Monday, August 17, 2009

US 'Friends', Not Just Taliban, Benefitting From Opium Trade

The CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency have concluded that the amount of drug money flowing to the Taliban in Afghanistan is far lower than widely estimated but remains critical to the insurgents' ability to survive, according to a Senate report released Tuesday. The two spy agencies believe that Taliban leaders receive about $70 million a year from Afghanistan's lucrative poppy crop -- far lower than the $400-million estimate released last year by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Al Qaeda's dependence on drug money is even less, according to the report by the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which found that "there is no evidence that any significant amount of the drug proceeds go to Al Qaeda." The lower estimates suggest that other avenues of funding -- including money from wealthy donors in Arab states in the Persian Gulf region -- remain important sources of support for insurgent and terrorist networks straddling the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nevertheless, the report notes that "the insurgency is a relatively cheap war for the Taliban to fight," meaning that the militants do not need significantly larger subsidies from drug trafficking to finance their operations. The report comes as the United States is revamping its approach to combating the lucrative narcotics trade in Afghanistan, whose poppy fields account for more than 90% of the world's heroin. After focusing mainly on crop eradication during the Bush administration, the U.S. is shifting to targeting drug kingpins and the criminal networks that control narcotics activities in Afghanistan, from harvesting to processing to export.

In one of its most disconcerting conclusions, the Senate report says the United States inadvertently contributed to the resurgent drug trade after the Sept. 11 attacks by backing warlords who derived income from the flow of illegal drugs. The CIA and U.S. Special Forces put such warlords on their payroll during the drive to overthrow the Taliban regime in late 2001. "These warlords later traded on their stature as U.S. allies to take senior positions in the new Afghan government, laying the groundwork for the corrupt nexus between drugs and authority that pervades the power structure today," the report says.

"Taliban drug proceeds lower than thought, U.S. report says", Wall Street Journal, 8/12/09.



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Who am I?

I am a law enforcement professional with over 35 years experience in both sworn and civilian positions. I have service in 3 different countries in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

My principal areas of expertise are: (1) Intelligence, (2) Training and Development, (3) Knowledge Management, and (4) Administration/Supervision.

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