Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Seeds of Terror

A brief interview from The New Statesman with Gretchen Peters who, in May, published Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda. It details how the Afghan poppy fields are the major source of funding for the Taliban (up to 70% of their funding), implicating Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida and, therefore by extension if not direct conclusion, how anyone who dealt or deals in the Afghan opium trade directly or indirectly helped fund the attacks on America in 2001 and others around the world. Lowlife filth.

Gretchen Peters
Claire Colley

Published 15 October 2009

What is the relationship between the Taliban and opium traffickers?
There has always been a close symbiotic relationship between the Taliban and drug traffickers. The Taliban's first benefactor, Haji Bashar Noorzai, is in prison, sentenced to life on drugs charges. There's a widespread misperception in the west that the Taliban are anti-drugs because of the one year they banned farmers from cultivating poppy.
One of the first stories I did in Kandahar in the 1990s was about how poppy cultivation was exploding under the Taliban. I later found that senior Taliban leaders and traffickers close to them bought huge stockpiles of opium. The Taliban depended on taxing poppy for revenue, so when they banned it, the price went through the roof.

Why do you think the coalition forces have failed to deal with the problem?
In the weeks leading up to the 2001 invasion, the British government was screaming for US warplanes to bomb the opium compounds, partly because 70 per cent of heroin on UK streets comes from Afghanistan, but also because they felt the opium could fund the Taliban's war efforts. The Bush administration refused. This was at a time when Bush was complaining that they lacked military targets; here was a target clearly connected to top decision-makers close to Mullah Omar, yet no action was taken. One explanation is that the CIA and the Pentagon had allies in Afghanistan who were also involved in the drugs trade. I believe that decision played a big role in allowing the Taliban to come back.

You report that the opium trade is providing the Taliban with up to $500m a year. What does this mean on the ground?
It's clear that drug money funds most of the Taliban's operational costs. If a local drug trafficker asks for the Taliban's protection in making a shipment, he will give them weapons in return.

Are the insurgents running the drugs trade, or profiteering?
There's been a clear pattern of Taliban commanders integrating vertically in the drugs trade over the past five years. In the early days, all they took was a cut of what was taken through their control bands. Now we hear stories of them running drug labs and maintaining control of the shipments beyond Afghan borders.

Are Bin Laden and Mullah Omar involved?
I believe they have been directly involved in facilitating the drugs trade for years, probably since the 1990s. We're never going to find Mullah Omar or Bin Laden sitting with an IED [improvised explosive device] in one hand and a bag of heroin in the other, but there's evidence from the 1990s that Bin Laden facilitated relations between the Taliban and major traffickers in Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf.

Has opium become a weapon of war for the insurgents?
Yes, Haji Baz Mohammed said that opium was part of jihad - that it's OK to sell and traffic drugs to infidels. However, compared to countries like Iran and Pakistan, the west has small populations of heroin addicts, so they're not making addicts of infidels, they are making addicts of Muslims.

Do you think your book Seeds of Terror will have an influence on policy?
I've had emails from senior people in the US government saying they'd read it and changed their mind about how to attack the problem. I'm pleased the US military has started targeting traffickers associated with the Taliban, yet I wonder how much they are willing to do about drug corruption.
The clearest example of this is President Karzai's half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, who has been repeatedly linked to the drugs trade. There has been no pressure for an independent nvestigation into these allegations.

Gretchen Peters's "Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al-Qaeda" is published by Oneworld


Always On Watch said...


Some on the left keep insisting that the Taliban curtails the production of opium.

Pastorius said...

Something is wrong with Bush that he would not bomb the opium fields.