The Convergence of the Narcotics Underworld and Extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan and It's Global Proliferation


JF-Expert Member
Sep 7, 2013
Chapter Three

Birth of the Narco-State

The dawn of the 21st Century began with a wildly unexpected policy shift from the Taliban; the group that owed much of its growth and power to opium was now calling for a countrywide ban on the cash crop.

Afghanistan had been struggling from a multitude of factors leading to an economic freefall. A drought struck the region, affecting the crop yield and raising food prices to an unsustainable level. This drought also brought a flurry of refugees diminishing the already scant resources.

The country was simultaneously facing crushing sanctions levied by the UN over increasing global awareness of its oppression of women and fundamentalist policies limiting the freedom of Afghan citizens.

The Taliban government wanted to improve its international standing to subvert its economic isolation. As mentioned in the previous chapter, there was also growing international concern of the global heroin epidemic that originated from Afghanistan.

The UNODC established communications with the country in an attempt to change its drug policy. The UNODC offered the government economic incentives in exchange for earnest reduction efforts.

Through these talks, the Taliban government agreed to a reduction in poppy cultivation by one third in September 1999. This was followed by progressive eradication efforts at the beginning of 2000.

In July 2000, Mullah Omar released a fatwa, or religious decree, stating that poppy cultivation and production was forbidden.

While the removal of sanctions and promise of international aid would be compelling incentives for the Taliban to ban opium, there is reason to believe there were other factors at play that led to this policy change.

The Taliban had cause to be suspicious of the UN holding up its end of the deal. In 1997, the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) promised $25 million in development aid for ten years if the government worked to eradicate poppies from the country. However, due to budget cuts, this aid was halted in 2000.

While the Afghan government would have benefited from international aid and a removal of sanctions, it had little assurance that this agreement would be carried out. This was confirmed when the UN Security Council issued Resolution 1267 declaring that until the Taliban relinquished Osama bin Laden to a member state, all UN members would deny entry of Taliban representatives to their territory and freeze all assets owned by the Taliban.

Yet, the Taliban committed to their ban, supporting the notion that their opium ban had little to do with international aid or legitimacy. The banning of opium cultivation in 2000 was economically advantageous to the Taliban.

The harvest season from 1998-1999 was the largest the country had ever seen, at a massive 90,000 hectares (222,400 acres). This posed the threat of devaluing opium from an oversupply. Through banning cultivation but allowing trade of the current supply, the Taliban hoped to increase the farm-gate value of their opium surplus.

This worked phenomenally well, raising the price for opium from $30 USD/kg in 2000 to $300 USD/kg in 2001. The ban not only enriched the Taliban and the narcotics industry, but attracted more to the industry to grow even further.

The opium production ban was strictly enforced by Taliban shuras, or councils, specifically created to oversee the ban. These shuras consisted of each region’s chief of police, the chief of the Vice and Virtue Department, ulema leaders from local mosques, and tribal elders.

The shuras spread awareness of the ban to local farmers, enforced the ban within the communities, and administered extreme punishments on those who defied the ban, including torture, imprisonment, and execution. Village elders were also held responsible for ban violations, leading each village to be vigilant against transgressors.

James D. Medler, “Afghan Heroin: Terrain, Tradition, and Turmoil,” Orbis 49, no. 2 (Spring 2005): 282. 302 Graham Farrell and John Thorne, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?: Evaluation of the Taliban Crackdown against Opium Poppy Cultivation in Afghanistan,”

The International Journal of Drug Policy 16, no. 2 (Mar. 2005): 84-85. 303 Farrell and Thorne, “Evaluation of the Taliban Crackdown,” 85. 304 Nasreen Ghufran, “The Taliban and the Civil War Entanglement in Afghanistan,” Asian Survey 41, no. 3 (Jun. 2001): 480-481. 305 William A. Byrd, “Ch. 8 Responding to the Challenge of Afghanistan’s Opium Economy: Development Lessons and Policy Implications,” in Innocent Bystanders: Developing Countries and the War on Drugs, ed. Philip Keefer and Norman Loayza (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2010), 304. 306 Byrd, “Afghanistan’s Opium Economy,” 304. 307 Farrell and Thorne, “Evaluation of the Taliban Crackdown,” 85. 56

Ironically, the banning of cultivation and subsequent increase of value of opium led to a growth in the opium market in areas outside of Taliban control, like Badakhshan. Many narcotics organisations blocked from production in Taliban territories moved their facilities to Badakhshan to continue their operations.

Badakhshan’s opium industry saw a 160% growth and accounted for 79% of Afghanistan’s total opium production during the ban. This raised the profile of Badakhshan in the opium industry even after the ban ceased.308 309 After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States would no longer accept the Taliban providing a safe haven to Osama bin Laden and invaded Afghanistan.

By November, the Taliban had lost their hold over much of the country and by December, the United Nations oversaw the implementation of an interim government under the Northern Alliance led by Hamid Karzai (CFR).

Much of the al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership escaped over the border to Pakistan. The rest of the Taliban operatives escaped to the southwest Pashtun region, knowing they could find safety.310 Even before they were completely removed from power, the Taliban reversed their policy on opium cultivation, seeing the need for quick access to resources.

Not only did the Taliban operatives who fled to the southwest resume poppy cultivation, but cultivation resumed throughout the country due to the power vacuum that was created.311 The Taliban had little trouble growing their industry in the early years after their defeat.

In 2002, the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan only had 4,500 troops to maintain the government’s authority, and they were all based in Kabul. When coalition forces were deployed, they mainly focused on taking out al-Qaeda or Taliban leadership. The rest of the Taliban were mostly left alone, which they made sure to use to their advantage.312 Within two years of the Taliban’s ousting from Kabul, poppy yields were back at the levels seen throughout the 1990s.

The higher farm-gate value remained consistent for several years, even with the increased supply. Coupled with an end to the drought and favourable growing conditions, this created a perfect storm, attracting even more interest in the market as the country underwent another era of conflict and insecurity.

Additionally, the power vacuum left by the Taliban while the interim government was getting set up allowed unfettered opium harvesting throughout the country. Thus, new regions of poppy cultivation sprung up throughout the country, like Ghor province, located north of Helmand.

The poppy business was thriving, fueling the Taliban which symbiotically fueled the insecurity in the country which enabled the expansion of the opium industry.

The Failed Karzai Experiment

The power vacuum in the post-Taliban-led Afghanistan was most prominent in Kandahar, whichallowed the Taliban to regroup in their ethnic Pashtun homeland.

Mullah Omar set to work to rebuild his empire. He sent his deputies to get new recruits from Pakistani madrassas and bring them to Kandahar for training. The Taliban had hidden several weapons stashes throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan that they began to quietly collect.

They reached out to loyal donors to help resupply the organisation. Some of these donors were prominent narcotics smugglers who had relied on the Taliban for muscle previously and saw the group’s resurgence as a boon to their organisation.

The Taliban also relied on selling a significant amount of opium they had stored away for emergencies. As they built up their resources, the Taliban began to slowly strengthen their position in the country in 2003.

They started with small-scale attacks on foreign troops and aid workers, growing the Taliban’s stronghold little by little. Many of the attacks were initiated from Pakistan, where the Taliban cells attempted to gain control on the Afghan territory bordering Pakistan.

The Taliban bided their time, avoiding attracting too much attention until March 2003, when the George W. Bush administration launched its invasion of Iraq. This new distraction for the West was the perfect time for The Taliban to reconquer Afghanistan.

In June 2003, the Taliban launched a new ruling council to oversee the takeover of the country. This council included Jalaluddin Haqqani who would control the southeast, Mullah Dadullah who would control the south, and the Taliban’s former adversary Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who would control the east.

The Taliban were growing their organisation, taking in former rivals like Hekmatyar as part of an anti-government coalition. Each region had relative freedom and responsibility to raise most of their own funds towards a shared goal of overthrowing the new government and re-establishing the authority of the Taliban.

The Quetta Shura maintained their authority over all regional cells by strictly administering allocation of narcotics proceeds.316 From 2004 to 2006, the Taliban re-emerged as a threatening force.

Throughout this period, they carefully reached out to vulnerable villages in the south to find potential allies. Sending small contingents of two to three operatives, they met with village elders to tell them of their return. Any leaders who stood in their way were assassinated.

The Taliban had amassed significant control of the rural south, careful to avoid detection by leaving district centres alone. This period also saw an influx of Taliban fighters recruited from Pakistan and Iran, many of whom settled in Helmand province, where the Taliban centred their resurgence.

When the UK sent over 3,000 troops to Helmand in 2006, the Taliban weaponised the narrative of Britain’s colonisation history in Afghanistan to recruit thousands of new fighters eager to become a mujahid against a historical foreign aggressor.

This coincided with a huge influx of poppy farmers seeking to find a new place to grow their crops without government intervention. Many of these farmers were already aggrieved against the Afghan government and were more than willing to take on the Taliban’s fight.

This led to a massive spike in poppy production in Helmand in 2006, doubling its output from the previous year. They used the proceeds of the opium industry to aid in their fight against the British troops.

When the Afghan Interim Administration (AIA) was fully established, it administered a strict ban on opium harvesting, distribution, and consumption. However, since the cultivation had already spread like wildfire in the months before, it was very difficult for the government to stop it.

A February 2002 study by the UNODC confirmed that resumption of cultivation in poppy-rich areas in the south and east was going strong. In response, the AIA began a policy of eradicating poppy fields while compensating the farmers.

This policy did not sit well with many farmers who did not have a sustainable alternative to provide for their families, which led to conflict between several tribal villages and the AIA. Other farmers saw the benefit of growing poppies knowing that the compensation they would receive from the government far outweighed the profits that could be made from other crops.

Judging from the total yield of poppies in 2002 at 74,000 hectares (182,860 acres), the ban was not working. This level was higher than 8 out of the 10 highest-yield years through the 1990s.

In an interview on July 14, 2004, Hamid Karzai reflected on the policy of eradication with compensation: The mistake was that we thought by paying the growers they would destroy the poppies and we would not be harsh to them, we would be kind to them, because the economy is very weak, the people are very poor. We wanted to be kind to the farmers.

We did that. But this encouaged every other farmer, rightly so, to grow poppies next year because they said we grow poppies, the government will come to destroy it and will pay us for it, and if they don’t come, we will have our poppies.

After winning the 2004 election, the Karzai administration tried other approaches to discourage poppy cultivation, also to no avail. This began with the more punitive approach of eradication with no compensation, hoping this would hurt farmers’ bottom line and discourage future harvesting.

This led to widespread protests and strikes from farming communities who were economically hurt by this policy. A Badakhshan farmer affected by the new policy commented, “I have no idea why they’re eradicating.

I’m just a poor farmer, and all I have time to think about is how to feed my family”. Like many farmers, he struggled to provide for his family through alternative crops and did not have the luxury of being concerned about the security implications of his occupation. He found a way around the ban by concealing a patch of poppies within his fields of wheat and melons.

This small patch of poppy, producing around 2 pounds of opium, would net him $80 USD.321 The same amount of wheat would get him less than $2 USD.322 The risk was worth it to him, as it seemed to be for many others.

This policy of eradication did not lead to sustained reduction in poppy cultivation.323 Karzai lamented in the same 2004 interview, “Then last year we began to destroy poppies. This year the poppies were there again. We again went to destroy poppies.

And next year there will be again poppies.” Throughout Karzai’s first official term, the poppy situation only got worse. From October to December 2005, poppy farmers grew 60% more than they had over the entire previous year.

By 2006, poppy harvesting had reached the largest output in the history of the country. To confront the growing crisis, the Karzai administration worked with several international actors in counternarcotics operations.

They worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to crack down on trafficking and on interdiction efforts. They also worked with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in providing alternative crops for farmers who had been poppy farmers, however this effort was aggravated by an inability to access farms in Taliban territory and a lack of sufficient resources to implement this strategy effectively throughout the country.

The Karzai administration’s counternarcotics efforts were hampered by the limited infrastructure and reach of the central government. Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation collaborated with the European Union’s Project for Alternative Livelihoods in Eastern Afghanistan (PAL) to “contribute to the reduction of poverty and facilitate the change from an opium-based economy to an alternative economic and social system” in Nangarhar, Laghman, and Kunar provinces.

This project focused on implementing community development activities that would provide alternative income, capacity building for local independent development, and advising the execution of these policy initiatives to central and local government.

The PAL conducted a study assessing the programme from 2004-2005, and found that the majority of families who transitioned from poppy cultivation through this programme saw a significant loss of household income, with some as high as a 90% loss.

The report outlined that this can be attributed to the huge disparity in value between poppy and wheat harvesting, less opportunities for credit outside of the opium industry, and a deflation of the rural economy which decreased the need for labour.

As wheat cultivation

Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, “Afghanistan Moves Forward: President Hamid Karzai to Discuss U.S.-Afghan Partnership,” interview by John Hamre, CSIS (Center for Strategic was less labour-intensive than poppy cultivation, many farm labourers lost their jobs.

The alternative income programme Cash-for-Work promised to provide sufficient income for labourers working in newly implemented local development projects, however the work opportunities were insufficient for the number of people left without an income.

Due to the lack of labour opportunities, only one member of each qualifying household in a village received, at most, five days of labour total through this program, at only $4 USD a day.

There were some successful programs that came out of this initiative. In Achin district, the National Solidarity Programme employed labourers who worked from four to six months on infrastructure building projects in their local community.

But by and large, most families did not find sustainable income following poppy eradication. There was also the issue of inequity in distribution of resources. Part of the aid programme included providing seed, fertiliser, or wage labour for farms.

The qualification for access to that aid was dependent upon the household owning land or water. If they did not, they were not considered part of a community and did not qualify for aid. This meant that sharecroppers who had been tending farms for decades did not qualify for the aid since they did not own the property.

This created a situation where the families most in need of aid received none, and those that were more well-off received aid they might not have needed. Many districts never received the aid altogether.

Interviews with farming communities in the Agro and Tashkan districts of Badakhshan concluded the farmers never received the aid they were promised, like wheat seed and fertiliser, or infrastructure projects to build roads and bridges.

When some infrastructure projects were implemented, many residents saw them as a waste. One farmer remarked, “What good is a road with asphalt to me? I have no car. An asphalted road will not feed my daughter.”

It seemed many of the infrastructure projects were piecemeal and not part of a holistic strategy of creating sustainable industries.

Roads built in rural towns did little to grow their economic opportunities. Conversely, there were towns in desperate need of specific infrastructure development that never received it.

The town of Sar Ab in the Yamgan district of Badakhshan had no access to medical facilities or treatment. This led the residents to rely on opium as a universal treatment for all ails.

This reliance evolved into addiction, and eventually half of the 1,800-person village became addicted to opium. Other towns that had previously relied on opium proceeds for their infrastructure struggled to maintain their community resources without this revenue stream.

The only school in the village of Du Ghalat in the Argo district had a dilapidated structure with dirt floors to house 100 children. This would have been the perfect use for the funds allocated for infrastructure projects, but unfortunately the town never received any aid.

The alternative livelihood infrastructure initiative did not fail entirely. The Yaghi Band district of Nangarhar province was the recipient of several projects that helped build a sustainable post-opium economy. The district received several large scale infrastructure developments like a hydroelectrically-powered textile mill and multiple irrigation dams, canals, and bridges.

Many businesses were started from NGO seed money, like a women’s weaving co-op, a honey-processing plant, a potato chip factory, and a jam manufacturing plant.

This created several sustainable jobs in a community that had previously been totally reliant on opium. Still, it wasn’t a perfect replacement for the opium industry. A village tribal elder observed, “The life isn’t as good as it was five years ago, but it’s 60 percent of what we had.

And we’re hopeful of the new projects.”331 326 David Mansfield, Pariah or Poverty? The Opium Ban in the Province Nangarhar in the 2004/05 Growing Season and Its Impact on Rural Livelihood Strategies, (Jalalabad, Afghanistan: PAL [Project for Alternative Livelihoods], GTZ [German International Development Cooperation Agency], Jun. 2005). 327 Mansfield, Pariah or Poverty?, 27-28. 328 Clark, “Opium Wars.” 329 Mansfield, Pariah or Poverty?, 27. 330 Clark, “Opium Wars.” 331 Ibid., 60

Another issue with the alternative livelihood programme is that it failed to take into account the varied agricultural productivity of each region. For instance, an area that grew onions was far more profitable than an area that grew wheat. Many areas could not grow high-value crops due to the soil composition or access to viable markets.

If they were in a poorer district, they would not find buyers for higher-value crops, so were forced into growing cheaper crops with low return like wheat. Perhaps the largest issue was that the opium boom in previous years hiked up the costs of renting farmland, creating a situation where a wheat farmer could not even break even by selling their harvest.

This led a large proportion of rural farmers abandoning their occupation to seek jobs in the cities, which were under-resourced to handle the influx of labourers.

The opium ban’s economic impact affected more than just farmers. Merchants, store owners, and those in the service industry saw a steep decline in customers following the ban.

This included gas station owners, taxi companies, electronics shops and hotel owners. Since farmers weren’t making as much money as they had previously, they had less to spend in their community. The loss of income for farmers created a multiplier effect where the services that farmers could no longer afford lost income themselves, leading to massive layoffs in these industries.

This was compounded by the farm labourers who had come to the cities to find work, increasing the labour pool at a time when no one was hiring. The economic downturn compounded when wages started to plummet. This led many to turn back to poppy farming to get by.

Endemic Corruption A major hurdle to counter-narcotics operations was endemic corruption within the Karzai government. According to attorney general Abdul Jabbar Sabir, he knew of over 20 senior Afghan officials who had ties to the narcotics industry. He asserted that Karzai stopped him from prosecuting these individuals over political considerations

Many members of the Karzai administration had known histories of engaging in the narcotics industry. The provincial governor of Helmand, Sher Mohammad Akhundzada, had several ties to the opium industry.

During the Soviet-Afghan War, Akhundzada was a member of the Revolutionary Islamic Movement, which was part of the wider mujahidin. He fueled his party through the opium industry, instituting a predatory system threatening farmers in Helmand to grow poppies and then taking a majority of their profits to smuggle over the border to Iran.

He even opened an office in the Iranian border town of Zaidan to handle the narcotics imports.The British government pressured the Karzai administration to dismiss Akhundzada over these ties, to which Karzai eventually did in 2006. The scorned Akhundzada soon realigned himself with the Taliban, orchestrating attacks on his former government.

Many elites in Afghanistan with ties to the government started their own poppy farms to get in on the lucrative industry. They built robust, industrial narco-farms, while the government seemed to look away, asserting that poppy farming was only the result of poverty or conducted in Taliban-controlled areas.

US Coordinator for Counternarcotics and Justice Reform in Afghanistan, Tom Schweich, spoke to President Karzai about a new counternarcotics approach. He proposed targeting high-level traffickers and eradicating large scale poppy farms through aerial eradication in the Pashtun-dominant south, where Karzai had the most support. Karzai declined to pursue this route, possibly worried that he would lose his base and upset wealthy donors.

This rationale was presented in a September 2007 issue of Kabul Weekly, an independent newspaper in Afghani332 Mansfield, Pariah or Poverty?, 11. 333 Ibid., 26. 334 Ibid., 11. 335 Ibid., 12-17. 336 Schweich, “Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?” 337 Coll, Directorate S, 214. 338 Peters, How Opium Profits the Taliban, 7-8. 339 Coll, Directorate S, 214. 61 stan, when an editorial read, “It is obvious that the Afghan government is more than kind to poppy growers… They’re afraid of losing votes.

More than 95 percent of the residents of… the poppy growing provinces voted for President Karzai.”340 It wasn’t just Karzai who overlooked poppy cultivation for political considerations. Numerous prominent officials, including a candidate for parliament, made deals with poppy farmers to overlook their crops in exchange for votes. Several local commanders in the Badakhshan region were known to have made agreements with smugglers to allow transport through the northern border into Central Asia.

A powerful figure in the Badakhshan drug trade, who was interviewed under anonymity, revealed, “Someone who just smuggles on his own isn’t going to succeed. He has to have relationships with someone—like the district or provincial police chief.” On the few occasions powerful narcotics dealers connected to the government were convicted, they usually were able to bribe their way to getting released.

Due to insufficient oversight and low salaries, there were several instances of police engagement in the narcotics industry. Afghan police along checkpoints were often bribed by smugglers to allow transport over the border.

A Helmand farmer being interviewed on the poppy economy scoffed, “Who will stop the smugglers—the police? It’s the police who transport our opium in their cars! You see the big buildings in Lashkar Gah and Kandahar. This is money from corruption.”

It is clear that the government’s anti-narcotics efforts were stymied by its own connections and political considerations regarding the narcotics industry. This conflict of interest would only grow as more nefarious actors worked their way into the government.

The period of Taliban decline in the early 2000s saw a growth in the power of tribal strongmen. The Karzai administration did not have a stable hold on the country and was concerned of a Taliban resurgence.

They needed to establish good relations with the tribal leaders and warlords in the country. The warlords and local strongmen also saw the current weak state as an opportunity to grow their influence. They started creating local monopolies in many sectors, including international trade.

They built an Afghan version of the mafia, where large organisations engaged in illicit and licit activity, protecting their interests through force. It was this force that played a hand in the narcotics industry, providing security to narco-traffickers for profit.

These mafia-like organisations also engaged in the heroin pipeline, smuggling drugs outside the borders. To increase the control of their empire, they worked to gain more influence politically, with many members joining parliament in the 2005 elections.

Dad Mohammad Khan, a militia leader in the Alokzai tribe, became the head of the National Directorate of Security Forces in Helmand Province. Abdul Rahman Jan, a Noorzai tribal warlord, became Helmand’s head of police. As tribal warlords infiltrated Afghan law enforcement, instances of corruption became rampant, especially in cases involving narcotics.

This added another layer of difficulty for the Karzai administration to crack down on drug trafficking, as these organisations represented both segments of the electorate and the government that Karzai desperately needed support from.

The latter half of the 2000s saw Afghanistan monopolise the heroin industry to an unprecedented level. A 2007 UNODC report showed that Afghanistan accounted for 93% of global opium production and 82% of total land devoted to poppy cultivation.

Afghanistan was the most significant producer by far, with the next top producers Myanmar and Pakistan producing 5% and 0.7% respectively. While 2005’s numbers showed promise with poppy cultivation falling 21%, that trend quickly reversed the following year, with a 59% increase to 165,000 hectares (407,700 acres). This rose even further in 2007 to 193,000 hectares (476,900 acres).346 340 Schweich, “Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?” 341 Clark, “Opium Wars.” 342 Schweich, “Is Afghanistan a Narco-State?” 343 Clark, “Opium Wars.” 344 Coll, Directorate S, 213. 345 Antonio Giustozzi, “Afghanistan:

Transition Without End

An Analytical Narrative on State-Making” (Working Paper Series No. 2, Crisis States Research Centre, London School of Economics, London, Nov. 2008), 29-43. 346 Stephen Jones, Afghanistan and Narcotics: Opium Poppy Cultivation Trends, 2001 – 2009, House of Commons Library SN/IA/05025, Mar. 24, 2009, 3-6. 62 Not only did opium cultivation increase during this period, but the number of people involved in opium cultivation increased.

In 2006, the number of households engaged in opium cultivation rose to 448,000 and the number of individuals involved were 2.9 million – 12.6% of the total population.

These figures increased as well in 2007, with households involved in opium production increasing by 14% to 509,000 families, and individuals increasing to 3.3 million, which was 14.3% of the population.

The UNODC report concluded that “no other country in the world has ever produced narcotics on such a deadly scale.” This was frighteningly true. The opium industry in Afghanistan became larger than the cocaine industry in Latin America.

The heroin epidemic rooted in Afghanistan had become the largest drug epidemic in the history of the world. The organisation most responsible for this was the Taliban. While opium production in government-controlled territory was a problem, it was clear that the Taliban were responsible for a majority of the industry.

It was no coincidence that the resurgence of the Taliban aligned with the opium boom in 2006.349 The areas of highest opium production were in regions where the central government had the least control and the Taliban had the largest presence.

Helmand Province, which has long been a Taliban stronghold, produced twothirds of Afghanistan’s total opium output, at 103,500 hectares (255,800 acres).350 The UNODC’s 2008 Opium Survey noted that the regions in the south and west which had high levels of poppy cultivation also had a high presence of “anti-government elements” as well as organised criminal networks.

Another report, published by the UK Department for International Development with the World Bank, offered an additional rationale for the connection between insurgent activity and the narcotics industry. The report stated:

The opium economy thrives in remote or insecure areas where markets for other crops are lacking. The coincidence of growing insecurity in the southern region and increasing levels of opium poppy cultivation highlights the fact that opium poppy is a low-risk crop in a high-risk environment… Generally, opium is at its most concentrated in conditions of insecurity and where rural people cannot otherwise earn a decent livelihood.

While the correlation between the narcotics industry and insurgent activity can be explained by the nexus in the industries, it also creates a vicious cycle where residents in those areas have little alternative to poppy cultivation because the insecurity of the region destroys all other economic opportunity.

This is further evidenced by a UNODC assessment which showed how 80% of villages with high insecurity engaged in poppy cultivation, while only 7% of villages with low insecurity cultivated poppies.353 There were multiple factors at play regarding farmers engaging in poppy cultivation. Many were pressured into it by terrorist groups and criminal narcotic organisations.

Others may have seen the economic opportunity of cultivating poppies where the government could not interfere. Many may have had no viable alternative to provide for their families. But all of these factors are influenced by levels of insecurity.354 Not only did the Taliban create this insecurity, but they were able to exploit it for financial gain.

In addition to the Taliban directly engaging in opium production, the nexus that had been brewing for years between the Taliban, other terrorist outfits, and the narcotics industry finally culmi347 Ibid., 348 Jones, Afghanistan and Narcotics, 10. 349 Coll, Directorate S, 249. 350 Jones, Afghanistan and Narcotics, 10. 351 Ibid., 15-16. 352 Christopher Ward, David Mansfield, Peter Oldham, and William Byrd, Afghanistan: Economic Incentives and Development Initiatives to Reduce Opium Production, (Washington, D.C.: World Bank; London and Kilbride, UK: Department for International Development, Feb. 2008).

UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), “UNODC Predicts Stable Opium Crop in Afghanistan,” Feb. 10, 2010, https:// 354 Joshua J. Lambertus, “Analysis of Taliban Revenue and the Importance of the Opium Trade to the Insurgency” (master’s thesis, Naval Postgraduate School, 2011), 37. 63 nated in an unstoppable criminal network.

After losing power in 2001, the Taliban became increasingly reliant on the narcotics industry for survival. This led to growing collaboration and alliance with criminal organisations engaging in the narcotics industry.

Taliban operatives would often enter into business with narco-traffickers, providing the seed money for joint operations to launder narcotics proceeds through licit fronts. Abdul Habib Alizai, a Taliban operative in Kandahar province, hired two drug traffickers, Atiqullah Ahmady Mohammad Din and his brother Sadiq Ahmady, to set up a number of licit businesses to funnel drug money through.

Another example of this relationship is the Lahore Jan Shanwari Exchange, a hawala (traditional money transfer) business named for the drug lord running it, Lahore Jan, who used the exchange as a way to launder drug money to the Taliban.

Beyond running operations with narcotics syndicates, the Taliban was often the beneficiary of donations from narcotics syndicates. Hajji Juma Khan, who ran the narcotics trafficking organisation Hajji Juma Khan Organization, was arrested in 2008 in Indonesia for engaging in trafficking and attempting to support the Taliban through the proceeds.

Another prominent drug kingpin, Hajji Baghcho, used drug money to supply weapons and cash to the former Taliban governor of Kandahar province and two other Taliban commanders in eastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban were now more intertwined with criminal organisations than ever, and were able to benefit from the obfuscation their complex enterprises provided. The Taliban dominated the narcotics operations in the south from their Kandahar base, while a network of terror groups connected to the Taliban dominated the eastern heroin markets.

This network included the Haqqani network, al-Qaeda, Hizb-e Islami Gulbuddin, JeM, LeT, and Tehrik Nefaz-i-Shariat Muhammad. Security agencies operating in the region saw increasing signs that these terror groups were heavily involved in the narcotics industry. The UK’s Afghan Drugs Inter-Departmental Unit (ADIDU) reported that Afghan counternarcotics forces found an insurgent training manual and weapons in a raid on a heroin lab.

The Pentagon also produced a report showing the correlation between drug and weapons confiscations in Taliban strongholds.The UNODC confirmed that the Taliban was using the drug economy to fund “arms logistics and militia pay.”

This is further indication that even when the Taliban weren’t directly involved in the trafficking of heroin, they used their militia force and weaponry to protect other criminal organisations engaged in trafficking. This shows that the nexus that developed in Afghanistan around the narcotics industry is a complex one, where many organisations profited off of the industry in multiple ways.

The Taliban, in particular, profited from taxation, trafficking drugs directly, and providing protection and transportation for other drug organisations. A 2008 study by the US Institute of Peace showed that 40% of the Taliban’s funding came from opium production. The UNODC estimated that the Taliban raised $50-70 million from taxing poppy farmers in 2007 alone.

This funding was raised through a variety of activities relating to the opium industry: taxation, protection money, and heroin refineries. The Taliban issued a 10% tax on poppy farms on their territory. This 10% would either go entirely to the Taliban commander or be split by the commander and local Mullahs depending on the district.

Each commander had a specific zone of control where they were responsible for collecting taxes. The Taliban were reportedly responsive to farmers who complained of being overcharged by commanders, and would punish any commander guilty of abusing their power. The Taliban also funded a number of informants 355 Jones, Afghanistan and Narcotics, 15.

United Nations Security Council, Report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team on Specific Cases of Cooperation between Organized Crime Syndicates and Individuals, Groups, Undertakings and Entities Eligible for Listing under Paragraph 1 of Security Council Resolution 2160, S/2015/79 (Feb. 2, 2015),{65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3- CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2015_79.pdf 357 Jones, Afghanistan and Narcotics, 15-16. 358 Coll, Directorate S, 252. 359 Jones, Afghanistan and Narcotics, 15-16.

Mohammad M. Stanekzai, Thwarting Afghanistan’s Insurgency: A Pragmatic Approach toward Peace and Reconciliation, Special Report 212 (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace, Sep. 2008), 2. 361 Lambertus, “Taliban Revenue,” 38. 64 in every town, ensuring that farmers were not hiding some of their harvest for profit.

There were instances where the Taliban was not aligned with other criminal elements in the region, and conflicts ensued over the control of the poppy harvest.362 The Taliban’s tax revenue extended beyond just poppy farmers; the Taliban would charge a 10% tax to shopkeepers and small business owners through the threat of force – much like the mafia protection racket in the US.

In one instance where a mobile phone company in Zabul province refused to pay the tax, the Taliban responded by blowing up three cell towers, blocking service in the district for weeks. They also collected a toll tax on any vehicles passing through their territory. While they collected opium poppies from farmers, the Taliban would collect tax in the form of an assortment of goods, often because paper currency had little value in the rural areas.

They collected vehicles, such as trucks, SUVs, and motorcycles. They would collect satellite phones or top-up SIM cards for prepaid phones from mobile phone shop owners, since this was a way of communicating without getting surveilled by police.

Other goods commonly taken as tax were petrol, food, and services like medical care for wounded fighters. Unsurprisingly, weapons and ammunition were also commonly traded as commodities in this area and would be used as payment to the Taliban.

The Taliban had a very structured hierarchy in allocating the taxes collected. The village-level sub-commander would pay a portion to their district-level commander who would then pay a portion of that to the Taliban district governor. The district governor would filter the proceeds up to one of the ten provincial commanders who would finally send a portion to the Taliban’s central financial committee

In the mid-2000s, the US made a series of arrests that brought more insight into the Taliban’s engagement in the narcotics industry. Haji Bashir Noorzai was arrested in 2005 for “conspiracy to import heroin over a 15-year period.” He was a former mujahid who became a prominent Pashtun tribal leader and was the first benefactor of the Taliban. He eventually became a member of Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s ruling council.364 365 Noorzai’s tribe was a major narcotics syndicate, controlling tens of thousands of acres of poppy fields.

They also controlled a roadway to the southern border of Afghanistan, so were key to the smuggling route. Noorzai’s organisation “provided demolitions, weaponry and manpower to the Taliban” while the Taliban provided “protection for its opium crops, heroin laboratories, drug-transportation routes, and members and associates.” This relationship was seen through other prominent arrests, such as Haji Baz Mohammed.

He was arrested in 2007 for importing heroin into the US as the leader of a prominent narcotics organisation in Afghanistan. He pleaded guilty to paying the Taliban and “other associated Islamic-extremist organisations in Afghanistan” for providing armed protection of his trafficking enterprise.

Haji Juma Khan, head of the drug-trafficking Khan Organization, was arrested for having the same relationship with the Taliban.

The Musharraf Agenda

The Taliban made a significant portion of their funds from protecting opium smuggling. It was common for the Taliban to either take a cut of the opium being smuggled or the proceeds from its sale in exchange for providing armed protection of its transit outside of the country.

In fact, the Taliban was usually involved in the cycle of opium distribution from cultivation to sale. The Taliban would provide armed security for poppy fields during the harvest season and would then provide armed escort of the product en route to its destination.

The price for this protection was upwards of 20%, which was in addition to the 10% they made from the initial harvest. The Taliban would often set up armed guards around poppy fields during the harvest season or would plant IEDs or mines around the fields ahead of visits by government officials tasked with eradicating the poppies.

Much of the muscle provided during the transit of the opium is done by Taliban-allied terror groups, like the IMU or al-Qaeda. This shows how intricate the nexus became, with Taliban operatives guarding the harvest and other terror groups guarding its transport, with all parties profiting off of its distribution.

The Taliban used muscle in the service of the opium industry in a variety of ways. They would attack security checkpoints in advance of an opium shipment passing through to clear the pathway. They would also provide protection for heroin labs, fending off police raids that targeted any labs they had an interest in.

The Taliban also used force to divert coalition forces away from transit zones. They would launch an attack that would draw attention of coalition troops at the same time a large shipment was being attempted in a neighbouring region, diverting the extra support that Afghan security relied on. They could then send a contingent to attack the Afghan forces and secure the transit.

The Taliban intentionally fought for territory that was beneficial to the opium trade, securing transit pathways through their region of influence. In 2007, the Taliban attacked the Deh Rawood district in Uruzgan for this very reason.

This region connects Afghanistan both to Pakistan and Iran, and to secure it in Taliban hands would ensure safe passage for drug shipments through vital routes. This explains why much of the territorial gains during the 2000s were along border zones – this was by design to ensure easier narcotics smuggling, from which the Taliban would be handsomely rewarded.

Not only did the Taliban provide protection and collect taxes from heroin labs, but they controlled several themselves. This was confirmed when coalition forces retook Musa Qala in December 2007.

They discovered that insurgents controlled heroin production in about 50 heroin labs in the town, increasing the total number of active labs since they took over. This shows they not only collaborated with narcotics syndicates in opium refining, but they eventually decided to open and run them independently.

Many of these labs were large-scale operations, employing 60 people per site. The DEA came to a similar conclusion in a 2006 study that discovered many Taliban commanders had evolved from protecting morphine labs run by narcotics syndicates to running their own.

The Taliban became so flush with opium that they began to use it as a form of currency. In the rural areas where hard currency had less value, the Taliban would trade opium for needed supplies and weapons. They created opium warehouses that they used like banks – depositing and withdrawing their opium supply like an ATM.

This made rural areas even more reliant on the poppy industry, since it was the highest value good to barter with. This therefore made these communities even more reliant on the Taliban. It is no secret that Pakistan developed a strong relationship with the Taliban during its time in power.

Bhutto’s second administration brought back the defunct Afghan Trade and Development Cell (ATDC) to facilitate trade between Pakistan and the Taliban-run Afghanistan, and then onto Central Asian states. Pakistan also sent engineers to Afghanistan to repair power stations that were the collateral damage of years of internal conflict.

They sent telecommunications experts 367 Peters, How Opium Profits the Taliban, 20. 368 Ibid. 369 Ibid., 21. 370 Ibid. 371 Coll, Directorate S, 250. 372 Peters, How Opium Profits the Taliban, 19. 66 to restore phone lines and build a high-frequency telephone network between Pakistan and Taliban-held regions, including many lines to the Taliban leadership and ministries.

This relationship extended to growing military assistance at the turn of the century. From April to May 2001, Human Rights Watch observed up to thirty trucks a day filled with artillery shells, tanks rounds, and rocket-propelled grenades heading from Islamabad to southern Afghanistan.

As mentioned in chapter 2, ISI operatives worked directly with the Taliban as military advisors. This included many senior military and intelligence officers. Not only was their military guidance offered to the Taliban, but also to Taliban affiliates, like LeT, JeM, and Harkatul Mujahideen.

These groups would train at Taliban training facilities, where the ISI sent its advisors. There was a stark contrast in access the ISI would get to the Taliban compared to Pakistan’s civilian officials. The ISI would have private meetings with Taliban leadership that other Pakistani departments were frozen out of.

Even the most senior diplomats were excluded from these discussions, including the consul general in Kandahar and the ambassador to Kabul. A Pakistani diplomat posted in Kandahar complained, “We have had to wait for weeks to get an audience with Mullah Omar or his closest aides but the army people get the appointments instantly.”

As the ISI and Taliban’s relationship grew, a gulf started to form between the ISI and the civilian Pakistani ministries. The Taliban were suspicious of the civilian ministries and believed they were vulnerable to outside influence. The ISI, however, were seen as unimpeachably loyal to their cause.

This trust became invaluable as the Taliban were removed from power by the US-led intervention in 2001.375 The widening gulf between the ISI and the civilian parliament members took its toll on the liberal members of Parliament.

Despite Musharraf’s military background and hardline demeanour, several liberal politicians saw his ascendancy as an opportunity for reform. Given his secular background they thought he could be their champion against the religious extremists.

His targeting of the blasphemy law encouraged many to believe that his administration may limit the power of the fundamentalist parties. However, once he buckled under the pressure of the fundamentalists and backed down from reforming the blasphemy law, liberal politicians took pause. This coupled with the increased influence of the ISI and the marginalising of civilian politicians led to several resignations by liberal politicians.

The Musharraf administration soon took further steps to strengthen its control over the government. The 2002 parliamentary elections resulted in a plurality for Musharraf’s Pakistan Muslim League- Qaid (PML-Q) Party, lacking the majority needed to exert full control over the country.377 The PML-Q got to work rigging local elections in favour of pro-Musharraf politicians, ushering in a new wave of loyalists.

The ISI pressured PPP members to either join the PML-Q and maintain complete loyalty to the administration’s actions or to step down.378 379 Those who were less compliant were blackmailed by the ISI, whose National Accountability Bureau kept tabs on the Pakistani power structure.

From telephone bills to property holdings, the ISI had a record of everything that could be used to pressure influential figures into total compliance. Their efforts worked, and the PML-Q soon had a majority in Parliament. Many of those in Musharraf’s PML-Q harboured both extremist and nationalist ideologies. They were also strongly aligned with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In an era where the US relied on Pakistan to help in its fight against the Taliban, Pakistan could not have been a less reliable allyImtiaz Gul,

The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan’s Lawless Frontier (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2011), 150-151. 374 Ibid., 152-154. 375 Ibid., 154-155. 376 Ahmed Rashid, Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia (New York, NY: The Penguin Group, 2008), 152. 377 Hein Kiessling, Faith, Unity, and Discipline: The ISI of Pakistan (London, UK: Hurst & Company, 2016), 185. 378 Ibid. 379 Rashid, Descent into Chaos, 153. 380 Ibid., 153-154. 67 Musharraf himself had a complex relationship with extremism.

He grew up in a liberal and secular household, and was treated with suspicion by the ulama in Pakistan. However, through his military background, he developed a fervent support for jihadism, and saw the jihadist fighters in Kashmir as heroes.

In 2000, he told a western journalist, “There is no question that terrorism and jihad are absolutely different. You in the West are allergic to the term jihad, but jihad is a tolerant concept.”381 To Musharraf, not only did Kashmiri extremists serve Pakistani interests, but so too did al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda became a powerful ally to the Taliban, and by extension to the ISI.

Al-Qaeda trained the Kashmiri extremists who were fighting India, as well as other militant groups that aided Pakistani purposes. They had developed a symbiosis of training facilities and safe houses that many extremist groups in the region benefited from, including the groups aligned with the ISI.

Even before 9/11, the Clinton administration pressured the Musharraf government to cut ties with extremist groups like the Taliban and specifically to turn in Osama bin Laden. Clinton went to Islamabad on March 25, 2000, delivering a speech to the Pakistani public where he condemned jihadist activity and warned that Pakistan may be heading down a catastrophic path. Clinton also met with Musharraf privately calling for him to draw down tensions in Kashmir.

Musharraf ignored Clinton’s requests and publicly stated he did not see the Taliban as terrorists. In an interview in May 2000, Musharraf said, “There is a difference of understanding on who is a terrorist. The perceptions are different in the United States and in Pakistan, in the West and what we understand is terrorism.”

Later, Musharraf spoke directly about Pakistan’s alliance with the Taliban, stating, “Afghanistan’s majority ethnic Pashtuns have to be on our side… the Taliban cannot be alienated by Pakistan. We have a national security interest there.” Musharraf’s government had no qualms on being openly supportive of the Taliban, believing the benefit of open alignment far outweighed the ramifications.

This thinking began to shift after the attacks on 9/11. After September 11, Musharraf’s administration was in a politically fragile position. It worried that India would gain an upper hand over Pakistan if its relations with the United States soured.

The United States had recently put aside concern over Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions to secure their relations. Musharraf worried the US could reignite this debate, threatening Pakistan’s position with India.385 Pakistan also worried that the US could expand a likely Afghan incursion into Pakistan if it did not cooperate.

While Pakistan would face internal pressure for publicly aligning with the United States, Musharraf thought he had no other choice. Musharraf also realised he could leverage the US military’s need for support to his advantage. Pakistan’s logistical support had benefited both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, allowing foreign fighters a safe route to enter al-Qaeda training facilities.

Musharraf knew the US was aware that without Pakistan’s support, they would never capture Osama bin Laden. In return for Pakistan’s support, Musharraf called for the US to cease all sanctions if Pakistan agreed to the US’s terms. This would overturn the substantial sanctions placed on Pakistan since Musharraf’s coup in 1999 and over Pakistan’s nuclear activity.

He also got the US to agree to forgive Pakistan’s $3 billion debt, provide military supplies, and disburse loans from the US and World Bank.390 Given Pakistan’s troubled economy, he believed this would soften the blow to his political standing from the concessions he gave to the US.

Rashid, Descent into Chaos, 119. 68 General Musharraf officially pledged Pakistan’s support to the United States on September 19, 2001. President Bush’s administration had several demands that Musharraf agreed to. The first was that Pakistan would end all logistical support for al-Qaeda and publicly condemn them. He agreed to no longer ship oil to the Taliban and to bar any Taliban members operating in Pakistan from crossing the border to Afghanistan.

He also provided the US military with access to Pakistani air space, territory and military bases. He additionally pledged he would cease all relations with the Taliban. Finally, General Musharraf offered ISI cooperation with US intelligence operations.392 However, it soon became evident that this allegiance was fragile at best. While it seemed that Musharraf was trying to appease the US, his military commanders were not having it.

Three of his top corps commanders who led the coup to usher him to power, ISI chief Mehmood Ahmad, former director of the ISI Lt. Gen. Mohammad Aziz, and deputy chief of army staff Lt. Gen. Muzaffar Usmani, were all staunch supporters of the Taliban.

They were all immensely influential in the ISI, and had cultivated strong relationships with the Taliban. Lt. Gen. Aziz was the director of covert operations for the ISI in the 1990s and directed several successful Taliban operations against the Northern Alliance

It was clear that not everyone would get behind Musharraf’s call for acquiescence to the United States. Mere days after the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom, the former Pakistani consul general of Herat, Colonel Sultan Ameer Imam, paid a visit to Afghanistan, which was strictly against Pakistani official policy.

More than a former civilian diplomat, Colonel Imam had a long history with the ISI and with the Taliban, having been a former ISI officer who also trained Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the 1980s. When questioned on his trip, Colonel Imam maintained that it was a private visit to gauge the situation, and had nothing to do with the ISI.

More meetings of this type occurred in the aftermath of 9/11, where ISI representatives assured the Taliban of its solidarity with the group against the US. ISI Director General Mahmood Ahmad, second in command to Musharraf, met with Taliban ambassador to Islamabad, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef shortly after the attacks, pledging the ISI’s continued commitment to the Taliban.

He also reportedly told the Taliban not to cooperate with the US. The US found out about Ahmad’s allegiance and demanded Musharraf fire him. Musharraf agreed, needing to maintain the image of supporting the US.

It is also possible Musharraf had ulterior motives for forcing Ahmad to step down. Ahmad was making moves without Musharraf’s approval, and Musharraf likely believed Ahmad was gunning for his position. This is evidenced in Musharraf naming Ahmad the Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee (CJCSC) on October 7, 2001 instead of Vice Army Chief, which had much less power with no access to army units.398 Ahmad’s breach with Pakistan’s pledge to the United States was a perfect excuse for getting rid of him, especially considering Musharraf was violating this agreement himself from the beginning. On top of several members of Pakistani leadership falling short of their commitment to the United States, Musharraf showed signs of wavering commitment early on.

When Musharraf gave his national address on September 19 informing the public of his move to align with the US, he spoke of looking after Pakistan’s national interests, like protecting Kashmir and stopping India from turning the United States against Pakistan.

But what was conspicuously absent from his address was any mention of condemnation for the Taliban or al-Qaeda. In fact, he assured Pakistanis that he would try to get Mullah Omar to hand bin Laden to the US “without any damage to Afghani391 Gul, The Most Dangerous Place, 156. 392 Bird and Marshall, Afghanistan, 63. 393 Rashid, Descent into Chaos, 114-115. 394 Gul, The Most Dangerous Place, 155-156. 395 Bird and Marshall, Afghanistan, 76.

396 Kiessling, Faith, Unity, and Discipline, 187. 397 Bird and Marshall, Afghanistan, 76. 398 Kiessling, Faith, Unity, and Discipline, 178. 69 stan and the Taliban.” This explicitly contradicted his pledge to the United States that he would condemn al-Qaeda. He also inferred his continual support for the Taliban, which also went against the US agreement, Musharraf saw the benefit of utilizing jihadists for his own nationalistic aims.

However, he also saw the potential damage of being ostracised by the international community, making an enemy of the US, and weakening Pakistan’s position in relation to India. Musharraf walked a tightrope between showing the US that he was trying to rein in extremism while simultaneously quietly supporting many of their actions.

Musharraf’s policy of publicly supporting the US while privately supporting the insurgents was evidenced in the case of Abu Zubaydah. Zubaydah was a senior al-Qaeda recruiter who had the final say in sending fighters to Afghan training camps from Pakistan.

US intelligence officials found he was openly operating in Peshawar and requested Musharraf to relinquish him to US authorities. Musharraf’s administration claimed they could not find Zubaydah, despite clear evidence of his location. It was no coincidence that Zubaydah was extremely valuable to the ISI, as he vetted the Kashmiri militants who were en route to train in Afghanistan as well.

Musharraf continued this act through the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001, when the US began its campaign in Afghanistan. In a meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Musharraf appealed to him that there was a significant moderate element to the Taliban which could be convinced to “change sides.”

He dangled this idea over the US to stall the bombing campaign already underway. His belief was any delay by the US could help the Taliban secure enough support from allied extremist groups like al-Qaeda to hold their ground. Musharraf was acting on intelligence he received from the ISI, which assured him that the Taliban could hold their territory through the Spring of 2002, and if they lost ground then, could maintain a successful guerrilla campaign indefinitely.

Musharraf was hedging his bet, showing the US his commitment to fighting extremism, while helping the extremists maintain their control. Whoever won, he would be seen as an ally. Musharraf’s ISI continued its covert support of the Taliban and al-Qaeda through its usual method: the smuggling pipeline.

The ISI sent the same trucks through the Khyber Pass that the US had funded twenty years earlier. These trucks came loaded with enough armaments and supplies to carry the Taliban through the US-led campaign.402 These are likely the same trucks that were used to smuggle drugs from Afghanistan back into Pakistan, as they had done with the mujahidin earlier.

Pakistan’s involvement in the narcotics industry continued through the 2000s. While cultivation levels were nowhere near their height in the early 1990s, cultivation did increase during the Musharraf years. 1999, the year of Musharraf’s coup, was the lowest cultivation yield in Pakistan in decades, at 213 hectares (526 acres).

This stayed consistent for just a year before nearly tripling in 2002 and then increasing by 10 times in 2003 to 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres) This decreased to 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) in 2004 and hovered around 1,500-2,000 hectares (3,700-4,900 acres) for the remainder of Musharraf’s tenure.

This shift is clearly related to the Taliban ending their ban on opium production and the resulting massive boom of the opium industry in Afghanistan spilling over into Pakistan. While cultivation was on the rise, trafficking was as prominent as ever.

A 2005 State Department International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) detailed how “Pakistan remains a sub399 Rashid, Descent into Chaos, 119-120. 400 Ibid., 148. 401 Ibid., 197-198. 402 Ibid., 198. 403 UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), A Century of International Drug Control (an extended version of Chapter 2 of the World Drug Report, 2008), Vienna, AT: UNODC, 2008. 404 UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), “2.2 Opium/Heroin,” in World Drug Report 2010 (Vienna, AT: UNODC, 2010), 138. 70 stantial trafficking country for heroin, morphine, and hashish from Afghanistan.”405 From 2001 to 2006, morphine seizures in Pakistan rose from 1,825 kg to a staggering 32,658 kg, consisting of 72% of global morphine seizures.

While this figure waned significantly by 2008 to 7,324 kg, this can mostly be attributed to a shift from morphine to heroin trafficking, which rose from 15,369 kg seized in 2007 to 27,242 kg in 2008.406 This shift can likely be attributed to the growth in the acetic anhydride (AA) production and trafficking in Pakistan, which surpassed even Afghanistan’s levels in 2008. AA is the precursor chemical that converts opium into heroin, which is of higher value than the morphine that can be produced without it. As Pakistan’s access to AA increased, so too did its ability to produce and transport heroin.

Beyond the growth of the Pakistani domestic market, Pakistan was the primary hub of the Afghan narcotics industry. The 2005 INCSR report went on to identify how Pakistani narcotics traffickers “play a very prominent role in all aspects of the [Afghan] drug trade.”

The 2010 UNODC World Drug Report observed that 150 mt, or 40%, of all Afghan opiates were trafficked through Pakistan, with significant levels through Balochistan and FATA. From Balochistan, the smuggling route went either to Iran by road or train, eventually hitting the European market via Turkey, or to the Makran coast and on to international markets via boat or plane.

The FATA route generally took one of three paths, all by road: towards the rapidly growing market in China, towards India, or towards Karachi for the domestic market and to reach global markets by sea. Over the decade, Pakistan had likely become the primary supplier of heroin to the entire African continent at 20 mt a year, massively engaging African criminal networks in the Afghan narcotics trade.

The fact that Pakistan remained the most likely destination for trafficking means that either the Musharraf administration failed to stop trafficking through the country, did not sufficiently invest in counter-narcotics efforts, or was complicit in the narcotics trade directly. Given its consistently strong relationship with the Taliban, which significantly relied on the opium trade, it was likely the latter.

According to former US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain at a 2003 House International Relations panel, the ISI had “substantial” involvement in the heroin trade from at least 1997 to 2003.

This involvement very likely continued on through the rest of the Musharraf years. The ISI will only go so far as to admit there were “rogue officers” who engaged in the narcotics trade, but maintain that they were actively fighting against it. This grows harder to believe when considering the 2008 Transparency International corruption perception index (CPI) rated Pakistan’s corruption level at 2.5 on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).412 The first decade of the millennium was a volatile time for the narcotics industry in Afghanistan. What began with the most drastic opium reduction in Afghanistan’s history ended with the largest narcotics industry ever seen in the history of the world. As the Taliban lost its power, they fully invested in the one reliable way to rebuild their empire. They took advantage of the power vacuum that persisted as the Karzai administration struggled to gain control of a country in disarray.

They created and profited from the vicious cycle of insecurity and poppy harvesting: as insecurity rose, farmers resorted to growing poppies as alternatives shrunk. As the poppy industry grew, so too did the Taliban who profited off of every aspect of the industry, from taxing the harvest, to providing protection for traffickers, to running the refineries. As the Taliban extended their reach 405 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (Washington, D.C.: Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State, 2005). 406 UNODC, “2.2 Opium/Heroin,” 60. 407 Ibid.,” 62-63. 408 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, U.S. Department of State. 409 UNODC, “2.2 Opium/Heroin,” 22. 410 Ibid., 60-61. 411 Blanchard, Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy, 33. 412 UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), Addiction, Crime, and Insurgency: The Transnational Threat of Afghan Opium, Vienna, AT: UNODC, Oct. 2009, 141. 71

to border zones enabling easier narcotics smuggling, those regions increased in insecurity, forcing locals to resort to poppy farming.

Hamid Karzai’s government had an impossible situation on its hands trying to draw back the opium epidemic while so much of the country was out of its control. The areas it did control did not react well to eradication efforts, which hurt the livelihood of farmers who had little alternative to poppy farming to survive.

The Karzai administration’s efforts with international actors to provide alternative livelihood to communities reliant on poppies had mixed results. This stemmed from issues in the rollout of aid, resulting in disparities in the allocation of resources.

Additionally, offering one-size-fits-all community development programs instead of multi-scalar, holistic, and customised programs meant that much of the aid provided did not attain the intended goal of creating sustainable communities no longer reliant on poppy farming.

The situation was not helped by the Karzai government’s questionable relationship with the narcotics industry, where many officials from top to bottom had financial interests in the drug trade leading to inconsistent administration of anti-narcotics efforts.

This was exacerbated by the government infiltration by tribal warlords who engaged in mafia-like behaviour, creating business empires that packaged their illicit activities, like narcotics trade, in licit fronts. Finally, the group that the US relied upon to fight the Taliban, Pakistan’s ISI, proved to be an unreliable ally, placating Western demands with half-hearted public gestures while privately sabotaging all efforts to disrupt the Taliban and its allies.
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