beijing calls its plan for investments across the Eurasian Continent. In November, Reuters reported that in the coming six years Beijing will back energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan with $45.6 billion.

Some of the projects that China is supporting are nuclear. The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2014 that China was in talks with Pakistani authorities to get three nuclear power plants worth $13 billion. Earlier this month Wang Xiaotao, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), confirmed what had already been rumored a year before: much to the chagrin of international observers who believe that the deal will undermine non-proliferation, Beijing is backing the construction of six reactors.

Besides economic cooperation, there is also a geopolitical side to the story. The Chinese government is troubled by separatism in the tumultuous province of Xinjiang, which shares a long and porous border with Central Asia. What worries Beijing is the possibility that a crisis triggered by instability in Afghanistan could spill over on Chinese soil, making matters even worse.

As journalist and author Ahmed Rashid wrote on the Financial Times in January, “of particular concern to China is the national security threat in its northwestern ‘autonomous region’ of Xinjiang, which has seen a recent surge in riots and terrorist attacks. Some Islamic radicals belonging to the Uighur ethnic group have trained with the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Beijing would like to ensure that such militants gain neither training nor protection within Taliban-controlled territory in the future.” This problem is worsened by NATO’s gradual retreat from the region, which could leave a power and economic vacuum behind.

Islamabad’s help is fundamental to work out a political solution to the Afghan problem. The war in Afghanistan is deeply influenced by what happens in Pakistan and fighters operate across the border. In other words, in order to tackle its own problems – real and potential – China needs to have the Pakistani authorities as much as possible on its side. And that might be precisely what Mr. Wang had in mind last week, when he told the press that “Pakistan has always played a unique and irreplaceable role in dealing with the issue of Afghanistan. In future, both China and Pakistan are willing to strengthen communication and coordination with Afghanistan and work with the international community to make unremitting efforts to realize the successful transition of Afghanistan.”