The main argument against it was that Iran wouldn’t abide by the deal, that they would cheat. We now have over a year of evidence that they have abided by the agreement. That’s not just my opinion. That’s not just people in the administration. That’s the opinion of Israeli military intelligence officers who were part of a government that vehemently opposed the deal. So my suspicion is that when the president-elect comes in and meets with his Republican colleagues on the Hill, that they will look at the facts, because to unravel a deal that is working and preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain.
US tried to put restrictions on Pakistan’s nuclear program: Aziz
By Web Desk
June 20, 2016 00:28
ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Sunday said United States had tried to put restrictions on Pakistan’s nuclear program as Pakistan-US ties were marred by troubles at the time the incumbent government took charge three years back, ARY News reported.
“Drastic changes took place in the world politics after 9/11. Some countries made alliance on anti-Islam ideologies,” he said.
However during tenure of the current government relations between Pakistan and United States had got better, he said while giving interview to a state television channel. He said Pakistan had rejected US pressure on the country’s nuclear programme.
The advisor on foreign affairs said US intervention in Pakistan’s internal affairs had damaged bilateral relations, but the present government has revived strategic dialogue with US and urged US to cooperate with Pakistan on all levels.
He said verbal and gestural understandings were given to US authorities on drone strikes in former president Musharraf and Pakistan People’s Party’s tenures.
“The current PML-N government has taken a strong stance and gradually such strikes have decreased in frequency. Around 117 drone strikes were carried out in 2013 which has reduced to three in the following year,” he claimed.
Aziz also said most of the groups fighting in Afghanistan were fighting from within Afghanistan, but the perception persisted that Pakistan should take action against them.
“We can only bring Taliban to the negotiating table using our influence, but ultimately Afghanistan has to talk with them,” he said.
To a query, he said that Pakistan had not breached any agreement by constructing a gate on the Torkham border.
Sartaj Aziz said the gate was being constructed in 35km inside Pakistan’s territory from the border, hence, no one has the right of objection to this.
He said the ruling government has decided not to compromise on its integrity. He also said special security division had been established for China Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Pak-US trust deficit
Trust deficit has deepened between Pakistan and the US since May 21, 2016, when the CIA-operated drone strike killed the Chief of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Akhtar Mansour in Nushki, Balochistan. On June 10, this year, a high-level delegation of the US visited Islamabad and met Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif and Adviser to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz Adviser separately.
During the meeting, expressing his serious concern on the US drone strike in Balochistan as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif highlighted as to how it had impacted the mutual trust and was counterproductive in consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Gen. Raheel Sharif by elaborated, “All stakeholders need to understand Pakistan’s challenges…inter-tribal linkages and decades-old presence of over three million refugees…blaming Pakistan for instability in Afghanistan is unfortunate…target TTP and Mullah Fazlullah in their bases in Afghanistan…RAW and NDS are of fomenting terrorism…Pakistan is committed to work for a long term peace process for Afghanistan under Quadrilateral Coordination Group framework.”
However, America’s open double standards in relation to India and Pakistan and secret double game with the latter have created unbridgeable trust deficit between Pakistan and the US. The US has always preferred New Delhi over Islamabad. In this context, during the recent visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to America, addressing the media jointly, Prime Modi said, “I am thankful for the help and support that my friend Barack Obama has extended with regard to India’s membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).”
America has been backing Indian hegemony in Asia to counterbalance China. During President Obama’s second visit to India, the US and India announced a breakthrough on a pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology, as agreed upon in 2008. This duplicity has initiated a dangerous arms race between Pakistan and India, and between China and India.
Setting aside the Indian irresponsible record of non-proliferation, and safety of nuclear arms, Washington also pressurized the International Atomic Agency (IAEA) to sign an accord of specific safeguards with India. America had already contacted the NSG to grant a waiver to India for starting civil nuclear trade on larger scale. Undoubtedly, unlike India, Pakistan’s nuclear assets are in safe hands—well-protected and are under tight security arrangements, having the best command and control system. However, taking cognizance of the US double standard, China and some responsible countries have decided to oppose in the meeting of the NSG to grant a waiver to India in this regard.
Nevertheless, after the latest incident of drone attack in Balochistan, Afghan Taliban leaders refused to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government. Notably, in the recent past, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban with view to ending nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.
It is mentionable that on January 13, 2015, at least seven personnel of the Afghan security forces died during the suicide attack which targeted the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad. The Islamic State group (ISIS or ISIL) claimed responsibility for the terror assault which coincided with efforts to restart the suspended peace process with the Taliban. Indian secret agency RAW was behind this terror attack to thwart these peace talks. Indian desperation in Afghanistan is increasing in the backdrop of growing engagements of Islamabad, Kabul, Beijing and Washington. Therefore, by arranging terror-assaults in Pakistan and Afghanistan, New Delhi is also sabotaging the peace process between the Afghan officials and representatives of Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan.
It is noteworthy that America is playing double game with Pakistan, because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World, which irritates America, India and Israel. Hence, American CIA, Israeli Mossad and RAW which are well-penetrated in the ISIS, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are using the militants of these terrorist outfits to destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan and Pakistan’s province of Balochistan by arranging the subversive activities. In this connection, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is their special target. Collectively or individually, these intelligence agencies are also assisting Jundullah (God’s soldiers)—the Sunni militant group which is active in Balochistan against Shias.
Based in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, Mullah Fazlullah, chief of the TTP is running a parallel government in Afghanistan. The militants of this outfit have their own legal system and own authority, exercising strict control. In the recent years, when the US-led NATO forces felt that they were failing in coping with the stiff resistance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the high officials and media of their countries started accusing Pakistan’s army and country’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of supporting the Afghan Taliban in order to pacify their public for the protracted war in that country, which still continues. India avail the opportunity and also accused Islamabad of cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan.
It is notable that Pakistan’s Armed Forces broke the backbone of the militants through military operation Zarb-i-Azb—killing thousands of insurgents including foreign terrorists, while, ISI and other law-enforcing agencies captured several terrorists in various regions of Pakistan. Taking note of the ground realities, the US and other Western countries have begun appreciating the capabilities of Pakistan Army and other security agencies. Nonetheless, the strikes by the drones which have continued in Pakistan’s tribal areas since 2004 have intensified during the Obama era, and are clear violation of international laws. Collateral damage caused by these strikes also ignites violent and retaliatory sentiment among victims and perpetuate extremist wave. We can conclude that the double standards and double game of the US-led entities have created unbridgeable trust deficit between Pakistan and the US.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.
Initially, says Hersh, we “were going to announce it happened in the Hindu Kush and pretend that we did a strike with a drone.” The reason for that was to avoid exposing Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Kayani Kayani and ISI Director General Ahmad Pasha’s knowledge of the mission and to spare them the embarrassment of the actual raid on their watch. Also, continues Hersh,
“We put so much effort into the two leaders to make them trust us, because of the bomb issue, and also because of what they do for us, constantly do for us, still in Pakistan.”
By “bomb issue,” Hersh means that the United States wants command it can trust in charge of Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program. Elaborating, Hersh says,
“Gates … had a very critical thing to say about the White House, about going public so early. And he said it’s because they named the SEALs.”
But, “That wasn’t what his concern was.”
“His concern is we violated an agreement we made with Paha and Kayani to protect them. And the agreement we made with Pasha and Kayani to protect them. And the agreement was we wouldn’t let it be know what he was there, that the ISI was protecting him. They didn’t want the public to know it.”
While many believe that the raid on Abbottabad and the killing of bin Laden was a boon to U.S. national security, in the long run, it may have actually been to its detriment. Alienating those in the Pakistani command structure that are sympathetic to the United States may come back to bite us one day.
Now, however, it is time to look forward, not backward. Today, in geostrategic terms, and at the incontestable twilight of Obama’s presidency, it is far more important for all Americans to inquire about the nuclear policy sentiments of his likely successor, whether Democrat or Republican. For example, we will need to ask: “Will our next president share Obama’s more-or-less visceral correlation of nuclear military force with evil in world politics?”
Any such correlation seems to have been rooted in the president’s unhidden presumption that nuclear weapons, precisely because of their conspicuously unique power of destructiveness, are more than “merely” dangerous. In this starkly confused view, such weapons are taken to be inherently bad. Here, at least in terms of formal logic, the conclusion doesn’t follow at all from the premises. This conclusion is very plainly fallacious.
But it’s not just a question of errors in logical reasoning. History, too, should instruct our next president that atomic arms are assuredly not per se destabilizing. In many volatile and otherwise still-perilous circumstances, he or she will need to understand, nuclear weapons can even prove to be distinctly peace-enhancing.
This conclusion was most evidently recognizable during and after the Cold War, when two superpowers—Manhattan Project director J. Robert Oppenheimer had then called them “two scorpions in a bottle”—successfully avoided uncontrolled escalations to World War III. Arguably, it should now be borne in mind, without a stabilizing nuclear “balance of terror,” such a conflagration could have been much more likely.
We—the United States and now Russia (no longer the Soviet Union)—are already embroiled in what might best be described as “Cold War II.” Are the same nuclear deterrence lessons apt to apply this time around? Our next president will need, above all else, to ask this core question.
None of this is meant to suggest to President Obama’s successor that further nuclear proliferation would generally be a positive development, or even a potentially tolerable one. Still, there are at least some beleaguered nation-states that could not reasonably hope to survive amid the steadily expanding global chaos without displaying suitably persuasive forms of nuclear deterrence.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
The Associated Press
9 hours ago
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s Supreme Leader said Sunday that Washington has continued its animosity toward Tehran, despite a friendly message by President Obama marking Persian New Year.
State TV broadcast Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s New Year’s speech on Sunday live from the northern city of Mashhad. He said of the U.S., “From one hand they send a New Year message and on the other hand they have kept economic sanctions,” against Iran. “This is enmity.”
Khamenei has final say on all state matters in Iran. He said many international companies continue to avoid working with Iran out fear of the U.S.
Obama on Saturday, in his annual video message marking the Persian New Year, said a landmark nuclear deal Iran reached with world powers last year makes it possible for Iran to rejoin the global economy, increase trade and investment, and create jobs and opportunities for Iranians to sell their goods around the world.
The United States is severely working not to allow the deal’s results to become beneficial for the Islamic Republic,” said Khamenei. He said despite the deal “They have threatened us through other sanctions.”
He said the U.S. has not fulfilled all of its commitments under the deal. “Banking transactions are still facing problems. The return of Iran’s capital from abroad has faced problems. When we investigated, it was found out that they fear from the U.S.”
He also said there is no guarantee that the next U.S. administration will honor all the commitments made by Obama’s administration.
Khamenei dismissed the recent controversy over Iran’s continued testing of ballistic missiles. Earlier this month, the country’s Revolutionary Guard test-fired two missiles emblazoned with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” in Hebrew.
After the launches, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Iran to “act with moderation,” and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations called them, “provocative and destabilizing.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the recent tests could trigger additional sanctions.
“What an outcry they raised over our missile issue saying, why did you test fire? Why did you launch the military exercise,” Khamenei said.
By Jennifer Rubin February 24 at 10:00 AM
The Government Accountability Office put out a preliminary report on Tuesday on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran:
GAO’s preliminary observations indicate that IAEA may face potential challenges in monitoring and verifying Iran’s implementation of certain nuclear-related commitments in the JCPOA. According to current and former IAEA and U.S. officials and experts, these potential challenges include (1) integrating JCPOA-related funding into its regular budget and managing human resources in the safeguards program, (2) access challenges depending on Iran’s cooperation and the untested JCPOA mechanism to resolve access requests, and (3) the inherent challenge of detecting undeclared nuclear materials and activities—such as potential weapons development activities that may not involve nuclear material. According to knowledgeable current and former U.S. government officials, detection of undeclared material and activities in Iran and worldwide is IAEA’s greatest challenge. According to IAEA documents, Iran has previously failed to declare activity to IAEA. However, according to a former IAEA official as well as current IAEA and U.S. government officials GAO interviewed, IAEA has improved its capabilities in detecting undeclared activity, such as by adapting its inspector training program.
Now, it would have been helpful for the Senate — before voting on the Iran nuclear deal — to have information like this. Nevertheless, it confirms once again how much the administration gave up to get its legacy deal.
At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with Secretary of State John F. Kerry, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a staunch critic of the deal, read aloud more of the GAO’s findings. “Let me read some of them: ‘GOA’s preliminary observations point to directly to future problems with monitoring, verifying and meeting requirements of the JCPOA.’” said Menendez. “It talks about its limitation, ‘a limited budget from an irregular funding sources, human resource shortfall, important equipment operating at capacity already not being able to go beyond that, limited analytical capabilities that will all be tested by the new mandates of the JCPOA, a lack of authorities,’ obviously the IAEA activities will depend to a significant degree on the cooperation of the Iranian state.” He continued, “Thirdly, that while they have focused virtually all of their resources to pursue the JCPOA, they’re going to have very little resources. They turn away from other proliferators and potential proliferators. And, finally, among other items, the IAEA’s own estimates has identified the need for approximately $10 million per year for 15 years over and above its present budget. So, it is an agency that is understaffed for its purposes, losing technical assistance, people are leaving, has now a singular focus.”
Menendez wants Iran to pay for the needed upgrades to the IAEA, but the better question — which he has raised before — is how we could have given Iran billions up front with such an obviously deficient monitoring scheme in place. The incentive is on the administration to ignore violations (for fear of losing its deal), not on Iran, “flush with money,” as Menendez put it, to abide by its terms.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) also observed, “My biggest takeaway is lawmakers must come together in a bipartisan manner now to create an insurance policy for imposing crippling pressure if and when Iran once again cheats on nuclear inspections as it has so many times in the past.” He added, “The report also cites concerns the IAEA’s decision to end investigations into Iran’s past nuclear weapons activities that ‘could reduce the indicators at the IAEA’s disposal to detect undeclared activity.’ Indeed, GAO also warns the nuclear deal’s mechanism for IAEA inspectors to gain access to Iranian sites suspected of having undeclared nuclear activities remains ‘untested’ and cautions ‘it is too soon to tell whether it will improve access.’”
These are all fine ideas, but the Senate should be working on new sanctions now — to respond to Iran’s illegal missile tests, regional aggression and ongoing human rights violations. Just Sunday we learned, Iranian Revolutionary Guards had allegedly mounted a plot against a Saudi Arabian passenger plane in Southeast Asia. Reportedly, the plot “has reached an ‘advanced stage’ of implementation.”
Last week the administration warned that a sale of Russian advanced jets to Iran would violate the United Nations ban on such equipment. Sanctions guru Mark Dubowitz tells me, “Congress should draw up a list of Russian and Iranian entities to be sanctioned, give the administration 30 days to impose sanctions on these entities, and, if there’s no action, move ahead with statutory designations of these entities.”
That thinking needs to be applied across the board, taking into account all aspects of Iran’s behavior. Iran acts with impunity because it is convinced (rightly) the administration will do nothing. If the White House won’t, then Congress must act.