Powerful Illicit Interests Complicate Obama’s Decision on Afghanistan

As U.S. President Barack Obama wrestles with the military’s request for more troops in Afghanistan, critics on the right call him weak on defense and those on the left say it is time to end the war against the Taliban and bring the soldiers home. As I understand it, the President wants his military advisers to tell him exactly what they are fighting for, whom they’re fighting and how they propose to go about it before he makes a decision.

poppiesBut there’s much more to it than that. I am sure that President Obama has at least as much access to the web as I do. And I cannot believe he has not read some of the many reports accusing Afghan officials, the CIA and U.S. troops – among others – of involvement in the massive international drug trade. Here’s a sample from Global Research.ca:

The Afghan opium trade – in fact much of the opium trade in the so-called “Golden Crescent” (Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan)–was cultivated and nurtured by the United States government and the CIA, leading to countless cases of miserable heroin addiction in America and Europe ….

And here’s another sample, this time from The Huffington Post:

When the history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is written, Washington’s sordid involvement in the heroin trade and its alliance with drug lords and war criminals of the Afghan Communist Party will be one of the most shameful chapters. Under American tutelage, Afghanistan has become the world’s leading narco-state, surpassing even Colombia, and now producing 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Well over half of the nation’s GDP consists of drug money.

Even Russia’s state-controlled Channel One TV has joined the chorus, recently broadcasting a program accusing U.S. forces of involvement in drug-trafficking from Afghanistan to Europe.

The reports are so persistent and so multifarious that I am reluctant to dismiss them as bogus accusations cooked up for one motive or another. Besides there are incontrovertible facts involved. For instance, since the NATO invasion, opium production in Afghanistan has soared. In 2001, under the Taliban, it stood at 185 tons, and by 2002 it increased to 3,400 tons under the regime of President Hamid Karzai. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, opium production in Afghanistan was estimated at 3,600 tons in 2003 , and an even larger bumper harvest was predicted for 2004. I don’t have the figures for the past five years but I bet production has not declined since the UN report.

There is widespread chatter accusing the Afghan president’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, of being the country’s leading drug lord. And the president’s elder brother, Mahmoud Karzai, is rumored to have amassed a fortune through favoritism and corruption. Both dismiss these accusations as “character assassination” prompted by their opposition to the Taliban. But there is so much smoke that I have to believe there’s a fire there somewhere. Consider this passage from an article by Gerald Posner on The Daily Beast web site today:

Afghan and American officials have privately accused Ahmed, who heads the powerful provincial council in Kandahar, of being a heroin kingpin in the nation that supplies 90 percent of the world’s opium supply. They cite a few examples. In 2004, Afghan security forces stumbled on a cache of heroin hidden in tractor-trailer outside Kandahar. The local commander, Habibullah Jan, said Ahmed called him and demanded the drugs be released. Jan was ambushed and shot to death in 2007, with government officials blaming the Taliban. In 2006, a DEA informant, Hajji Aman Kheri, gave a tip about a truck near Kandahar carrying 110 pounds of pure heroin, allegedly under the watchful eye of one of Ahmed’s bodyguards. And last month, the German magazine Stern reported that British troops seized several tons of raw opium on one of Ahmed’s farms.

Karzai was put in power by the Bush Administration, and has kept his job only because U.S. troops have been prepared to die in his defense. Yet he has an extremely unsavory reputation. His recent “re-election” is a case in point. According to Alexander Cockburn, writing for Truthout:

After months of derision about Iran’s “faked elections,” President Hamid Karzai’s fakery in the recent Afghan election was too blatant to permit even pro forma denial and can no longer be concealed. The corruption of Karzai’s regime is the staple of every news report. 

talibanSo what are NATO troops fighting for in Afghanistan? Is their mission to stamp out Al Qaida? If so, they will have to invade Pakistan, because that’s where Al Qaida is now headquartered. Or are they mired in an unwinnable war against “the Taliban”? And if so, who are the Taliban?  The word “taliban” means “students of Muslim religious studies.” And as far as I can make out, the Taliban political group represents the members of the Pashtun tribes (photo at right) – estimated at 12.5 million  in Afghanistan and 30 million in Pakistan.

It will take a lot more than “shock and awe” to wipe out that many men, women and children.

So what are NATO troops dying for in Afghanistan? Why do the western world’s leaders lack the political will to bring their soldiers home? Who are they really protecting? GlobalResearch.ca declares:

Making sure heroin addiction continues unabated is a lucrative business for the CIA and Wall Street investors.

Could that have anything to do with it?  Is the hidden agenda for this war driven – at least in part – by the international drug trade?If that’s true, why don’t we hear about it on CNN or MSNBC? (I wouldn’t expect Fox News to enlighten viewers; it has other fish to fry.)

Writing for the Huffington Post, Eric Margolis states:

Americans are still being misled by their corporate media and posturing politicians of both parties into believing the seven-year U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is a noble “anti-terrorism” mission that is defending women’s rights and rebuilding a ravaged nation.

But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. And the stakes for President Obama are high indeed. Alexander Cockburn declares in Truthout:

The expedition to Afghanistan is not popular, either here or in Europe. It is also very expensive. But it has powerful sponsors, starting with Obama, who made it a campaign plank and now may or may not be having second thoughts – but who is showered daily with demented counsels to “stay the course” by his secretaries of state and about 80 percent of the permanent foreign policy establishment. So the involvement will get deeper and the disasters will mount and powerfully assist in the destruction of Obama’s presidency, starting with major reverses for the Democrats in the midterm elections next year.

I can only pray that the President is as shrewd a politician as I think he is, and will resist the pressure from so many powerful interests to shed more innocent blood in a seemingly indefensible war.