Taliban danger

SEPTEMBER 12, 2021

Taliban danger

by Batko Milacic for the Saker Blog

During the 20 years of Afghan occupation, which was initially quick and successful, the Americans and their allies failed to give Afghanistan anything. The impression is that successive US administrations initially had no strategy to pacify the country. After the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, the country’s secular regime, abandoned by the Russians, held out for three years and collapsed only after being completely deprived of all assistance from Moscow. The allied international forces were still in the country when the government of President Ghani, which they controlled, left the capital at the mercy of the Taliban. Why?!

When Russians were in Afganistan, they not only fought, but taught the Afghans, sending one of them into space and building hospitals, roads and factories. Therefore, the Afghans, who fought on the side of the country’s last truly secular government, knew what they were fighting for.

What did the soldiers of the current Afghan army, let alone ordinary Afghans, have to die for? For the president who stole so much money that it didn’t fit into his plane? For kickbacks from US arms manufacturers who supplied Afghanistan with the equipment, all of which was inherited by the Taliban? Maybe for freedom and universal human values, which had allegedly been promoted for 20 years by numerous NGOs that squandered the money of American and European taxpayers?!

Ordinary Afghan people lives by the same rules as their distant ancestors; they don`t understand the advantages of Western culture. Two decades of US rule have cost Afghans nearly a million lives. They faced killings of civilians “by mistake,” cleansing of villages, forced prostitution and humiliation. And a small sliver of “Europeanized Afghans,” supporters of women’s rights, religious tolerance and freedom, are just as alien to ordinary Afghans as are the arrogant US military. Therefore, some Afghans greet the Taliban as liberators, while others have learned to tolerate them and believe that life will not get any worse than it is now!

However, there are still others, who have no other choice than to fight! These are representatives of ethnic minorities. Nine percent of the country’s population are ethnic Uzbeks, and 27 percent – Tajiks. Pashtuns make up 42 percent of the Afghan population and they are the main source of the support for the Taliban`s. The Pashtuns are backed by neighboring Pakistan, and provide most of the volunteers for the militants. As for the Tajiks and Uzbeks, they were the main pillars of the secular state. Their leaders, Ahmad Shah Massoud, Sr. and Marshal Dostum, fought the Taliban throughout the initial period of their rule. They are less religious and not all of them are willing to spend the rest of their lives living according to strict Sharia law. Fully aware of this, the Taliban were all set not to repeat the mistakes they made in 1996-2001. The ethnic minorities must not only submit; they must be deprived of any chance to rebel. Given the fact that the country’s new rulers are divided into several groups, this goal was even easier to achieve. For example, the Haqqani Network, which is even more radical than the Taliban themselves (impossible as it may seem), and has in its ranks a large number of Arabic-speaking immigrants from ISIS and al-Qaeda, has sent out its militants to Panjshir and other northern provinces, while the Taliban still pretended to negotiate with them.

Panjshir is a small mountain valley in the north of the country, which has never really submitted to any conqueror. The passes leading to it are easy to block, and the terrain of the province itself is very conducive to guerrilla warfare. At the same time, routes go through the province to China and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, making it an important logistics hub. In addition, the sparsely populated valley (around 100,000 inhabitants) is rich in minerals, including emeralds, which actually allowed Massoud Sr. to hold out there for five years. This is why the Taliban are so eager to nip the local resistance in the bud. The only reason they needed negotiations was to improve their image in the world. In Washington, they have already been recognized as a “different” Taliban, not those who are responsible for the attacks on and killings of civilians. Well, you demonstrate to the outside world your flexibility and readiness for dialogue, and, who knows, maybe one day they will also give you diplomatic recognition! Naturally enough, Ahmad Massoud Jr. and Amrullah Saleh (also an ethnic Tajik), who had declared himself the legitimate head of Afghanistan, had no desire to leave the autonomy, give up their ability to maintain self-defense units and exercise real control over part of the government. Meanwhile, the “Haqqani Network” has already put the defense capability of the “lion cub of Panjshir” to the test.

The rest we know from news reports. After the Taliban and their allies suffered their first setbacks, drones suddenly appeared in the air, flown by Pakistani operators. According to numerous reports, Pakistani special OPs helped the Taliban break into the valley, resulting in videos from its center and from the mausoleum of Ahmad Shah Massoud being posted online on the morning of September 6. The “Lion” announced the continuation of the resistance and went into the mountains. Fearing for their life (and with good reason too) most of the local civilian population left with him. Well, the pro-Soviet forces in Afghanistan once also controlled the valley, while Massoud Sr. fought and eventually defeated them in the surrounding mountains. There is a big difference though. The best anti-guerrilla tactic is to deprive the militants of any support – in other words, “scorched earth” or genocide. With Panjshir completely cut off from the outside world, the Taliban simultaneously solve two problems – they will get rid of the disloyal population by killing them or squeezing them out to Tajikistan, and reward their supporters by handing them the houses and property left behind by the escaped local residents, thereby ensuring their loyalty and creating a formidable base against Massoud’s supporters. All of this comes as very good news for Pakistan, which has given the Taliban full control over the country and received access to the resources of the potentially very rich Panjshir.

Massoud Jr., who represents Afghanistan’s eight million Tajiks, will apparently be forced to fight to the bitter end. However, it looks like he will not be getting any outside help now that the White House has apparently decided to leave the region completely and has clinched some kind of secret deals with the Taliban or their patrons from the neighboring countries. How else to explain the position of Dushanbe? The Tajik authorities obviously ignore the situation, refusing to support their fellow country folk. Have the Americans allegedly guaranteed the Central Asian republic security against the Taliban if Dushanbe does not interfere in the process of Afghan unification? But how can one believe an old fox telling the sheep that the wolf will not touch them? All the more so, if the wolves have just bitten the red-haired deceiver?

A much similar situation has developed in Uzbekistan – the country that Marshal Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek and a graduate of Soviet military schools, who is considered a man of great courage, has fled to. However, this brave man with all his associates, including loyal fighters, has crossed the Uzbek border and disappeared. Unusual behavior for a combat-hardened general who fought for 35 years and never accepted Islamists. What was he promised? Security for the Uzbek minority? Or was he simply bought out? Or blackmailed? In any case, the last hero of all wars disappeared from the media radar without firing a single shot.

The information vacuum will allow the Taliban to quickly take control of the whole country. The world media will not write about the millions of victims of ethnic and religious cleansing simply because it will know nothing about that. If the “young lion of Panjshir” and Saleh do not receive real support in the coming days, they are doomed, along with their compatriots. Back in 1975, the world was blissfully unaware of the insane atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, who killed a third of their own population, simply because there was no one to write about this in a country shuttered from the outside world. In 2021, they will also try to hide the death of several million people, if only this is what Washington wants. And the White House does want a dialogue with the Taliban, forgetting about the victims of September 11, forgetting about the terrorist attacks across Europe and the hundreds of young men and women who died for “democracy” in Afghanistan. But what will the Taliban do after they crack down on Afghan minorities? Will it be peaceful construction? No, because radical Islam presupposes an eternal struggle against infidels in the name of a global caliphate and constant expansion. Its supporters have no need for music, literature, cinema – all these wonderful things created by mankind. They go to God through blood and violence, and they will go beyond their immediate neighbors. With a solid base and money from the sale of resources to China and Pakistan, the new Afghan authorities will become a unifying center for all like-minded Islamists – the holdovers from al-Qaeda and ISIS. As for the Taliban’s promise to get rid of the sprawling drug industry, which, during the 20 years of US occupation spiked from 120 tons a year to a whopping 10,000 tons, it is hardly credible. Indeed, why destroy what can be sold to infidels with profit and then be spent on a “holy war” bombing peaceful American and European cities. This is exactly what the Western world will get if it fails to figure out (and fast!) how to check the triumphant advance of terrorism from Afghanistan. True, judging by its escape from Kabul, the world policeman now urgently needs to talk this over with Moscow and Beijing. Otherwise, a new 9/11 may not be too far off.

Kabul Is Not Saigon : Afghanistan: Drug Trade and Belt and Road

AUGUST 31, 2021

By Peter Koenig for The Saker Blog

All flags are on half-mast in the US of A. The cause are the 13 American soldiers killed in this huge suicide bombing outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, on Thursday, 26 August.

As it stands, at least 150 people – Afghans, including at least 30 Taliban – plus 13 American military – were killed and at least 1,300 injured, according to the Afghan Health Ministry.

The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the bombing via Amaq Media, the official Islamic State (ISIS) news agency. The perpetrators, the message says, were members of the ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

As reported by RT, US military leaders knew “hours in advance” that a “mass casualty event” was planned at Kabul airport. However, accounts from the troops in harm’s way suggest that nothing was done to protect them or the airport. See this https://www.rt.com/usa/533462-pentagon-knew-kabul-suicide-bombing/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=Email .

Rt further reports, “The bombing provoked the US into launching two drone strikes, one targeting an alleged “planner” and “facilitator” with the group responsible, and another supposedly wiping out “multiple” would-be suicide bombers but reportedly annihilating a family and children alongside them.

Why was nothing done to prevent this bloody, atrocious attack? – In fact, the Pentagon announced just yesterday that another massive attack was likely, meaning they have information that another mass-killing may take place?

In the meantime, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that the last three US military transport planes have departed the Hamid Karzai Airport just ahead of the August 31, 2021, deadline, officially ending the American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“The war is over. America’s last troops have just left Kabul airport,” RT’s Murad Gazdiev tweeted from Kabul, adding that the war lasted “19 years, 10 months and 25 days.

What he didn’t say is that the monetary cost of the war was at least 3 trillion dollars, that about 241,000 people have been killed in the Afghanistan and Pakistan war zone since 2001. More than 71,000 of those killed have been civilians. These figures include (through April 2021) 2,448 American service members; 3,846 U.S. contractors, and some 66,000 Afghan national military and police. See this https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/civilians/afghan .
—-
Twenty years of war – and only ten days to defeat the US military.

Really? – Is this really the end of the US involvement in Afghanistan? Too many strange events and occurrences are pointing in a different direction.

Let’s have a closer look. The Islamic State – ISIS claims responsibility. As we know by now and since quite a while, ISIS is a creation of the CIA. The sophistication of the attack, the Pentagon non-interference, despite their prior knowledge, might, just might – indicate that this attack may have been a well-coordinated “false flag”?

Who benefits? Cui Bono?

On August 19, 2021, the Washington Post, referring to President Trump’s Peace Agreement with Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020, reports – “As President Donald Trump’s administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020, he optimistically proclaimed that “we think we’ll be successful in the end.” His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, asserted that the administration was “seizing the best opportunity for peace in a generation.”


“Eighteen months later, President Joe Biden is pointing to the agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, as he tries to deflect blame for the Taliban overrunning Afghanistan in a blitz. He says it bound him to withdraw U.S. troops, setting the stage for the chaos engulfing the country.”

“But Biden can go only so far in claiming the agreement boxed him in. It had an escape clause: The U.S. could have withdrawn from the accord if Afghan peace talks failed. They did, but Biden chose to stay in it, although he delayed the complete pullout from May to September.”
See full story: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/was-biden-handcuffed-by-trumps-taliban-deal-in-doha/2021/08/19/a7ee1a50-00a2-11ec-87e0-7e07bd9ce270_story.html

So, again who benefits from such an atrociously deadly attack, like the one of 26 August at Kabul Airport?

President Biden, though unjustified, can and does blame President Trump for the chaos he left behind by negotiating this “irresponsible” Peace Deal. Why “irresponsible”?  Wasn’t it time after 20 years without apparent “success” – whatever that means, or may have meant at some point in time – to end this senseless bloodshed and destruction of a sovereign Afghan society – let alone the killing of hundreds of thousands of people, most of them civilians?

It seems that Mr. Trump may have done the right thing. Peace over war should always win, on the ground as well as in the minds of people, and foremost of politicians. However, there are several reasons, why Peace is not welcome. And chaos and destruction and death as demonstrated by the 26 August suicide attack, and who knows, maybe more to follow, might justify sending back US troops?

There are several other irons in the fire about which hardly anybody talks and the bought anti-Trump and pro-Biden mainstream media are silent.

The Heroin Trade

There is a multi-multi-billion, perhaps up to a trillion-dollar heroin trade at stake, for the US and for the US and European pharma-industry – the huge and deadly opioid-market.

As reported by Michel Chossudovsky on 21 August 2021, One of the key strategic objectives of the 2001 war on Afghanistan was to restore the opium trade following the Taliban government’s successful 2000-2001 drug eradication program which led to a 94% collapse in opium production. This program was supported by the United Nations. (For details, see below)
In the course of the last 19 years following the US-NATO October 2001 invasion, there has been a surge in Afghan opium production. In turn the number of heroin addicts in the US has increased dramatically. Is there a relationship?

There were 189,000 heroin users in the US in 2001, before the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan.

By 2016 that number went up to 4,500,000 (2.5 million heroin addicts and 2 million casual users).

In 2020, at the height of the covid crisis, deaths from opioids and drug addiction increased threefold.
It’s Big Money for Big Pharma.”
See the full report https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-spoils-of-war-afghanistan-s-multibillion-dollar-heroin-trade/91

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative

Both, China and Russia have already indicated that they would help the new Taliban regime to gain stability – and to develop towards a newly independent, sovereign state. Afghanistan’s border with China, only about 70 km wide, but it forms a crucial connection to China’s western most Province, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It is a vital pivot for China’s Belt and Road, or “One Belt One Road” – OBOR – also called the New Silk Road.

While transit routes already go through Pakistan to the Indian Ocean, an OBOR rail and road transit through Afghanistan would connect China directly with Iran, facilitating among other trade, hydrocarbon transport from Iran to China. OBOR would also be an effective development instrument for war destroyed Afghanistan – a reconstruction and economic development scheme for Afghanistan could bring Afghanistan back to a respected nation state – even through the Taliban.

Furthermore, Afghanistan might be prepared for becoming an active member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), one of the world’s most significant political, economic and strategic defense organization. In addition to China and Russia and the Central Asian former Soviet Republics, India and Pakistan are already full members, while Iran, Malaysia and Mongolia are, so far, in observer and associate status.

SCO covers almost half of the world population and controls some 30% of the world’s GDP. Afghanistan would be in a solid and guiding association as an SCO member. Afghanistan’s socioeconomic development and improvement of war-damaged people’s standard of living, could benefit enormously.

Washington however dislikes OBOR with a passion. They see it as Chinese expansionism and competition. It is actually neither. China has in her thousands of years of history never had expansionist trends, or ambitions, and always respected other countries’ sovereignty. OBOR, an ingenious idea of President Xi Jinping, is patterned according to the ancient Silk Road, a trading route of 2100 years ago connecting Asia with Europe and the Middle East.

OBOR is an instrument to help develop and connect the world, while respecting each nation state’s independence and sovereignty.
——

The hugely profitable Heroin Trade and the further development of China’s OBOR – and particularly bringing Afghanistan under the wings of the east through association with the SCO – would spoil America’s multi-multibillion heroin trade, as well as another Middle East country would orient itself to the east – and away from the fangs of the ever weakening and crumbling Anglo-US empire.

Hence, commanding US-created ISIS to sow chaos and death in Afghanistan, blaming the Taliban, might be a good reason for Biden to bring back US troops – to fight a new kind war – fighting for the continuing highly profitable heroin trade and, simultaneously, fighting against OBOR. On top of it all, it would suit the Biden’s and his globalist agenda’s image – and standing in a totally misinformed world.


Peter Koenig is a geopolitical analyst and a former Senior Economist at the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), where he has worked for over 30 years on water and environment around the world. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for online journals and is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed; and  co-author of Cynthia McKinney’s book “When China Sneezes: From the Coronavirus Lockdown to the Global Politico-Economic Crisis” (Clarity Press – November 1, 2020)

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He is also a a non-resident Sr. Fellow of the Chongyang Institute of Renmin University, Beijing.

Here comes China: Afghanistan, 7 Deadly Sins, Space, Common Prosperity

August 28, 2021

Afghanistan is where the eyes of the world are. In my view, and according to the Chinese media and commentary, China is the inheritor of Afghanistan in terms of possible rebuilding of the country (finance, economy, industry, and trade) and also to ensure that a terrorist problem does not threaten across the border with China. The jury is out in terms of the trajectory here. China though has its embassy open, and this photo possibly says it all.

Afghanistan’s China Town reopens, not disrupted by the deadly blasts in Kabul airport

Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping.

In the context of the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation, the presidents noted with satisfaction that the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership has been developing progressively and dynamically. The main thing is that both sides are interested in further strengthening cooperation on the entire complex of issues on the bilateral and international agenda.

The leaders had an in-depth discussion on the Afghanistan problem. They expressed readiness to step up efforts to counter the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking emanating from Afghanistan and emphasised the importance of achieving peace as soon as possible and preventing the spread of instability to neighbouring regions. It order to do this, the presidents intend to use the potential of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as much as possible, among other things. The two leaders also agreed to step up bilateral contacts and close cooperation, above all between the foreign ministries.

On the occasion of the upcoming 76th anniversary of the end of World War II, the relevance of the work to preserve the truth about the events of that period and prevent attempts to falsify history was noted.

The conversation was held in a traditionally friendly and trust-based atmosphere.


From the Chinese media, 7 deadly sins that the US committed in Afghanistan

Sin 1: Warmonger

Sin 2: Machiavellian

Sin 3: Human Rights Abuses

Sin 4: State-Sponsored Terrorism

Sin 5: Heroin Trafficking

Sin 6: Blasphemy

Sin 7: Environment Destruction

http://www.news.cn/english/2021-08/24/c_1310146023.htm


In Afghanistan, China Is Ready to Step Into the Void, by Zhou Bo

This complete article is available on Godfree’s newsletter and this is but a short excerpt.  However, it illustrates the internal view of China on Afghanistan:

Zhou Bo is a senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Strategy at Tsinghua University and a member of the China Forum. He was a senior colonel in the People’s Liberation Army from 2003 to 2020 and is an expert on the Chinese army’s strategic thinking on international security. He directed the Centre for Security Cooperation in the Office for International Military Cooperation at the Ministry of National Defense.

The speed and scope of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan have prompted introspection in the West over what went wrong, and how, after billions of dollars spent on a 20-year war effort, it could all end so ignominiously. China, though, is looking forward. It is ready to step into the void left by the hasty U.S. retreat to seize a golden opportunity.

While Beijing has yet to formally recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s new government, China issued a statement on Monday saying that it “respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny” and will develop “friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan.”

The message here is clear: Beijing has few qualms about fostering a closer relationship with the Taliban and is ready to assert itself as the most influential outside player in an Afghanistan now all but abandoned by the United States.

Unlike the United States, China brings no baggage to the table in Afghanistan. China has kept a low profile in the country since the U.S. invasion, not wishing to play second fiddle to the United States in any power politics. Beijing watched as Washington’s foray in Afghanistan became a messy and costly morass. In the meantime, China provided Afghanistan millions of dollars in aid for medical assistance, hospitals, a solar power station and more. All the while, Beijing was fostering stronger trade relations, eventually becoming one of Afghanistan’s largest trading partners.

With the U.S. withdrawal, Beijing can offer what Kabul needs most: political impartiality and economic investment. Afghanistan in turn has what China most prizes: opportunities in infrastructure and industry building — areas in which China’s capabilities are arguably unmatched — and access to $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits, including critical industrial metals such as lithium, iron, copper and cobalt. Though critics have raised the point that Chinese investment is not a strategic priority in a less secure Afghanistan, I believe otherwise.


Digital Yuan

Through the ages, money has taken various forms, (shells, stones, beads, various types of coins where the value was inherent in the material that the coin was made from and other that used a worthless material but assured by some kind of backing like gold, or simply trust in sovereign promises).

In terms of paper money, in the 13th century, the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan embarked on a bold experiment. China at the time was divided into different regions, many of which issued their own coins, discouraging trade within the empire. So Kublai Khan decreed that henceforth money would take the form of paper.

This was a huge step and even today we use paper money to an extent, but more and more we use digitized currencies. It is not strange that China again comes up with the major step of disintermediating the current technology of money by the creation of its DCEP. (This is not a cryptocurrency, however, technologically, it functions like one).  Transactions are fast, the basis is cash, and China is building it out as a two tier system (PBC and local banks assuring stable financial infrastructure and supervision, which, in effect, is the ‘backing’), as well as multi-scheme, which is the connection to retailers and third-party payment platforms (think of something like Paypal). Ownership of the currency business is then an open new market economic category.

We see more and more countries following suit but there is no one that is as far along as China on roll-out of digital currency, already trading with it, using it via smart contracts and more and more in cross border trade.

China builds cross-border finance blockchain platform

http://www.news.cn/english/2021-08/25/c_1310148785.htm

As all technology changes, the technology of money will also change and in reality, is in the process of change as we speak. The size of the change in financial technology spearheaded by China could well be of the magnitude, as was the acceptance of paper money, i.e., the whole world, just as Kublai Khan created his system in the 13th century. The prospective use cases of digital money at this level staggers the imagination and the strength of an economic weapon of this kind is routinely underestimated.


While we have money going all digital, why not do the same with the rest:

Following China’s push for a digital currency, the country plans to roll out digital driver’s licenses nationwide by 2022. Nearly 2 million residents have obtained digital driver’s licenses so far, as cited by Xinhua. Digital licenses will have the same legal effect as physical licenses and can be used to rent vehicles, file insurance claims and handle traffic violations. An official mobile app accepts applications for a digital license. 400 million people are licensed to drive in China. Read full article →


Space, yes, one cannot get away from China these days without talking about space.

A Chinese satellite has tested a technology that could offer the most accurate means yet of tracking air traffic from space, in the hope of preventing repeats of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 tragedy. Each aircraft in the sky emits a radio signal, and constantly monitoring all planes over a large area is technically challenging. But Beihang Kongshi 1, a small satellite in near-Earth orbit, can update the status of an aircraft every eight seconds – about twice as fast as American technology, meaning the tracking is more accurate. Read full article  $→

In the mean time the Mars Rover is an unadulterated success. The National Space Administration said on its website Friday that Zhurong completed its 90-day program on August 15 and was in excellent technical condition and fully charged. Read full article →


Technology and Legal

In modern terms, China is a young country and in certain areas, specifically technology, legal structures lag behind technological development. This is not new if you are in technology but given the size and growth of China’s technology sector, may create some problems. In case you’ve been living under a very large rock: Regulators in Beijing have been on a mission to constrain the market dominance of China’s tech behemoths for months now. The principle value in the technological companies is that of building big fast and getting rich fast. But, the common value in the Chinese government is ‘common prosperity’. Wealth inequality is not as pronounced as in the west and China wants to keep it that way.  You may build big fast and get rich fast, but do not forget the country that gave you the platforms to create your behemoth of an industry.  Get rich, but not too rich.

The new legislation has all kinds of knock-on effects.  For example, labor laws (for one) and the value of all work and no play is being shaved. For example, ‘996’ work hours are illegal. “The ‘996’ work culture — a 12-hour, six-day work schedule that had been popular among Chinese tech companies until recently — is a serious violation of Chinese labor law, according to China’s Supreme People’s Court and its Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security.” Read full article →


Defense

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has improved the accuracy and range of its ballistic missile force, the world’s largest, according to a new US Army report. The DF-11, the most widely deployed short-range ballistic missile, was originally designed to hit targets up to 300km away, but newer models have expanded ranges beyond 700km. “Accuracy has also increased, reducing” the intended target point to only 30m, “giving theatre commanders a long-range precision strike capability”, according to the army publication. The DF-11 can employ both conventional and nuclear warheads. The “solid-fuel rocket and mobile transporter-erector-launchers enable rapid launch and reload operations”, it added. Read full article $→

China has successfully tested two short-range conventional missiles designed to take out enemy communications systems. The PLA Rocket Force recently tested two new missiles that can overcome “complex electromagnetic interference” to destroy facilities in a “fast-reaction” operation. “[The missiles] successfully hit the target in an enemy camp equipped with multilayer defences several hundred kilometres away and effectively paralysed the enemy’s key communications node,” CCTV reported. Read full article $→


The legal machinations around Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou house arrest in Canada seem to be drawing to a close, if in fact it will be allowed to draw to a close. Jeff J. Brown provided a solid analysis and background of the story.


To conclude, yes, the elephants are back home but nobody is betting that they will stay home this time. They may at any time decide to again go on a walk-about.

And on Winnie the Pooh:

Selections from Godfree Roberts’ extensive weekly newsletter: Here Comes China. You can get it here: https://www.herecomeschina.com/#subscribe

Further selections and editorial and geopolitical commentary by Amarynth.

Who profits from the Kabul suicide bombing?

August 27, 2021

Who profits from the Kabul suicide bombing?

ISIS-Khorasan aims to prove to Afghans and to the outside world that the Taliban cannot secure the capital

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The horrific Kabul suicide bombing introduces an extra vector in an already incandescent situation: It aims to prove, to Afghans and to the outside world, that the nascent Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is incapable of securing the capital.

As it stands, at least 103 people – 90 Afghans (including at least 28 Taliban) and 13 American servicemen – were killed and at least 1,300 injured, according to the Afghan Health Ministry.

Responsibility for the bombing came via a statement on the Telegram channel of Amaq Media, the official Islamic State (ISIS) news agency. This means it came from centralized ISIS command, even as the perpetrators were members of ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

Presuming to inherit the historical and cultural weight of ancient Central Asian lands that from the time of imperial Persia stretched all the way to the western Himalayas, that spin-off defiles the name of Khorasan.

The suicide bomber who carried out “the martyrdom operation near Kabul airport” was identified as one Abdul Rahman al-Logari. That would suggest he’s an Afghan, from nearby Logar province. And that would also suggest that the bombing may have been organized by an ISIS-Khorasan sleeper cell. Sophisticated electronic analysis of their communications would be able to prove it – tools that the Taliban don’t have.

Visual search query image

The way social media-savvy ISIS chose to spin the carnage deserves careful scrutiny. The statement on Amaq Media blasts the Taliban for being “in a partnership” with the US military in the evacuation of “spies.”

It mocks the “security measures imposed by the American forces and the Taliban militia in the capital Kabul,” as its “martyr” was able to reach “a distance of no less than five meters from the American forces, who were supervising the procedures.”

So it’s clear that the newly reborn Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the former occupying power are facing the same enemy. ISIS-Khorasan comprises a bunch of fanatics, termed takfiris because they define fellow Muslims – in this case the Taliban – as “apostates.”

Founded in 2015 by emigré jihadis dispatched to southwest Pakistan, ISIS-K is a dodgy beast. Its current head is one Shahab al-Mujahir, who was a mid-level commander of the Haqqani network headquartered in North Waziristan in the Pakistani tribal areas, itself a collection of disparate mujahideen and would-be jihadis under the family umbrella.

Washington branded the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization way back in 2010, and treats several members as global terrorists, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the family after the death of the founder Jalaluddin.

Up to now, Sirajuddin was the Taliban deputy leader for the eastern provinces – on the same level with Mullah Baradar, the head of the political office in Doha, who was actually released from Guantanamo in 2014.

Crucially, Sirajuddin’s uncle, Khalil Haqqani, formerly in charge of the network’s foreign financing, is now in charge of Kabul security and working as a diplomat 24/7.

The previous ISIS-K leaders were snuffed out by US airstrikes in 2015 and 2016. ISIS-K started to become a real destabilizing force in 2020 when the regrouped band attacked Kabul University, a Doctor Without Borders maternity ward, the Presidential palace and the airport.

NATO intel picked up by a UN report attributes a maximum of 2,200 jihadis to ISIS-K, split into small cells. Significantly, the absolute majority are non-Afghans: Iraqis, Saudis, Kuwaitis, Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs.

The real danger is that ISIS-K works as a sort of magnet for all manners of disgruntled former Taliban or discombobulated regional warlords with nowhere to go.

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The perfect soft target

The civilian commotion these past few days around Kabul airport was the perfect soft target for trademark ISIS carnage.

Zabihullah Mujahid – the new Taliban minister of information in Kabul, who in that capacity talks to global media every day – is the one who actually warned NATO members about an imminent ISIS-K suicide bombing. Brussels diplomats confirmed it.

In parallel, it’s no secret among intel circles in Eurasia that ISIS-K has become disproportionally more powerful since 2020 because of a transportation ratline from Idlib, in Syria, to eastern Afghanistan, informally known in spook talk as Daesh Airlines.

Moscow and Tehran, even at very high diplomatic levels, have squarely blamed the US-UK axis as the key facilitators. Even the BBC reported in late 2017 on hundreds of ISIS jihadis given safe passage out of Raqqa, and out of Syria, right in front of the Americans.

The Kabul bombing took place after two very significant events.

The first one was Mujahid’s claim during an American NBC News interview earlier this week that there is “no proof” Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11 – an argument that I had already hinted was coming in this podcast the previous week.

This means the Taliban have already started a campaign to disconnect themselves from the “terrorist” label associated with 9/11. The next step may involve arguing that the execution of 9/11 was set up in Hamburg, the operational details coordinated from two apartments in New Jersey.

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Nothing to do with Afghans. And everything staying within the parameters of the official narrative – but that’s another immensely complicated story.

The Taliban will need to show that “terrorism” has been all about their lethal enemy, ISIS, and way beyond old school al-Qaeda, which they harbored up to 2001. But why should they be shy about making such claims? After all, the United States rehabilitated Jabhat Al-Nusra – or al-Qaeda in Syria – as “moderate rebels.”

The origin of ISIS is incandescent material. ISIS was spawned in Iraq prison camps, its core made of Iraqis, their military skills derived from ex-officers in Saddam’s army, a wild bunch fired way back in 2003 by Paul Bremmer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

ISIS-K duly carries the work of ISIS from Southwest Asia to the crossroads of Central and South Asia in Afghanistan. There’s no credible evidence that ISIS-K has ties with Pakistani military intel.

On the contrary: ISIS-K is loosely aligned with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, Islamabad’s mortal enemy. TTP’s agenda has nothing to do with the moderate Mullah Baradar-led Afghan Taliban who participated in the Doha process.

SCO to the rescue

The other significant event tied to the Kabul bombing was that it took place only one day after yet another phone call between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

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The Kremlin stressed the pair’s “readiness to step up efforts to combat threats of terrorism and drug trafficking coming from the territory of Afghanistan”; the “importance of establishing peace”; and “preventing the spread of instability to adjacent regions.”

And that led to the clincher: They jointly committed to “make the most of the potential” of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which was founded 20 years ago as the “Shanghai Five”, even before 9/11, to fight “terrorism, separatism and extremism.”

The SCO summit is next month in Dushanbe – when Iran, most certainly, will be admitted as a full member. The Kabul bombing offers the SCO the opportunity to forcefully step up.

Whichever complex tribal coalition is formed to govern the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, it will be intertwined with the full apparatus of regional economic and security cooperation, led by the three main actors of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

The record shows Moscow has all that it takes to help the Islamic Emirate against ISIS-K in Afghanistan. After all, the Russians flushed ISIS out of all significant parts of Syria and confined them to the Idlib cauldron.

In the end, no one aside from ISIS wants a terrorized Afghanistan, just as no one wants a civil war in Afghanistan. So the order of business indicates not only an SCO-led frontal fight against existing ISIS-K terror cells in Afghanistan but also an integrated campaign to drain any potential social base for the takfiris in Central and South Asia.

“I Was Living Like Scarface”: The Ludicrous Costs of the War in Afghanistan Revealed in New Documents, Testimonies

August 25th, 2021

By Alan Macleod

Source

“Holy cow, I was living like Scarface…I was paying out anywhere between $300-400,000 per week to $5 million per week at times. All in cash.” Matthew Hoh, U.S. Marine Corps Captain and former State Department official.

 Province, Afghanistan, over U.S. policy in the country. “The way to prove that you were doing your job was by spending money,” Hoh told MintPress, continuing:

Money being spent on an institutional level was a metric of success. Somehow in the minds of the U.S. political leaders, in Iraq and Afghanistan, dollars spent equated to things being constructed and effective counterinsurgency [against the Taliban]…But the Taliban themselves were taking the money! The Taliban guys were doing the construction work. It was absolutely nuts!”

Funding the enemy

By this time, the U.S. had effectively lost control of Afghanistan. One officer told Hoh that he controlled only the area “as far as my machine guns reach and the Taliban control everything else.” If that was the case, why didn’t the Taliban overrun any of the network of small U.S. bases throughout the country? One reason was that they were afraid of U.S. airpower. But an equally important factor, Hoh claimed, was that NATO outposts were handing out millions of dollars in cash to local firms and groups as part of their mission — enormous sums in a country where the majority live on less than $2 per day. “The Taliban were making a ton of money off these outposts,” Hoh exclaimed, “and everyone knew exactly where the money was going!”

Taliban fighters hold American weapons at a checkpoint previously manned by US troops in Kabul, Aug. 17, 2021. Photo | AP

Taliban fighters hold American weapons at a checkpoint previously manned by US troops in Kabul, Aug. 17, 2021. Photo | AP

While this might sound far-fetched to a lay person, the notion that the U.S. was directly paying off the Taliban has been an established fact for over a decade, the latest SIGAR report noting that Washington has been “buying” the insurgents’ cooperation, making the Taliban “unofficial subcontractors to the U.S. government.”

“We’re talking about a fountain of money that the Taliban were happy to take. Whether they took it directly or it was the Taliban commander’s cousin that was the contractor, it doesn’t matter. The absurdity of all this — and everyone knew it was going on!” Hoh exclaimed.

Flooding Afghanistan with cash

In an attempt to win hearts and minds, U.S. forces began spending vast sums of money on reconstruction and social projects. Yet the money spent was far more than Afghanistan could productively absorb and it continued to grow to the point where American agencies had no way of effectively disbursing and overseeing it. This cash-in-hand system also created widespread networks of corruption that sustained huge numbers of people, including many in Washington.

As the SIGAR study explained, the assumption underpinning the whole strategy was that ordinary Afghans were the source of the corruption and that increased spending would reduce the fraud over time. Only after years of this strategy did the U.S. realize it was the enormous cash injection itself that was causing the problems. But, “rather than revisit their assumptions when progress proved elusive, U.S. officials concluded that it would be better to power through the shortcut by adding even more money” — a decision that might lead some to question the officials’ motives.

Flooding the country with cash produced a myriad of unforeseen negative economic consequences, making some places resemble gold-rush towns. Such was the speed and ambition of reconstruction efforts in Helmand Province, for instance, that local teachers quit their jobs to become day laborers for better wages, leaving children in the lurch.

Afghanistan Bagram
A man rests in the shade of destroyed machinery sold by the US military to a scrapyard, outside Bagram Air Base. Rahmat Gul | AP

A man rests in the shade of destroyed machinery sold by the US military to a scrapyard, outside Bagram Air Base. Rahmat Gul | AP

Hoh, who had been sent to Iraq to perform essentially the same function, had never seen anything like it. “Holy cow, I was living like Scarface… I was paying out anywhere between $300-400,000 per week to $5 million per week at times. All in cash,” he said.

I had $50 million in cash. The most I ever had at one point was $24 million on hand, in $100 bills, sitting in safes in my bedroom. And there was hardly any oversight whatsoever. Once we signed that money out of the vault in Baghdad, it was up to me how to document that money was spent and where the money went…I had no requirement. Literally. I am not joking. No guidance and no requirement to provide documentation about where that money went.”

No oversight

Because U.S. forces could not travel freely in Afghanistan, rarely venturing far beyond their bases, they were largely forced to take Afghan contractors at their word. This resulted in corner-cutting and shoddy workmanship becoming the norm, as Afghans had no incentive to produce quality work. SIGAR noted one particularly embarrassing instance where the U.S. paid $2.4 million for a new compound that it could never use, as it was built outside the security perimeter of the base for which it was commissioned.

Making money off American ignorance became a relatively sophisticated operation, with one Kandahar-based organization even providing contractors with doctored images of fake projects, replete with fraudulent geotags embedded in the digital photographs, helping local businesses swindle USAID. As former Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker told SIGAR, “The ultimate point of failure for our efforts wasn’t an insurgency. It was the weight of endemic corruption.”

Poppy fiasco

The heroin trade exploded under the U.S. watch. In 2001 — the year of the invasion — Afghanistan produced just 185 tons of the drug. However, that number ballooned to over 9,000 tons by 2017, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The boom turned Afghanistan into the world’s first true narco-state, according to Professor Alfred McCoy, author of “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.”

The trade implicated almost everybody in power, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali, among the biggest and most notorious drug kingpins in the south of the country.

Attempts to crush opium production often backfired comically. Local farmers were given cash not to plant poppies. But frequently, they would simply take the money and plant the crop elsewhere, unbeknownst to the Americans. Thus, they were simultaneously getting paid to plant and paid not to plant.

U.S. Marines assigned to the female engagement team (FET) of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) conduct a patrol alongside a poppy field while visiting Afghan settlements in Boldak, Afghanistan, April 5, 2010. (DoD photo by Cpl. Lindsay L. Sayres, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)
US Marines conduct a patrol alongside a poppy field in Boldak, Afghanistan on April 5, 2010. Photo | DoD

US Marines conduct a patrol alongside a poppy field in Boldak, Afghanistan on April 5, 2010. Photo | DoD

The U.S. also often paid huge sums of money to Afghan warlords to destroy poppy fields. However, local bosses — who grew the crop themselves — would simply destroy their rivals’ fields and collect the money, leaving themselves both enriched and in a dominant position to further control the trade in their area.

One notable example of this is local strongman Gul Agha Sherzai, who eradicated his competitors’ crops in Nangarhar Province (while quietly leaving his own in Kandahar Province untouched). But all the U.S. saw was a local politician seemingly committed to stamping out the illegal drug trade. They therefore showered him with money and other privileges. “We literally gave the guy $10 million in cash for rubbing out his competition,” Hoh said. “If you were going to write a movie about this, they’d say ‘This is too far fetched. No one is going to believe this. Nothing is this insane or stupid.’ But that is the way it is.”

At war with the truth

Truth, the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus noted, is always the first casualty in war. And Afghanistan is a prime example of this phenomenon. The release of the Afghanistan Papers in 2019 showed that there had been a years-long drive to deliberately deceive the public about the conflict, with officials consistently sharing over-optimistic figures and assessments they knew to be untrue, all in an effort to keep the occupation going.

The SIGAR report details how “[e]normous pressure to demonstrate progress to the Congress and the American and Afghan people distorted accountability systems into spin machines,” condemning the “utterly dishonest” handling of the war, and concluding that “[t]here was little appetite for honest assessments of what worked and what did not.” “The American people have been lied to,” concluded John Sopko, the special inspector general at SIGAR.

Has the U.S. made things better?

Images of desperate people fleeing the Taliban’s seemingly unstoppable advance have flooded Western TV networks and social media news feeds, with well-paid pundits hand-wringing about how such a retreat must never happen again, that we are abandoning our allies, and how all our good work across the country will quickly be undone.

However, it is important to soberly assess the condition Afghanistan is being left in. While things were far from fine before the U.S.-led invasion, polls conducted by American organizations show Afghanistan to be the saddest place on earth. Zero percent of respondents claimed that they are “thriving” as opposed to 85 percent who said they were “suffering,” when asked by Gallup in 2019. And while war has been good business for some, President Ashraf Ghani — who fled the country as soon as the American troops left — recently admitted that 90% of the population was living on less than $2 per day.

A US soldier looks at the body of a suspected Taliban fighter killed in a coalition missile strike in Kandahar, Oct. 10, 2010. Rodrigo Abd | AP

A US soldier looks at the body of a suspected Taliban fighter killed in a coalition missile strike in Kandahar, Oct. 10, 2010. Rodrigo Abd | AP

On the Afghanistan Papers, MintPress News contributor and founder of anti-war group CODEPINK Medea Benjamin wrote:

The debacle in Afghanistan is only one case in a fundamentally flawed U.S. policy with worldwide consequences. New quasi-governments installed by U.S. ‘regime change’ in country after country have proven more corrupt, less legitimate and less able to control their nation’s territory than the ones the U.S. has destroyed.

Before the rise of the Taliban (who, incidentally, derived much of their power from U.S. money and arms flowing to the anti-Soviet Mujahideen), half of Afghan university students were women, as were 40% of the country’s doctors, 70% of its teachers and 30% of its civil servants.

For all the talk of the advancement in women’s rights and education in the country, today, in half of Afghanistan’s provinces, fewer than 20% of teachers are female (and in many, that number is less than 10%). Only 37% of girls can even read (as opposed to 66% of boys), according to Human Rights Watch.

Fear of personal safety in the country has increased virtually every year in Afghanistan since 2005, reaching all-time highs today. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives and 5.9 million people have fled their homes. In 2018 alone, Afghans submitted 1.17 million complaints to the International Criminal Court, detailing accounts of atrocities from all groups, including U.S. forces.

Killing and making a killing

Thus, it is painfully clear that there are many losers in this conflict. But there were also clear winners. Even losing wars make money, and much of that money went to private or semi-private companies that populate the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Hoh stated that there was corruption and stealing among American officials as well as Afghan. Deals were not documented, often completed upon a handshake alone, and there is often no paper trail to explain where all this money went. “But a lot of this was just legal,” he said, noting that 40% of the “aid” money earmarked for Iraq and Afghanistan never even left the United States, going towards management and consultancy fees for the prime contractor.

One of these groups is Creative Associates International, a for-profit NGO that received $449 million worth of contracts in Afghanistan, including one to rebuild the country’s education system around a privatized model. Creative Associates redesigned the Afghan curriculum, purging any mention of the past few decades of the country’s history (including the Taliban) from textbooks. “You can’t buy that kind of thought control — unless you have a few hundred million,” wrote one American educator.

Weapons companies have also made a killing supplying the U.S. and its allies with the arms necessary to sustain a 20-year campaign. As Jon Schwarz of The Intercept noted, defense stocks have outperformed the market by 58% over the past two decades. A prime example of this is Lockheed Martin. $10,000 of that company’s stock bought in September 2001 would now be worth more than $133,000. Lockheed Martin itself today receives more in federal contracts than all weapons manufacturers put together did 20 years ago.

Hoh sardonically noted that “the one place that reconstruction was successful was in Northern Virginia.” The rest of America might be struggling, but Raytheon Acres is flourishing.

Why we fight

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies originally entered Afghanistan to capture Osama Bin Laden, for whom the Taliban were said to have previously provided sanctuary. Underreported at the time was that the Taliban offered to hand him over to a third country if the U.S. would provide evidence connecting him to the terrorist attacks.

The U.S.’ mission slowly changed from stamping out al-Qaeda to opposing the Taliban, to the point that, when Bin Laden was killed in 2011 (in Pakistan), there was little talk of pulling the U.S. out of Afghanistan. Highlighting the phenomenon of mission creep is the fact that in the first draft of the U.S.’ 2009 military strategy for Afghanistan document, there is no mention of al-Qaeda, because NATO believed the group was “no longer a problem.”

While President Joe Biden has been praised and condemned in equal measure for his decision to remove troops from the country, he was at pains to make clear that this was not a renunciation of violence, saying:

Today a terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan. Al-Shabab in Somalia, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. These threats warrant our attention and our resources.”

“We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed,” he added.

Therefore, it is clear that the White House has not learned the lessons that anti-war activists hoped they had. With Washington also increasingly setting its sights on China and Russia, the exorbitant costs in Afghanistan might seem cheap in comparison to any future wars dwarfing this one in scale.

‘Forever war’ benefiting Afghans? Follow the money

August 23, 2021

Whoever bought Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and other US defense stocks made a literal killing

By Pepe Escobar, posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

After 20 years and a staggering US$2.23 trillion spent in a “forever war” persistently spun as promoting democracy and benefiting the “Afghan people,” it’s legitimate to ask what the Empire of Chaos has to show for it.

The numbers are dire. Afghanistan remains the world’s 7th poorest nation: 47% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the Asian Development Bank. No less than 75% of the – dissolved – Kabul government’s budget was coming from international aid. According to the World Bank, that aid was responsible for the turnover of 43% of the economy – one that was mired in massive government corruption.

According to the terms of the Washington-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February 2020, the US should continue to fund Afghanistan during and after its withdrawal.

Now, with the Fall of Kabul and the imminent return of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, it’s becoming clear that applying financial soft power tactics may be even more deadly than a mere NATO occupation.

Washington has frozen $9.5 billion in Afghan Central Bank reserves and the International Monetary Fund has canceled its lending to Afghanistan, including $460 million that’s part of a Covid-19 relief program.

These dollars pay for government salaries and imports. Their absence will lead to the “Afghan people” hurting even more, a direct consequence of inevitable currency depreciation, rising food prices and inflation.

A corollary to this economic tragedy is a classic “take the money and run” caper: Former president Ashraf Ghani fled the country after allegedly packing four cars with $169 million in cash, and leaving $5 million on the tarmac of Kabul airport.

That’s according to two witnesses: one of his own bodyguards and the Afghan ambassador in Tajikistan; Ghani has denied the looting allegations.

Ghani’s plane was denied landing in Tajikistan and also Uzbekistan, proceeding to Oman until Ghani was welcomed in the UAE – very close to Dubai, a global Mecca of smuggling, money laundering and racketeering.

The Taliban have already stated that a new government and a new political and economic framework will be announced only after NATO troops are definitively out of the country next month.

The complex negotiations to form an “inclusive” government, as repeatedly promised by Taliban spokesmen, are de facto led on the non-Taliban side by two members of a council of three: former President Hamid Karzai and Ghani’s eternal rival, the leader of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah. The third member, acting in the shadows, is warlord-turned-politician and two-time prime minister Hekmatyar. Gulbuddin

Karzai and Abdullah, both vastly experienced, are regarded by the Americans as “acceptable,” so that may go a long way in terms of facilitating future, official Western recognition of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and restored multilateral institution funding.

Yet there are myriad problems including the very active role of Khalil Haqqani, who leads the Taliban Peace Council Commission while on a “terror watch list” and under UN sanctions. Not only is Haqqani in charge of Kabul’s security; he’s also side by side with Karzai and Abdullah in the discussions to form an inclusive government.

What makes the Taliban run

The Taliban have been operating outside of the Western banking system for two decades now. The bulk of their income comes from transit tax on trade routes (for instance, from Iran) and fuel levies. Profits from opium and heroin exports (domestic consumption not permitted) reportedly account for less than 10% of their income.

In countless villages across the deep Afghan countryside, the economy revolves around petty cash transactions and barter.

I received a copy of a high-level Pakistani academia-intelligence paper examining the challenges facing the new Afghan government.

The paper notes that “the standard route of development to be followed will be very pro-people. Taliban’s Islam is socialist. It has an aversion towards wealth being accumulated in fewer hands” – and, crucially, also an aversion to usury.

On the initial steps towards development projects, the paper expects them to come from Russian, Chinese, Turkish, Iranian and Pakistani companies – as well as a few government sectors. The Islamic Emirate “expects infrastructure development packages” at costs that are “affordable by the country’s existing GDP.”

Afghanistan’s nominal GDP in 2020 was $19.8 billion, according to World Bank figures.

New aid and investment packages are expected to come from Shanghai Cooperation Organization member nations (Russia, China, Pakistan) or SCO observers (Turkey and currently Iran – scheduled to become a full member at the SCO summit next month in Tajikistan). Inbuilt is the notion that Western recognition will be a Sisyphean task.

The paper admits that the Taliban have not had time to evaluate how the economy will be the key vector deciding Afghanistan’s future independence.

But this passage of the paper may hold the key: “In their consultations with the Chinese, they were advised to go slow and not rock the boat of the Western world system by talking too soon about state control of capitalism, interest-free economy, and de-linking from the IMF-based financial system. However, since the West has pulled back all the money from the Afghan exchequer, Afghanistan is likely to apply for short-term aid packages against their resource base.”

IMF-NATO as brothers in arms

I asked Michael Hudson, an economics professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City and Peking University, how he would recommend the new government to act. He answered, “For one thing, embarrass the hell out of the IMF for acting as an arm of NATO.”

Hudson referred to a Wall Street Journal article written by a former IMF advisor now with the Atlantic Council as saying that “now, since recognition is frozen, banks all over the world will hesitate to do business with Kabul. This move provides the US with leverage to negotiate with the Taliban.”

So this may be going the Venezuela way – with the IMF not “recognizing” a new government for months and even years. And on the seizure of Afghan gold by the New York Fed – actually a collection of private banks – we see echoes of the looting of Libya’s and seizure of Venezuela’s gold.

Hudson sees all of the above as “an abuse of the international monetary system – which is supposed to be a public utility – as an arm of NATO run by the US. IMF behavior, especially regarding the new drawing rights, should be presented as a litmus test” for the viability of a Taliban-led Afghanistan.

Hudson is now working on a book about the collapse of antiquity. His research led him to find Cicero, in In Favor of the Manilian Law (Pro Lege Manilia), writing about Pompeus’s military campaign in Asia and its effects on the provinces in a passage that perfectly applies to the “forever war” in Afghanistan:

“Words cannot express, gentlemen, how bitterly hated we are among foreign nations because of the wanton and outrageous conduct of the men whom in recent years we have sent to govern them. For, in those countries, what temple do you suppose had been held sacred by our officers, what state inviolable, what home sufficiently guarded by its closed doors? Why, they look about for rich and flourishing cities that they may find an occasion for a war against them to satisfy their lust for plunder.”

Switching from the classics to a more pedestrian level, WikiLeaks has been replaying a sort of Afghanistan Greatest Hits , reminding public opinion, for instance, that as far back as 2008 there was already “no pre-defined end date” for the “forever war.”

Yet the most concise assessment may have come from Julian Assange himself:

“The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war.”

The “forever war” may have been a disaster for the bombed, invaded and impoverished “Afghan people,” but it was an unmitigated success for what Ray McGovern so memorably defines as the MICIMATT (Military-Industrial-Counter-Intelligence-Media-Academia-Think Tank) complex. Anyone who bought stocks of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and the rest of that crowd made – literally – a killing.

Facts are indeed dire. Barack Obama – who presided over a hefty Afghan “kill list”  throws a birthday party and invites the woke nouveaux riches. Julian Assange suffers psychological torture imprisoned in Belmarsh. And Ashraf Ghani mulls how to spend $169 million in the Dubai rackets, funds some say were duly stolen from the “Afghan people.”

Joint statement by foreign ministers of the SCO countries : SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group

July 15, 2021

Joint statement by foreign ministers of the SCO countries : SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group

Joint statement by foreign ministers of the SCO countries following a meeting in the format of the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, July 14, 2021

We, foreign ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member countries,

Advocating the development of Afghanistan as an independent, neutral, united, peaceful, democratic and prosperous state,

Realising that peace and stability in that country is one of the main factors in ensuring security in the SCO region,

Being convinced of the need to continue helping the Afghan people in their efforts to restore the country and return to the road of peace and national accord,

Declare the following:

As friendly neighbours and important partners of Afghanistan, the SCO member states are interested in its development as a peaceful, stable and prosperous country, and confirm their respect for the traditions and culture of all peoples living in Afghanistan.

In accordance with universally accepted principles and norms of international law, primarily the UN Charter, the SCO countries reaffirm their respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Afghanistan. They intend to facilitate the development of Afghanistan as a country free from terrorism, war and drugs.

We condemn the violence and terror attacks that continue in Afghanistan, killing civilians and representatives of government bodies and call for their cessation as soon as possible. We note that the activities of international terrorist organisations remain one of the key factors of instability in that country. We express our deep concern over the escalation of tensions in the northern provinces of Afghanistan as a result of a sharp increase in the concentration of various terrorist, separatist and extremist groups. We consider it important for the SCO member states to enhance their joint efforts in order to counteract terrorism, separatism and extremism.

We urge all parties involved in the conflict in Afghanistan to refrain from the use of force and actions that may lead to destabilisation and unpredictable consequences near the Afghan borders with the SCO states.

The SCO member states reaffirm their willingness to continue developing cooperation with Afghanistan on countering security threats in the region, in particular, all forms and manifestations of terrorism and drug trafficking, and to jointly oppose double standards in resolving these tasks.

Emphasising the importance of long-term hospitality and effective aid for Afghan refugees, the SCO members consider it important for the international community to take active joint efforts to facilitate their proper, safe and sustainable return home.

We believe that reaching an early settlement in Afghanistan is a major factor in maintaining and strengthening security and stability in the SCO space. In this context, we emphasise the need for the Government and people of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to intensify their efforts to restore peace, promote national economic development and counter terrorism, extremism and drug-related crime. We confirm the position of the SCO members that the conflict in Afghanistan can only be settled by political dialogue and an inclusive peace process conducted and led by the Afghans themselves.

We urge all interested states and international organisations to strengthen their cooperation, with the UN playing a central coordinating role, in order to stabilise and develop the country. In this context, we note the activities of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General and the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy.

We welcome the diplomatic support for the peace process in Afghanistan by the international public, including the inter-Afghan peace talks in Doha, the extended Troika, the Moscow consultations format and the Tashkent venue. We note the outcome of the ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia – Istanbul process in Dushanbe on March 29-30, 2021.

Respecting the Afghan people’s independent choice of their own path of development, we are convinced that the inter-Afghan negotiations must consider the interests of all ethnic groups living in the country.

We attach much importance to our cooperation in the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group. We consider it necessary to consistently implement the roadmap for further action by the Contact Group, which was adopted in Bishkek on June 14, 2019, with a view to strengthening regional stability and developing relations between the SCO states and Afghanistan.

We reaffirm the willingness of our countries to continue deepening cooperation with Afghanistan in politics and security, as well as in the economic and humanitarian spheres, including by maximising the potential of Afghanistan’s participation as an observer state in the SCO’s activities.

Press release on consultations with a Taliban delegation

July 09, 2021

8 July 2021 19:30 – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

On July 8, Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov held consultations with a delegation from the Taliban’s political office. The discussion focused on the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the prospects for starting intra-Afghan talks.

The Russian side voiced their concern over the mounting tensions in the northern regions of Afghanistan and urged [the Taliban] not to allow these tensions to spread outside the county. The Taliban delegation reassured the Russian side that the Taliban would not violate the borders of the Central Asian counties and also provided guarantees of the safety of foreign countries’ diplomatic and consular missions in Afghanistan.

The representatives of the Taliban reaffirmed their interest in securing a lasting peace in their country through negotiations, taking into account the interests of all ethnic groups living in the country, as well as their readiness to observe human rights, including the rights of women, in keeping with Islamic standards and Afghan traditions.

It was separately emphasised that the Taliban is firmly determined to ward off the threat of ISIS in Afghanistan and eradicate drug production in the country after the end of the civil war.

Geopolitics, Profit, and Poppies: How the CIA Turned Afghanistan into a Failed Narco-State

June 25th, 2021

By Alan Macleod

CIA Afghanistan Drug trade Feature photo
The war in Afghanistan has looked a lot like the war on drugs in Latin America and previous colonial campaigns in Asia, with a rapid militarization of the area and the empowerment of pliant local elites.

AFGHANISTAN — The COVID-19 pandemic has been a death knell to so many industries in Afghanistan. Charities and aid agencies have even warned that the economic dislocation could spark widespread famine. But one sector is still booming: the illicit opium trade. Last year saw Afghan opium poppy cultivation grow by over a third while counter-narcotics operations dropped off a cliff. The country is said to be the source of over 90% of all the world’s illicit opium, from which heroin and other opioids are made. More land is under cultivation for opium in Afghanistan than is used for coca production across all of Latin America, with the creation of the drug said to directly employ around half a million people.

This is a far cry from the 1970s, when poppy production was minimal, and largely for domestic consumption. But this changed in 1979 when the CIA launched Operation Cyclone, the widespread funding of Afghan Mujahideen militias in an attempt to bleed dry the then-recent Soviet invasion. Over the next decade, the CIA worked closely with its Pakistani counterpart, the ISI, to funnel $2 billion worth of arms and assistance to these groups, including the now infamous Osama Bin Laden and other warlords known for such atrocities as throwing acid in the faces of unveiled women.

“From statements by U.S. Ambassador [to Iran] Richard Helms, there was little heroin production in Central Asia by the mid 1970s,” Professor Alfred McCoy, author of “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade,” told MintPress. But with the start of the CIA secret war, opium production along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border surged and refineries soon dotted the landscape. Trucks loaded with U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons would travel from Pakistan into its neighbor to the west, returning filled to the brim with opium for the new refineries, their deadly product ending up on streets worldwide. With the influx of Afghan opium in the 1980s — Jeffrey St. Clair, co-author of “Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press,” alleges — heroin addiction more than doubled in the United States.

“In order to finance the resistance for a protracted period, the Mujahideen had to come up with a livelihood beyond the weapons that the CIA was providing,” McCoy said, noting that the weapons issued could not feed the fighters’ families, nor reimburse them for lost labor:

So what the resistance fighters did was they turned to opium. Afghanistan had about 100 tons of opium produced every year in the 1970s. By 1989-1990, at the end of that 10-year CIA operation, that minimal amount of opium — 100 tons per annum — had turned into a major amount, 2,000 tons a year, and was already about 75% of the world’s illicit opium trade.”

The CIA achieved its goal of giving the U.S.S.R. its Vietnam, the Soviets failing to quash the Mujahideen rebellion by the time they finally pulled out in 1989. But American money and weapons also turned Afghanistan into a dangerously unstable place full of warring factions that used opium to fund their battles for internal supremacy. By 1999, annual production had risen to 4,600 tons. The Taliban eventually emerged as the dominant force in the country and attempted to gain international legitimacy by stamping out the trade.

In this, they were remarkably successful. A 2000 ban on opium cultivation by the Taliban-led government led to an almost overnight drop to just 185 tons harvested the following year, as frightened farmers chose not to risk attracting their wrath.

The Taliban had hoped that the eradication program would win favor in Washington and entice the United States to provide humanitarian aid. But unfortunately, history had other ideas. On September 11, 2001, the U.S. experienced a massive case of blowback, as Bin Laden’s forces launched attacks on New York and Washington. The U.S. ignored the Taliban’s offer to hand him over to a third party, instead opting to invade the country. Less than a month after the planes hit the World Trade Center, U.S. troops were patrolling the fields of Afghanistan.

The world’s first true narco-state

The effect of the occupation was to expand drug production to unprecedented new proportions, Afghanistan becoming, in Professor McCoy’s estimation, the world’s first true narco-state. McCoy notes that by 2008, opium was responsible for well over half of the country’s gross domestic product. By comparison, even in Colombia’s darkest days, cocaine accounted for only 3% of its GDP.

Today, the United Nations estimates that around 6,300 tons of opium (and rising) is produced yearly, with 224,000 hectares — an area almost the size of Rhode Island — planted with poppy fields.

Afhganistan Opium production graph
Source | Dyfed Loesche | Statista

But even while it was financing a widespread and deadly aerial spraying campaign in Colombia, the United States refused to countenance the same policy in Afghanistan. “We cannot be in a situation where we remove the only source of income of people who live in the second poorest country in the world without being able to provide them with an alternative,” said NATO spokesman James Appathurai.

Not everyone agreed, however, that a passionate commitment to defending the quality of life of the poorest was the actual reason for rejecting the policy. Matthew Hoh, a former captain in the U.S. Marine Corps is one skeptic. Hoh told MintPress that airborne fumigation was not carried out because it would be outside the control of Afghan government officials, who were deeply implicated in the drug trade, owning poppy fields and production plants themselves. “They were afraid that, if they went to aerial eradication, the U.S. pilots would just eradicate willy nilly and a lot of their own poppy fields would be hit.” In 2009, Hoh resigned in protest from his position at the State Department in Zabul Province over the government’s continued occupation of Afghanistan. He told MintPress:

NATO forces were more or less guarding poppy fields and poppy production, under the guise of counterinsurgency. The logic was ‘we don’t want to take away the livelihoods of the people.’ But really, what we were doing at that point was protecting the wealth of our friends in power in Afghanistan. “

According to Hoh, there was widespread disillusionment within the military among service members who had to risk their lives on a day to day basis. “What are we doing here? This is bullshit,” was a common sentiment among the rank and file.

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. James K. Peters stands in an opium poppy field while performing a foot patrol at Sangin, Afghanistan, May 19, 2011. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jeremy C. Harris/Released)
A US Marine stands in a poppy field during a foot patrol at Sangin, Afghanistan. Photo | DVIDS

The heroin trade implicated virtually everyone in power, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother Ahmed Wali, among the biggest and most notorious drug kingpins in the south of the country, a man widely understood to be in the pay of the CIA.

U.S. attempts to stymie the opium trade, such as the policy of paying domestic militias to destroy poppy fields, often backfired. Locals came up with ways of profiting, such as refraining from planting in one area, collecting large sums of money from occupying forces, and using that cash to plant elsewhere — effectively getting paid both to plant and not to plant. Even worse, local warlords and drug bosses would destroy their rivals’ crops and collect money from the U.S. for doing so, leaving themselves both enriched and in a stronger position than before, having gained NATO forces’ favor.

One notable example of this is local strongman Gul Agha Sherzai, who eradicated his competitors’ crops in Nangarhar Province (while quietly leaving his own in Kandahar Province untouched). But all the U.S. saw was a local politician seemingly committed to stamping out an illegal drug trade. They therefore showered him with money and other privileges. “We literally gave the guy $10 million in cash for rubbing out his competition,” Hoh said. “If you were going to write a movie about this, they’d say ‘This is too far fetched. No one is going to believe this. Nothing is this insane or stupid.’ But that is the way it is.”

McCoy noted that the Taliban was one of the prime beneficiaries of the drug trade, and used it to increase their power and vanquish the U.S.:

That booming opium production, and the U.S. failure to curb it, provided the bulk of the financing for Taliban, who captured a significant but unknown share of the local profits from the drug traffic, which they used to fund guerrilla operations over the past 20 years, becoming a determinative factor in the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan.”

‘The needle and the damage done’

It is not particularly difficult to grow opium. Opium poppies flourish in warm and dry conditions, away from the damp and the wind. Consequently, they have found a fertile home across much of central and western Asia. The plant has flourished in Afghanistan, particularly in southern provinces like Helmand, close to the tripoint where Afghanistan meets Pakistan and Iran. Much of the irrigation system in Helmand was underwritten by USAID, an organization that acts as the CIA’s public-facing front. In full bloom, the poppy fields look spectacular, with beautiful flowers of vibrant pink, red or white. Underneath the flowers, one can find a large seed pod. Farmers harvest these, draining them of a sap which dries into a resin. This is often transported out of the country through the so-called “Southern Route” via Pakistan or Iran. But, as with any pipeline, much of the product is spilled along the way, causing an epidemic of addiction across the region.

The effect on the Afghan population has been nothing short of a disaster. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of adult drug users jumped from 900,000 to 2.4 million, according to the United Nations, which estimates that almost one in three households are directly affected by addiction. While Afghanistan also produces copious amounts of marijuana and methamphetamine, opioids are the drug of choice for most, with around 9% of the adult population (and a growing number of children) addicted to them. Added to this has been a spike in HIV cases, as users share needles, Professor Julien Mercille, author of “Cruel Harvest: U.S. Intervention in the Afghan Drug Trade,” told MintPress.

Only contributing further to the despair has been 20 years of war and U.S. occupation. The number of Afghans living in poverty rose from 9.1 million in 2007 to 19.3 million in 2016. A recent poll conducted by Gallup found that Afghans are the saddest people on Earth, with nearly nine in ten respondents “suffering” and zero percent of the population “thriving,” in their own words. When asked to rate their lives out of a score of ten, Afghans gave an average answer of 2.7, a record low for any country studied. Worse still, when asked to predict the quality of their life in five years, the mean answer was even lower: 2.3.

The effects of the CIA operation to bleed the Soviets dry in Afghanistan have also produced a humanitarian crisis in neighboring Pakistan. As McCoy noted, in the late 1970s, Pakistan had barely any heroin addicts. But by 1985, Pakistani government statistics reported over 1.2 million, turning the two nations into “the global epicenter of the drugs trade” almost overnight.

The problem has only grown since. A 2013 U.N. report estimated that almost 7 million Pakistanis use drugs, with 4.25 million requiring urgent treatment for dependency issues. Nearly 2.5 million of these people were abusing heroin or other opioids. Around 700 people die every day from overdoses. The highest rate of dependency is, unsurprisingly, in provinces on the Afghan border where heroin is manufactured. The same U.N. study notes that 11% of people in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa use illicit substances — primarily heroin.

The drug crisis, of course, is also a medical crisis, with overstretched public hospitals filled with drugs-related maladies. The social stigma of addiction has ripped families apart while the money and power illicit drugs have brought has turned many towns into hotspots of violence.

Iran has a similar number of opioid users, generally estimated at between two and three million. In towns close to the Afghan/Pakistani border, a gram of opium can be bought with loose change — between a quarter and fifty cents. Thus, despite the extremely harsh penalties for drug possession and distribution on the official books, the country has the highest addiction rate in the world

On a micro level, addiction tears apart families and ruins lives. On an international scale, however, the opium boom has placed an entire region under significant strain. Therefore, one consequence of U.S. policy in the Middle East — from supporting jihadists to occupying nations — has been to unleash a worldwide opium addiction that has made a few people fantastically wealthy and destroyed the lives of tens of millions.

Domestic despair

The boom in production has also led to a worldwide disaster. In the past decade, opioid-related deaths increased by 71% globally, according to the United Nations. Much of the product grown by Afghan warlords ends up on Western streets. “I don’t see how it can be a coincidence that you have that explosive growth in poppy production in Afghanistan and then you have the worldwide opioid epidemic,” Hoh stated, a connection that raises the question of whether users in Berlin, Boston, or Brazil should be seen as victims of the war in Afghanistan as much as fallen soldiers are. If so, the numbers would be staggering. Nearly 841,000 Americans have died of a drug overdose since the war in Afghanistan began, including more than 70,000 in 2019 alone. The majority of these have involved opioids.

Officially, the DEA claims that essentially all illicit opioids entering the U.S. are grown in Latin America. Hoh, however, finds this unconvincing. “When you look at their own information and their reports on the illicit opioid production hectarage in Mexico and South America, it is clear that there is not enough production in the Western hemisphere to meet the demand for illicit opiates in the U.S.,” he told MintPress.

A dirty history

The U.S. government has a long history of directly involving itself with the worldwide narcotics trade. In Colombia, it worked with President Alvaro Uribe on a nationwide drug war, even as internal U.S. documents identified Uribe as one of the nation’s most important drug traffickers, an employee of the infamous Medellin Cartel and a “close personal friend” of drugs kingpin Pablo Escobar. Profits from drug-running funded Uribe’s election runs in 2002 and 2006.

General Manuel Noriega was also a key ally of the U.S. For many years, the Panamanian was on the CIA payroll — despite Washington knowing he was involved in drug trafficking since at least 1972. When he became de facto dictator of Panama in 1984, little changed. But the director of the Drug Enforcement Agency initially praised him for his “vigorous anti-drug trafficking policy.” Eventually, however, the U.S. decided to invade the country and capture Noriega, sentencing him to 40 years in federal prison for drug crimes largely committed while he was still in the CIA’s pay.

At the same time as this was going on, investigative journalist Gary Webb exposed how the CIA helped fund its dirty war against Nicaragua’s leftist government through sales of crack cocaine to black neighborhoods across the United States, linking far-right paramilitary armies with U.S. drug kingpins like Rick Ross.

Afghanistan Opium CIA
An Afghan farmer collects raw opium from poppy plants in his field in Chaparhar, Afghanistan. Nisar Ahmad | AP

To this day, the U.S. government continues to support Honduran strongman Juan Orlando Hernandez, despite the president’s well-established connections to the cocaine trade. Earlier this year, a U.S. court sentenced Hernandez’s brother Tony to life in prison for international drug smuggling, while Juan himself was an unindicted co-conspirator in the case. Nevertheless, President Hernandez has proven himself effective at suppressing the anti-imperialist Left inside his country and cementing the U.S.-backed 2009 military coup, one reason he is unlikely to face charges in the near future.

Using the illegal drug trade and the profits from it to fund imperial objectives has been a constant of great empires going back centuries. For instance, in the 1940s and 1950s, the French Empire utilized opium crops in the so-called “Golden Triangle” region of Indochina in order to help beat back a growing Vietnamese independence movement. Going further back, the British used its opium machine to subdue and economically conquer much of China. Britain’s insatiable thirst for Chinese tea was beginning to bankrupt the country, as the Chinese would accept only gold or silver as payment. It therefore used the power of its navy to force China to cede Hong Kong, from which Britain began flooding China with opium it grew in its possessions in South Asia.

The humanitarian impact of the Opium War was staggering. By 1880, the British were inundating China with over 6,500 tons of opium every year — equivalent to many billions of doses, causing massive social and economic dislocation as China struggled to cope with a crippling, empire-wide addiction. Today, many Chinese still refer to the era as “the century of humiliation.” In India and Pakistan, too, the effect was no less dramatic, as colonists forced farmers into planting inedible poppy fields (and, later, tea) rather than subsistence crops, causing waves of huge famines, the frequency of which had never been seen before.

Millions of losers

The story is much more nuanced than some “CIA controls the world’s drugs” conspiracy theories make out. There are no U.S. soldiers loading up Afghan carts with opium. However, many commanders are knowingly enabling warlords who do. “The U.S. military and CIA bear a large responsibility for the opium production boom in Afghanistan,” Professor Mercille said, explaining:

Post-9/11, they basically allied themselves with a lot of Afghan strongmen and warlords who happened to be involved in some way in drug production and trafficking. Those individuals were acting as local allies for the U.S. and NATO, and therefore were largely protected from retribution or arrest for drug trafficking because they were U.S. allies.”

From the ground, the war in Afghanistan has looked a lot like the war on drugs in Latin America and previous colonial campaigns in Asia, with a rapid militarization of the area and the empowerment of pliant local elites, which immediately begin to embezzle the massive profits that quietly disappear into black holes. All the while, millions of people pay the price, suffering inside a militarized death zone and turning to drugs as a coping mechanism. In the story of the opium boom, there are few winners, but there are millions of losers.

Hezbollah is the main target of Riyadh’s ban on Lebanon

April 30, 2021 – 22:36

By Mohammad Ali Saki

Tehran – Riyadh has kicked off a series of widespread economic pressures on Beirut to push the Lebanese government to exclude Hezbollah from the country’s political and military scene.

Saudi officials announced on Friday an indefinite ban on Lebanese agricultural products under the pretext of a failed attempt to smuggle 5.3 million pills of the illegal amphetamine Captagon hidden in a shipment of pomegranates at Jeddah Port.

Waleed Bukhari, the Saudi ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon, has said in a tweet the kingdom had found more than 57 million illicit pills from cash-strapped Lebanon since the beginning of 2020.

Riyadh is going to prevent Lebanese vegetables from entering or passing through Saudi Arabia.

The move has provoked reactions inside Lebanon. Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, reacted to the Saudi ban on his country, saying that “Lebanon and the Lebanese people do not want to irritate the Saudi brothers. We want the best relations with Saudi Arabia. We support Saudi Arabia in fighting the smuggling networks and their perpetrators.”
Furthermore, Lebanese President Michel Aoun commented on the Saudi ban on Lebanon. “It is important for us to maintain economic cooperation with Saudi Arabia, and we are working today to explain the existing ambiguities and return to the right stance.”

But many experts say that Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states are well aware that banning the import of Lebanese crops does not prevent drug trafficking.
This is an unjust decision in the eyes of Lebanese farmers and agriculture workers who are astonished that a country like Saudi Arabia has made such a hasty and unstudied decision.

Lebanon is concerned about other countries’ intention to follow Riyadh’s decision, endorsed by Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Lebanese farmers and the agricultural sector are facing an immense tragedy as every farmer is going to yield less and earn less. 

According to Aljazeera, various estimates say the Lebanese fruit and vegetable trade is worth between $20m and $34m annually.

Although Saudi Arabia’s sanction against Lebanon has caused controversy in the country’s agricultural sector and among farmers, it seems that Riyadh is exploiting the story of smuggling only as a pretext to put pressure on Hezbollah. 

Indeed, this is an attempt to cover up the actual dimensions of Riyadh’s policies against Beirut.

The Saudis are aware that Lebanon is living through a severe economic crisis at the moment. They (the Saudis) became convinced of this a while ago after Hassan Diab’s remarks about the deterioration of the economic conditions in Lebanon. Then, they have made every effort to achieve their political goals through a package of economic pressure on Lebanese people.

Arab political observers believe that Saudi Arabia tries to tighten the siege on Lebanon, a move encouraged by the United States and the Zionist regime to keep the Lebanese people hungry and lead the country to a civil war.

So, it seems quite clear that the primary goal of Saudi Arabia in banning the import of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon is to increase political pressure on a country that has lost 85 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar, pushing it into alarming inflation rates that are hamstringing farmers. 

Saudi officials seek to take full advantage of the current dire economic situation in Lebanon so that the Lebanese government gives up and kneels.

One of the most critical demands of Saudi Arabia from Lebanon is to exclude Hezbollah from the country’s political structure.

 This is a demand that the Saudis have made from Lebanese officials for at least over a decade. 

Indeed, Saudi Arabia has always been a staunch opponent of Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon’s political scene and system. Now, the Saudis who never miss the opportunity to apply their agenda against Hezbollah are trying to fish in troubled waters and make their old dreams come true.

Marginalize Hezbollah through spreading dissent in the country, because in their eyes, Lebanon as a whole must pay the price for hosting the resistance axis and defending Palestine’s cause.

RELATED NEWS

The Kingdom of Drug Trafficking Bans Lebanese Produce, Should Lebanon Have Banned Entry of Saudi Royals Since It Arrested ‘Captagon Prince’ in 2015?

24/4/2021

The Kingdom of Drug Trafficking Bans Lebanese Produce

By Staff, Agencies

Saudi Arabia announced on Friday a ban on imports of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon, blaming an increase in drug smuggling.

The Lebanese foreign ministry said it had been informed of the ban through the Saudi embassy and the foreign minister had relayed it to top officials.

The ban will take effect from 9:00 a.m. local time on Sunday.

According to Saudi Arabia’s SPA news agency, Saudi customs authorities at Jeddah had foiled an attempt to smuggle in more than 5.3 million Captagon pills, a type of amphetamine, hidden in pomegranate shipments from Lebanon, said Mohammed bin Ali al-Naim, undersecretary for security affairs at Saudi Customs.

It is a mere allegation which seems to contradict the fact that it was not autumn season, the time when Lebanon exports such produce.

Lebanese local media quoted the head of the country’s fruit and vegetable exporters, Naeem Khalil, as denying it was pomegranate season in Lebanon.

Khalil said the seized cargo could not have been Lebanese but had transited via Lebanon from Syria.

There is no doubt that “the Kingdom’s security is a red line”, as Saudi Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud said, commenting on the foiled smuggling attempt. However, the policy of banning imports of products should have been imposed after the seizure of 10 million and 10,000 Captagon pills at a border crossing with the United Arab Emirates [UAE] in December 2019.

However, at a time when those involved in drug trafficking, production or smuggling in Saudi Arabia are executed, their princes enjoy immunity, given that they are the widest route for the entrance of drugs into the Kingdom under the protection of the Riyadh regime.

Not long ago, Saudi princes had been involved in drug smuggling operations with a high level of professionalism.

In 1999, Saudi Prince Nayef bin Sultan smuggled two tons of cocaine from Venezuela to France. The French government accused him at the time of using his diplomatic status to smuggle drugs into a plane belonging to the Saudi royal family, but he managed to evade the verdict issued against him and he was convicted in absentia in 2007. The United States also accused him of conspiring to distribute cocaine, and it is now believed that Nayef bin Sultan is living in a legal shelter in Saudi Arabia.

Likewise, in 2015, Prince Abdul Mohsen, a member of the royal family, was arrested along with 4 other Saudis in Lebanon, after trying to smuggle two tons of drugs – Captagon pills and cocaine equivalent to 12 million pills – had been seized at Beirut International Airport in boxes with the phrase “Property of His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Mohsen bin Walid Al Saud”.

Moreover, the “Captagon Prince” revealed that members of the ruling family were involved not only in drug abuse, but also in trafficking and smuggling them from Lebanon in a plane that enjoys royal immunity.

The most prominent drug addict according to news leaks from Saudi Arabia and what the famous Mujtahidd posts on his Twitter account is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS], who presents himself as the Kingdom’s reformist. In 2015, Mujtahidd confirmed that MBS consumes drugs and drinks alcohol and narcotics.

Nonetheless, the American investigative journalist, Michael Wolf, revealed in his 2019 book “Siege: Trump Under Fire” that MBS is addicted to cocaine and that the US administration is aware of his addiction; and that MBS disappears for days as a result of behaviors that affect his decisions due to his drug use.

This being said, Saudi Arabia claims that it is being targeted “by drug traffickers in Lebanon or by drugs that pass through Lebanese territories”. Accordingly, Riyadh, which has a reputation as the largest “hotspot” of drug and Captagon trade in the world, stopped importing more than 50,000 tons annually of Lebanese agricultural products.

Should Lebanon Have Banned Entry of Saudi Royals Since It Arrested ‘Captagon Prince’ in 2015?

Saudi prince Abdul Mohsen bin Waleed bin Abdul Mohsen bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, aka Captagon Prince,

The Saudi authorities seized a pomegranate shipment in which captagon pills are hidden; consequently, KSA decided to ban the entry of all the Lebanese fruits and vegetables.

Head of Farmers Syndicate in Bekaa, Ibrahim Tarshishi, told Al-Manar that Lebanon has never exported pomegranate, adding the truck involved in the operation is not Lebanese.

Tarshishi added that Saudi is the biggest market which purchases the Lebanese agricultural products, hoping that the crisis gets resolved imminently.

It is worth noting that the Saudi authorities have never taken such punitive measures in dealing with similar cases, as upon seizing ten million captagon pills imported from UAE in 2019 and eight million captagon pills imported from Turkey in 2020.

In 2015, the Saudi prince Abdul Mohsen bin Waleed bin Abdul Mohsen bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, aka Captagon Prince, was arrested in Lebanon while attempting to smuggle two tone of captagon pills. Then, Saudi pressured the Lebanese authorities to release him.

Lebanon did not take punitive measures against the entire kingdom in 2015, yet KSA decided in 2021 to punish an entire nation over one marked pomegranate shipment. Finally, how will the Lebanese authorities deal with the Saudi decision?

Source: Al-Manar English Website

Adolf Trump Goes for Venezuela. A Jump into Nothingness?

South Front

Adolf Trump Goes for Venezuela. A Jump into Nothingness?

Source: Solidaria, translation Resumen LatinoamericanoNorth America bureau

In the midst of a desolate scenario, when the United States has become the country with the highest number those infected by the corona virus, President Donald Trump and his team of serial criminals like Elliott Abrams, Cuban-American Mauricio Claver-Carone, Marco Rubio and others, announced that their country and 22 other nations would launch a far-reaching operation against drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere, deploying naval and air force military reinforcements in the Caribbean Sea and the South Pacific.

From Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro denounced this situation to the world, in an extraordinary letter to the governments while the majority of the countries of the world and even the United Nations are requesting that the United States lift the sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and other countries, in view of the very serious emergency of a pandemic of this magnitude.

So far there has been no positive response and the most serious thing is that the threatening military maneuver is not stopping and in the last hours journalists and humanitarian agencies in Colombia have been denouncing the presence of US troops in their country where there is 9 US military bases.

Holman Morris, director of Colombia’s channel three, warned this weekend that U.S. troops and helicopters have arrived at the Colombian-Venezuelan border in the Santander area, posing a scenario of invasion and war at a time when United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world” warning of what any act of war could mean for the most vulnerable and war-torn countries where there has been a collapse in health systems, while COVID 19 is claiming thousands of lives daily.

Quo Vadis, Lebanon?

Global Research, December 03, 2019

Good bye, Lebanon, metaphorically and truly.

Good bye to a country which, many believe, actually has already ceased to exist.

For five long years I have been commuting between the Asia Pacific and the Middle East.And Beirut, for all that time, was one of my homes.

I arrived in Beirut when the situation in the region was beginning to be unbearable; when destabilized, tortured Syria commenced losing its children in large numbers. They were forced to leave their homeland, heading for Beirut and the Beqaa Valley, and in fact, to all parts of the world. I arrived when Syrian refugees were freezing to death, exploited and brutalized in ancient, godforsaken villages lost in the deep, lawless Lebanese valleys.

I was not supposed to write about it, but I did. I was not supposed to see what I saw. It was the UN’s shame, a well-hidden and well covered one, obscured by technical jargon. Refugees were not called refugees, and camps were not really officially registered as camps. What you had clearly seen with your own eyes, you were told, was actually totally something else. But it wasn’t. Eyes hardly lie.

Lebanon’s mirages, sandcastles and myths. If you live here, they surround you, suffocate you, choke you, all the time.

I arrived when the Palestinians began rebelling inside the horrific camps; hopeless, monstrous places where tens of thousands of human beings have been forced to live, for decades, without help, with hardly any rights.

And I left when the country collapsed. When the gap between the haves and have nots reached such enormous proportions, that it often began to appear that there were actually two different countries, even universes, on the same tiny geographical territory that is called Lebanon.

*

But before I left, there was an uprising.

Of course, periodically, there are rebellions here, which are misleadingly called “revolutions”. The“revolution” of 2005, of 2015, and now again, in 2019.

I worked in the center of Beirut, in the squares packed with the protesters. I tried to understand, to analyze, to find context.

And what did I witness? Huge clenched fists, those of the Serbian “Otpor”, a CIA-Serbian (extreme right-wing) ‘organization’, which forced the government of Slobodan Milosevic out of power, and which later infiltrated and destroyed genuine revolts all over the Middle East; revolts cynically called by the Western mass media – “Arab Spring”.

I actually saw many signs of Otpor, a sister group of Canvas, and when I asked protesters in Beirut whether they knew what these organizations represented, they replied that “no”, they didn’t but “they’d definitely ask their designers”.

There was a lot of waving of flags, plenty of singing, and even dancing. Rebellion Lebanese-style. One big party. Smiles, laughter, even when things get desperate.

Protesters have many grievances, and they are willing to discuss them, openly: corruption, hardship, almost non-existent social services, and hardly any future.

But do not look for any signs of ideology here, in 2019: this is not a communist, or even a socialist, rebellion, although historically, Lebanon has vibrant socialist and communist movements, both of them.

One thing is certain: protesters “do not like ‘elites’”, but you will search in vain for slogans denouncing capitalism; something that is so common in Chile and of course, in Bolivia (but not in Hong Kong, where the riots are clearly backed by the West and by some local ‘elites’).

Protesters do not like electricity blackouts, water shortages, filth accumulated everywhere because of the failed garbage collection and recycling. The protesters hate the high prices, and traffic jams.

But what do they want, really?

*

They want a “better Lebanon”. But what is that?

A Lebanon free of racism, for instance? No, I never saw any signs denouncing racism.

When I first began living here, I was horrified by the bigotry of the locals.

A driver working for one of the UN agencies, did not even try to hide his ‘beliefs’:

“The Turkish nation has improved. In the past, they only screwed Asian women, and as a result, they all looked like dogs. After they conquered the Balkans, and began screwing European women, their stock got better.” 

Arriving at Rafik Hariri International Airport, I often saw humiliated Philippine, Ethiopian, or Kenyan women, locked in crowded rooms, guarded by Lebanese security forces. They looked like slaves, treated like meat. Unhurriedly, their “owners” would come to fetch them, signing release papers, leading them away.

The abuse of domestic workers in Lebanon is horrific; torture, rape and death are common. Foreign workers are regularly committing suicide. While there is hardly any legal protection for them.

Is this going to change? Are protesters demanding a “better Lebanon” which would once and for all finish with this sort of discrimination?Again, I have never heard about such demands.

And what has been sustaining Lebanon, financially, for decades?

All over West Africa, unscrupulous, racist and brutal Lebanese businesspeople have been exploiting local folks, while plundering natural resources. The things that I heard in Ivory Coast, would shock even the most hardened readers. But are there any slogans in Beirut demanding theplunder of West Africa stop?

Another fabled source of income are the narcotics, grown and processed in the Beqaa Valley. If it were to be marijuana, who cares? But Lebanon is producing heroin and cocaine, but above all, so-called “combat drugs”, including Captagon, which is used on the battlefields of Syria and Yemen. Captagonis regularly smuggled out of the country by the Saudis, and used in jihadi operations, as I have reported.

Is this going to end? Are Lebanese protesters demanding a “better Lebanon” without drugs that are helping to kill and torture tens of thousands of innocent people, all over the region?

What are the other sources of income here? Banking, of course. Banks that operate all over the Middle East, and the Gulf.

And, of course, “foreign aid”. Aid which is supposed to “help the immigrants”, as well as the poor Lebanese who are “suffering from the waves of refugees”, arrivingfrom countries destabilized by the West. These funds regularly disappear, fully or partially”,into the deep pockets of the Lebanese elites, who make sure to generate profits no matter what: when the refugees keep arriving, and even when they leave.

Before I departed, I spent one week wandering all around Beirut, day and night, searching foranswers, looking for signs that the protesters were really determined to change the country. Not just for themselves, but for everyone in Lebanon, and for the entire Arab world.

I encountered too many abstract slogans, most of them of Western origin. Not even a trace of Syrian Pan-Arabism. Nothing that would even remotely resemble internationalism. This was clearly a “European-style” rebellion.

*

As always, the Lebanese security forces were intimidating me and many others.

Coming to Martyr’s Square, at night, I only pointed the lens of my camera in the direction of a group of lazy, cynical looking soldiers, and it propelled them immediately into action. They tried to force me to delete the images, to apologize. I did not budge. I had no problem photographing police in Hong Kong, or in Paris, Chile or other places. And I have had enough, after 5 years here, of these inept and arrogant brutes.

But here, the armed forces are “unique”; not much is expected from them. It is Hezbollah which comes to the rescue of Lebanon whenever it is attacked by Israel. Hezbollah fighters are well trained, and they are disciplined. While the Lebanese army (and its various “forces”) is manned by those who cannot find a decent job. If it protects somebody or something, it is the Lebanese regime, sustained by the West and Saudi Arabia.

I refused to hand over my phones and cameras to them.

Arrest me,” I offered, extending both my hands.

They did not. It would be too much effort, and paperwork.

Later, the protesters hugged me:

“It is great that you did not surrender your material to them. You see, if it was us, the Lebanese, they would beat us up, and smash our cameras.” 

A lady protester added:

“You never know what they are hiding, but they are hiding something, always. Perhaps they did not want the world to see how lazy they are. They stand here, in clusters, doing nothing, chatting. Then, when they get tired of doing nothing, they mobilize and attack us. They are unpredictable.”

A couple of months ago, during the short conflict between Israel and Lebanon (Israeli drone attack and Hezbollah retaliation), I managed to drive to the border, as I had on several previous occasions.

Almost the entire defense of Lebanon has been resting on the shoulders of Hezbollah, with UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) troops, consisting of Indonesian, South Korean, Italian, Ghanaian and others forces, patrolling the frontier in armored vehicles, and providing mostly psychological deterrence from the large fortified bases, including the one at Naqoura.

Lebanese armed forces have very little ability to defend their country. That includes the Lebanese Air Force, which mainly counts on things that could be described as toy airplanes, with converted Cessna models.

Now, theLebanese army and police are facing and confronting their own people, protecting the regime in Beirut, as well as foreign, mainly Western and Saudi, interests.

*

But back to the main question which is, surprisingly, very rarely asked by the Western mass media outlets: “What do Lebanese people really want? What is the goal of the uprising?”

Rebellion began on October 17, against proposed tax on WhatsApp calls. It soon turned into call for resignation of the entire government; call for total overhaul of the Lebanese system. Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, resigned. Others stayed, but country has been paralyzed for weeks.

Some Lebanese call what is happening on the streets of Beirut, Tripoli and other cities, an “October Revolution”, but in reality, this uprising has very little to do with the iconic Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

However, one positive thing is that many Lebanese people are now calling for direct democracy, and for a people’s parliament.

Alessandra Bajec recently wrote for The New Arab newspaper:

“Protests and strikes are not the only nationwide thing dominating Lebanon. Open discussions held by groups of citizens is the latest phenomenon happening on the streets of Lebanon. 

A series of open discussions led by a variety of groups of citizens are held daily around Lebanon helping to feed the hearts and minds of the revolutionary movement since the start of the country’s so-called “October Revolution”. 

I witnessed those gatherings in Beirut. It is an impressive idea, in a way far more advanced than what has been observed in Europe, during the recent protests in France and elsewhere.

It is clear that Lebanese rebels have had enough of the sectarian politics, of savage capitalism (although, this is not being pronounced as such), and of the endemic corruption.

For decades, after the devastating Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), thecountry remained bitterly divided. Again, it is actually something that is not supposed to be discussed, even mentioned, but allegiances in this nation of (officially) 4.4 million, have been commonly pledged toreligious leaders and movements, and not to the state.

David Morrison wrote in Labor & Trade Union Review:

“Lebanon’s political system has a uniquely confessional character, which has its origin in the National Pact of 1943.  Under this unwritten Pact, the President of the Republic must be a Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the President (Speaker) of the Parliament a Shiite Muslim. 

What is more, 50% of the 128 seats in the Parliament are allocated to Christians, and 50% to Muslims, and these allocations are further sub-divided for Christian and Muslim sects.  In total, seats are allocated to each of 18 sects.  Nationally, the 64 Christian seats are allocated as follows: Maronite 34, Greek Orthodox 14, Greek Catholic 8, Armenian Orthodox 5, Armenian Catholic 1, Protestant 1 and Others 1; and the 64 Muslim seats are allocated as follows: Sunni 27, Shiite 27, Druze 8 and Alawite 2. 

So, in total Christians have 50% of the seats, and the Sunni and Shiite communities just over 20% each. 

There was no provision in the National Pact for altering these allocations to reflect demographic changes.  And there is still none today.  These allocations may have corresponded to the proportion of each sect in the electorate at one time, but they certainly don’t today.  But it’s impossible to say with any precision what they should be, since there hasn’t been a national census since 1932.  This is a very sensitive issue within Lebanon, an issue that has the potential to trigger civil conflict.” 

Naturally, this sclerotic and stale system of secretive divides and coalitions, led to outrageous corruption. Religious and family clans managed to amass tremendous wealth, while enjoying almost absolute impunity.

Discussing sensitive political issues with various Lebanese protesters and activists in 2015 (“You Stink” movement), as well as during the recent uprising of 2019, I came to the clear understanding that most of the educated protesters (and Lebanon is without any doubt one of the most educated nations in the Arab world), have been totally rejecting the sectarian system. In fact, they were thoroughly disgusted with it.

As early as in 2015, one of the main demands was to “unite Lebanon”; to make sure that it gets governed by people elected based on their virtues and excellence, instead of religious beliefs.

Particularly young people have had enough of those escapes to Cyprus (in order to get married), if a couple belonged to two different religions, or if one or both individuals had no religion at all. They were revolted by the fact that their child could no be registered in their own country, if there was no official Lebanese marriage certificate.

And most of the people I spoke to, understood that the shocking lack of transparency on which the Lebanese regime has been thriving, only serves those very few extremely rich individuals and families. The economy of the country is shattered, debt is at 150% GDP, basically unserviceable, and the divide between the rich and poor, monstrous. For millions, leaving the country became the only option. But luxury marinas are full of lavish yachts, while Maserati sport cars and Range Rover SUVs are parked all over the capital, in front of luxury restaurants and bars.

The Lebanese revolutionaries are organizing open discussions, but that is not all – they want a totally new political system.

The problem is, they are not sure, which one.

But, they are certain that by holding open forums and public meetings,they will, eventually, find out what precisely it is they want.

Alessandra Bajec continues witha description of direct-democracy groups:

Rachad Samaha, a social activist and core member of the free discussions group adds, “We were talking among ourselves about how we could be more involved in the revolution… not just by joining protests, but through helping to bring people together to discuss issues that we are all fighting against. We can then reach some common ground.” 

Centering such group discussions over the need to change the current political system, and put an end to sectarianism, and possible ways to fix the country’s rapidly declining economy has been the leading drive for prompting exchanges of views between people from within the largest protest movement. 

The major matters of national concern voiced by citizens taking part in the talks include the accelerating economic crisis, the embezzlement of public funds, the decades-long ruling political elites who are being held responsible for the deepening crisis, and the confessional system, where power is divided among sects and has created patronage networks and clientelism at the detriment of the population.” 

All this is true. But this is Lebanon, the Middle East, where nothing is really simple.

Here, the West has a tremendous influence, and so do the best allies of Washington in the region, the Saudis. All this money ‘wasted’, all that eye-closing, simply ought to have guaranteed certain allegiances.

Under the surface, the West, Israel and Saudi Arabia are all after Iran, and Iran is allied with Hezbollah, and Hezbollah is the only true and powerful social force in Lebanon, where almost everything public has been already privatized, or stolen, or both.

Hezbollah is also the only true protection that Lebanon has, against Israel. While the West does not want anyone to be protected against Israel.

Predictably, Hezbollah is on the “terrorist list” of the United States, and on the lists of several of its allies.

Hezbollah had a strategic alliance with the previous government of Hariri, who resigned several weeks ago (and Hezbollah was warning against pushing for the collapse of the government, and even tried to clear the roadblocks erected by the protesters).

Now, what will really happen if the protesters win? Who will be benefiting? What if the old regime collapses; what if there is no more Hezbollah, and no more protection against the “Southern Neighbor”?

*

What kind of Lebanon can replace this present, terribly inefficient, even brutal and corrupt state?

If you are in Achrafieh neighborhood, the richest place in Lebanon, where the old Christian money resides, you would be told, by many, things that you would most likely not want to hear.

You’d be “explained” that Lebanon was supposed to be a Christian country, that the French created it as the only Christian state in the Middle East. You would hear Palestinians being insulted, horribly, and you would see posters of extreme-right-wing political leaders.

Once, there, I had a haircut, and an old barber parted with me, by raising his right hand into the air, and shouting: “Heil Hitler!” (After that, I quickly switched to a Syrian barber).

A neighbor once told me:

“French imperialism? Oh, but we would love to have the French back! That would be brilliant, to be colonized by them, again, no?” 

It was not a joke. He meant it. Each and every word, that he uttered.

These things are not supposed to be written about, at least not in the mainstream press. But this is not the mainstream press, and I believe that without understanding these nuances, it is impossible to understand Lebanon, and what could happen if the revolution wins.

Who is singing and dancing at the center of Beirut? Who is demanding for the resignation of the entire regime? Are these mainly Christians or Muslims? I am not sure. Judging by the number of headscarves, most likely, the majority are not Muslim. But again, I am not sure. This is not a question that one can present, to the protesters.

This is definitely not a revolution that would advance the interests of the Muslim-socialist Iran. And the same could be said about what is going on, simultaneously, in Iraq.

Can Western-backed “secularism” convert Lebanon into a Western outpost in the Middle East? Could it further hurt, even damage, Syria? Theoretically, yes. Could it hurt the interests of non-Western, anti-imperialist countries like Russia and China? Most definitely.

Is that what is happening? Could this be another shade of the “Color Revolutions”, or a continuation of the so-called Arab Spring?

No one can answer these questions, yet. But the situation has to be monitored, extremely carefully. Given the history of Lebanon, given its position in the world, its political and economic orientation, as well as education, the country can go either way. Given the choice, people could opt for a socialist state, or of returning to the Western colonial realm.

The West is doing all it can to bring Lebanon into its orbit. The clenched fists of Otpor are clear proof and warning of it. It is a well documented fact, that Canvashas been operating here at least since 2005.

 

*

Leaving Beirut, at the gate, I was once again stopped by anofficer of the security forces. He was rude. They always search for Israeli stamps or for exit stamps, or something, in the passports. And I had enough of him. Here, at Rafik Hariri, I saw them, for years, humiliating Ethiopian women, crushing Syrians, while treating like gods, white visitors from Europe and the United States.

“Why not fight Israelis, instead of women and children?” I suggested to him, grinning.

And all hell broke loose. And they dragged me away from the gate. And the giant Boeing 777-300 had to wait, as Air France refused to back down and download my luggage and leave me behind.

They called some generals back in Beirut. They were jumping around, shouting something, bluffing. I couldn’t care one single bit. My work here was finished. In Paris, I had nine days to kill, writing, before departing for South America. Waiting there, or in some filthy jail in Lebanon, made very little difference to me. I would have liked to be in Damascus, but my visa had already expired. So, I just waited.

In the end, they let me go. Prisoners who are not scared, are not fun to hold.

The airplane maneuvered towards the runway, then the engines roared, and we took off. Halas.

My memory cards are holding hours of footage from all corners of Lebanon. I was not sure what will I do with it.

Above all, I was not sure what the Lebanese will do with their own country.

A giant clenched fist was stickingout from the Martyr’s Square. Was this a foreign implant, a well-planned sabotage, or a genuine symbol of resistance?

On Independence Day, the fist was burned down, destroyed. Vandals!, screamed foreign media. I am not sure: this is extremely complex country.

The country was collapsing. Perhaps it has already collapsed. People were talking, shouting, singing. Some were living in dire misery. Others were driving Ferraris and torturing imported maids.

The country has been desperately trying to go forward. But forward could mean many, many different directions. In Lebanon, for each person, for each group: forward is towards somewhere else!

*

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Andre Vltchek

Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, and a writer that penned a number of books, including China and Ecological Civilization. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published.

All images in this article are from the author

Deep State Coup D’Etat: Subverting the U.S. Presidency from JFK to Trump

Global Research, November 24, 2019

On the Global Research News Hour we do our best to cover a wide spectrum of topics from the environmental crisis to economic and geopolitical analysis to debunking war pre-text narratives.

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“The President of the United States is a transient official in the regard of the warfare conglomerate. His assignment is to act as master of ceremonies in the awarding of posthumous medals, to serve when needed as a salesman for the military hardware manufacturers and to speak as often as possible about the nation’s desire for peace. He is not free to trespass on the preserve of the war interests nor even to acknowledge that such an organism exists.” – Jim Garrison (May 27, 1969) [1]

The murder of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 is widely recognized as a pivotal moment in U.S. history.

It was the first assassination of a U.S. president in the television age. The death of Kennedy enabled Cold Warriors within Washington to pursue their pillaging of the African, South American and Asian continents with substantially less resistance. But perhaps just as significantly, it marked an important chapter in a long-standing power struggle between big moneyed interests in America along with their intelligence operatives, and recognizable constitutional government, made up of representatives elected by the people and accountable to the public.

It was in direct response to inconvenient questions around the first Kennedy assassination that the CIA weaponized the term ‘conspiracy theory,’ a thought-stopping ad-hominem attack intended to disarm truth-seekers challenging the crimes that a controlled media fail to thoroughly investigate.

The existence of Wall Street overlords acting in tandem with military-intelligence figures as a kind of shadow government or ‘Deep State’ to appropriate the foreign policy and war-making apparatus of a country puts in doubt any assertions of America as a properly functioning democracy with power overseen and exercised by duly appointed representatives.

There have been several examples of similar State Crimes Against Democracy deliberately concealed and covered up so as to protect unaccountable elites. The assassinations of John Kennedy’s brother RobertMartin Luther King, and Malcolm X, as well as the (false flag) terrorist attack known as 9/11 being among the more famous examples.

Against this backdrop, we witness the spectacle of President Trump having his authority challenged in an exhaustively publicized impeachment proceeding. Considering documented war crimes and other malfeasance committed by presidents spanning the last half century, one wonders why the particular allegations against Trump are being pursued so relentlessly, and not others. At the end of the day, impeachment or no, will the people end up with a marginally more accountable government, or will the unaccountable power behind the throne have been reinforced by this 21st Century Kabuki theater?

This week’s episode of the Global Research News Hour radio program is as much an attempt to view the current impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump through the lens of ‘deep politics’ as an anniversary commemoration of the assassination of one of America’s most popular presidents. We have taken the liberty to reach out to two authoritative scholars of events like the Kennedy assassinations and 9/11 to get their insights into what the Trump impeachment drama might mean from the stand-point of entrenched unaccountable power within the USA.

In our first half hour. We hear from writer, researcher and frequent guest Mark Robinowitz. He discloses his thoughts about how and why earnest investigators into clandestine operations implicating the Deep State get side-tracked and typically fail to achieve the changes in the political and legal system that should, in a fair world, spring from revelations of truths implicating high officials.

In our second half hour, legendary ‘Deep State’ researcher and author Professor Peter Dale Scott joins us to describe some of the characteristics all of these events have in common, he locates the commonalities between Trump and former Presidents Nixon and Kennedy, and tracks the evolution of the National Security State’s grip on power since that fatal shooting in Dallas 56 years ago.

Mark Robinowitz is a writer, political activist and ecological campaigner. He manages the sites oilempire.us and jfkmoon.org which look into the Deep Political events and how they intersect with politics, economics and ecology. He is based in Eugene, Oregon.

Peter Dale Scott is a former Canadian diplomat, Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, co-founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Berkeley, poet, and 2002 recipient of the Lannan Poetry Award. His political books include American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan  (2010), The American Deep State: Wall Street, Big Oil, and the Attack on U.S. Democracy (2014) and  Dallas ’63: The First Deep State Revolt Against the White House (2015). He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. His website is http://www.peterdalescott.net.

(Global Research News Hour episode 278)

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Notes:

  1. Interview with Jim Garrison, District Attorney for Parish of Orleans, Louisiana. File Reproduced at the National Archives and released June 7, 2004; 200https://statick2k-5f2f.kxcdn.com/images/pdf/garrison-interview-05-27-1969.pdf
Related

Afghanistan, the Forgotten Proxy War

Part I

July 3, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of when the United States’ first military assault against Afghanistan with the CIA-backed Mujahideen began. It would be a mistake to treat the present-day conflict as being separate from the U.S. intervention that began in 1979 against the then-government of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was not always known as the chaotic, ‘failed state’ overrun by warlords as it is now; this phenomenon is a product of that U.S.-led regime change operation. The article below, originally published on March 30, 2019, summarizes and analyzes the events that transpired during and after the Cold War years as they relate to this often misunderstood, if not overlooked, aspect of the long war against Afghanistan. 

When it comes to war-torn Afghanistan and the role played by the United States and its NATO allies, what comes first to mind for most is the ‘War on Terror’ campaign launched in 2001 by George W. Bush almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks. And understandably so, considering that the United States and its allies established a direct “boots-on-the-ground” military presence in the country that year. Not only that, but during the Bush-Cheney years, there was an aggressive propaganda campaign being played out across U.S. media outlets which used women’s rights as one of the pretexts for the continued occupation. The irony of this, however, is not lost on those who understand that the conflict in Afghanistan has a long history which, much like Syria, stretches as far back as the Cold War era — especially when it was the United States that provided support for the Mujahideen in destabilizing the country and stripping away the modernizing, progressive economic and social gains, including Afghan women’s emancipation, which the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) had fought for. With the overthrow of the independent Soviet-aligned PDPA government, the Taliban emerged as a powerful faction of the Mujahideen; the U.S. would develop a working relationship with the Taliban in 1995. The war was never truly about women’s rights or other humanitarian concerns, as Stephen Gowans explains:

“Further evidence of Washington’s supreme indifference to the rights of women abroad is evidenced by the role it played in undermining a progressive government in Afghanistan that sought to release women from the grip of traditional Islamic anti-women practices. In the 1980s, Kabul was “a cosmopolitan city. Artists and hippies flocked to the capital. Women studied agriculture, engineering and business at the city’s university. Afghan women held government jobs.” There were female members of parliament, and women drove cars, and travelled and went on dates, without needing to ask a male guardian for permission. That this is no longer true is largely due to a secret decision made in the summer of 1979 by then US president Jimmy Carter and his national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to draw “the Russians into the Afghan trap” and give “to the USSR its Vietnam War” by bankrolling and organizing Islamic fundamentalist terrorists to fight a new government in Kabul led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan.

The goal of the PDPA was to liberate Afghanistan from its backwardness. In the 1970s, only 12 percent of adults were literate. Life expectancy was 42 years and infant mortality the highest in the world. Half the population suffered from TB and one-quarter from malaria.”

Moreover, and contrary to the commonly held belief that the conflict in Afghanistan started in 2001, it would be more accurate to say that the war started in 1979. As a matter of fact, the Carter Administration’s 1979 decision to overthrow the PDPA and destabilize Afghanistan is at the root of why the country is in the state that it continues to be in today.

Afghan women during the PDPA era vs. Afghan women today.

The Cold War – a new phase in the age of imperialism

The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan’s military welcome their Soviet counterparts

The 1979 to 1989 period of the Mujahideen onslaught is often referred to as the ‘Soviet-Afghan War’ because of the Soviet army’s heavy involvement. Although it is true that they were heavily involved, it is not an entirely accurate descriptor because it completely ignores the fact that it was a war that was actually crafted, instigated, and led by the United States. In what was also known then as the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the years from 1978 to 1992 are inextricably linked with Soviet history — but not because it was a Soviet “invasion” of Afghanistan and that the West had to intervene to stop it, as U.S. imperialist propaganda would have us believe. The Carter administration had already begun the planning, recruitment, and training for the Mujahideen in 1978 and had launched the attack on Afghanistan months before the Soviet army militarily intervened near the end of 1979. Also, the “Afghan trap” alone did not cause the dismantling of the Soviet Union; however, it was related. But more on that when we look at the Gorbachev years. Nevertheless, the destruction of Afghanistan was declared as a final blow to the Soviet Union, and the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution was celebrated as “the victory of capitalism over communism” by the United States. To begin to understand the conflict in Afghanistan, it is important to examine the context in which it began: the Cold War.

In the early 1900s, Vladimir Lenin observed that capitalism had entered into its globalist phase and that the age of imperialism had begun; this means that capitalism must expand beyond national borders, and that there is an internal logic to Empire-building and imperialist wars of aggression. Lenin defines imperialism as such:

“the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”

It should be clear that imperialism is not just merely the imposition of a country’s will on the rest of the world (although that is certainly a part of it). More precisely: it is a result of capital accumulation and is a process of empire-building and maintenance, which comes with holding back development worldwide and keeping the global masses impoverished; it is the international exercise of domination guided by economic interests. Thus, imperialism is less of a cultural phenomenon, and more so an economic one.

Lenin also theorized that imperialism and the cycle of World Wars were the products of competing national capitals between the advanced nations. As he wrote in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, World War I was about the competition between major imperialist powers — such as the competing capitals of Great Britain and Germany — over the control of and the split of plunder from colonies. Thus, finance capital was the driving force behind the exploitation and colonization of the oppressed nations; these antagonisms would eventually lead to a series of world wars as Lenin had predicted. During the First World War, the goals of the two imperial blocs of power were the acquisition, preservation, and expansion of territories considered to be strategic points and of great importance to their national economies. And during the Great Depression, protectionist measures were taken up by Britain, the United States, and France to restrict the emerging industrial nations — Germany, Italy, and Japan, also known as the Axis states — from access to more colonies and territories, thereby restricting them from access to raw materials and markets in the lead up to World War II. In particular, the two advanced capitalist industrialized powers of Germany and Japan, in their efforts to conquer new territory, threatened the economic space of Britain, the U.S., and France and threatened to take their territories, colonies, and semi-colonies by force — with Germany launching a series of aggressions in most of Europe, and Japan in Asia. WWII was, in many ways, a re-ignition of the inter-imperialist rivalry between the Anglo-French bloc and the German bloc, but with modern artillery and the significant use of aerial assaults. It was also a period of the second stage of the crisis of capitalism which saw the rise of Fascism as a reaction to Communism, with the Axis states threatening to establish a world-dominating fascist regime. For the time being, WWII would be the last we would see of world wars.

At the end of WWII, two rival global powers emerged: the United States and the Soviet Union; the Cold War was a manifestation of their ideological conflict. The Cold War era was a new phase for international capital as it saw the advent of nuclear weapons and the beginning stages of proxy warfare. It was a time when the imperialist nations, regardless of which side they were on during WWII, found a common interest in stopping the spread of Communism and seeking the destruction of the Soviet Union. By extension, these anti-communist attacks would be aimed at the Soviet-allied nations as well. This would increase the number of client states with puppet governments acting in accordance with U.S. interests who would join the NATO bloc with the ultimate aim of isolating the Soviet Union. It should also be noted that the end of WWII marked the end of competing national capitals such that now, financial capital exists globally and can move instantaneously, with Washington being the world dominating force that holds a monopoly over the global markets. Those countries who have actively resisted against the U.S. Empire and have not accepted U.S. capital into their countries are threatened with sanctions and military intervention — such as the independent sovereign nations of Syria and North Korea who are, to this day, still challenging U.S. hegemony. Afghanistan under the PDPA was one such country which stood up to U.S. imperialism and thus became a target for regime change.

In addition to implementing land reforms, women’s rights, and egalitarian and collectivist economic policies, the PDPA sought to put an end to opium poppy cultivation. The British Empire planted the first opium poppy fields in Afghanistan during the 1800s when the country was still under the feudal landholding system; up until the king was deposed in 1973, the opium trade was a lucrative business and the Afghan poppy fields produced more than 70 percent of opium needed for the world’s heroin supply. These reforms in 1978 would eventually attract opposition from the United States, which had already embarked on its anti-communist crusade, providing backing to reactionary forces dedicated to fighting against various post-colonial progressive governments, many of which were a part of the ‘Soviet Bloc’ — such as the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua who mounted violent opposition to the Sandinista government. Despite having gained independence on its own merits, Afghanistan under the PDPA — much like other Soviet-allied, postcolonial successes such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Syria, Libya, and North Korea — was seen as a “Soviet satellite” that needed to be brought back under colonial domination, and whose commodities needed to be put under the exclusive control and possession of the United States. Not only that, but it was considered a strategic point of interest that could be used to enclose upon the Soviet Union.

In order to undermine the then-newly formed and popular PDPA government, the Carter administration and the CIA began the imperialist intervention by providing training, financial support, and weapons to Sunni extremists (the Mujahideen) who started committing acts of terrorism against schools and teachers in rural areas. With the assistance of the Saudi and Pakistani militaries, the CIA gathered together ousted feudal landlords, reactionary tribal chiefs, sectarian Sunni clerics, and cartel drug lords to form a coalition to destabilize Afghanistan. On September 1979, Noor Mohammed Taraki — the first PDPA leader and President of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan — was assassinated during the events of the CIA-backed coup, which was quickly stopped by the Afghan army. However, by late 1979, the PDPA was becoming overwhelmed by the large-scale military intervention by U.S. proxy forces — a combination of foreign mercenaries and Afghan Ancien Régime-sympathizers — and so they decided to make a request to the USSR to deploy a contingent of troops for assistance. The Soviet intervention provided some much-needed relief for the PDPA forces — if only for the next ten years, for the U.S. and Saudi Arabia “upped the ante” by pouring about $40 billion into the war and recruiting and arming around 100,000 more foreign mercenaries. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev would call on the Soviet troops to be withdrawn, and the PDPA was eventually defeated with the fall of Kabul in April 1992. Chaos ensued as the Mujahideen fell into infighting with the formation of rival factions competing for territorial space and also wreaking havoc across cities, looting, terrorizing civilians, hosting mass executions in football stadiums, ethnically-cleansing non-Pashtun minorities, and committing mass rapes against Afghan women and girls. Soon afterwards in 1995, one of the warring factions, the Taliban, consolidated power with backing from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. On September 28, 1996 the last PDPA Presidential leader, Mohammad Najibullah, was abducted from his local UN compound (where he had been granted sanctuary), tortured, and brutally murdered by Taliban soldiers; they strung his mutilated body from a light pole for public display.

A renewed opium trade, and the economic roots of Empire-building

U.S. troops guarding an opium poppy field in Afghanistan.

After the fall of Kabul in 1992, but some time before the Taliban came to power, the reactionary tribal chiefs had taken over the Afghan countryside and ordered farmers to begin planting opium poppy, which had been outlawed by the Taraki government. Prior to that, the Pakistani ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) set up hundreds of heroin laboratories at the behest of the CIA so that by 1981, the Pakistani-Afghan border became the largest producer of heroin in the world. Alfred McCoy confirms in his study, “Drug Fallout: the CIA’s Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade”:

“Once the heroin left these labs in Pakistan’s northwest frontier, the Sicilian Mafia imported the drugs into the U.S., where they soon captured sixty percent of the U.S. heroin market. That is to say, sixty percent of the U.S. heroin supply came indirectly from a CIA operation. During the decade of this operation, the 1980s, the substantial DEA contingent in Islamabad made no arrests and participated in no seizures, allowing the syndicates a de facto free hand to export heroin.”

It is apparent that by putting an end to the cultivation of opium poppy, in addition to using the country’s resources to modernize and uplift its own population, the independent nationalist government of the PDPA was seen as a threat to U.S. interests that needed to be eliminated. A major objective of the U.S.-led Mujahideen — or any kind of U.S. military-led action for that matter — against Afghanistan had always been to restore and secure the opium trade. After all, it was during the 1970s that drug trafficking served as the CIA’s primary source of funding for paramilitary forces against anti-imperialist governments and liberation movements in the Global South, in addition to protecting U.S. assets abroad. Also, the CIA’s international drug trafficking ties go as far back as 1949, which is the year when Washington’s long war on the Korean Peninsula began. The move by the PDPA to eradicate opium-poppy harvesting and put an end to the exploitation brought about by the drug cartels was seen as “going too far” by U.S. imperialists. A significantly large loss in opium production would mean a huge loss in profits for Wall Street and major international banks, which have a vested interest in the drug trade. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that money-laundering made up 2-5% of the world economy’s GDP and that a large percentage of the annual money-laundering, which was worth 590 billion to 1.5 trillion dollars, had direct links to the drug trade. The profits generated from the drug trade are often placed in American-British-controlled offshore banks.

The rationale behind the PDPA’s campaign to eradicate the opium poppy harvest was based not only on practical health reasons, but also on the role played by narcotics in the history of colonialism in Asia. Historically, cartel drug lords enabled imperialist nations, served bourgeois interests, and used cheap exploited slave labour. Oftentimes, the peasants who toiled in these poppy fields would find themselves becoming addicted to heroin in addition to being, quite literally, worked to death. Cartels are understood to be monopolistic alliances in which partners agree on the conditions of sale and terms of payment and divide the markets amongst themselves by fixing the prices and the quantity of goods to be produced. Now, concerning the role of cartels in ‘late-stage capitalism’, Lenin wrote:

“Monopolist capitalist associations, cartels, syndicates and trusts first divided the home market among themselves and obtained more or less complete possession of the industry of their own country. But under capitalism the home market is inevitably bound up with the foreign market. Capitalism long ago created a world market. As the export of capital increased, and as the foreign and colonial connections and “spheres of influence” of the big monopolist associations expanded in all ways, things “naturally” gravitated towards an international agreement among these associations, and towards the formation of international cartels.

This is a new stage of world concentration of capital and production, incomparably higher than the preceding stages.”

International cartels, especially drug cartels, are symptoms of how capital has expanded globally and has adapted to create a global wealth divide based on the territorial division of the world, the scramble for colonies, and “the struggle for spheres of influence.” More specifically, international cartels serve as stewards for the imperialist nations in the plundering of the oppressed or colonized nations. Hence the mass campaigns to help end addictions and to crack down on drug traffickers which were not only implemented in Afghanistan under the PDPA, but in Revolutionary China in 1949 and by other anti-imperialist movements as well. Of course, the opium traffickers and their organized crime associates in Afghanistan saw the campaign against opium poppy cultivation, among other progressive reforms, as an affront; this made them ideal recruits for the Mujahideen.

But why the “breakdown” in the relationship between the U.S. and the Taliban from the early 2000s and onwards? Keep in mind that, again, the members of the Taliban were amongst the various factions that made up the Mujahideen whose partnership with the United States extends as far back as the late 1970s; and it was clear that the U.S. was aware that it was working with Islamic fundamentalists. The human rights abuses committed by the Taliban while in power were well-documented before their relations with the U.S. soured by the year 2000. What made these relations turn sour was the fact that the Taliban had decided to drastically reduce the opium poppy cultivation. This led to the direct U.S. military intervention of 2001 in Afghanistan and the subsequent overthrow of the Taliban; the U.S. used the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as a pretext even if there was no proof that the Taliban had a hand in them or had been in contact with Osama bin Laden at all during that time. The U.S. would soon replace the Taliban with another faction of the Mujahideen that was more compliant with the rules that the imperialists had set out. In other words, the Taliban were ousted not necessarily because they posed a significant challenge to U.S. hegemony as the PDPA had, or because of their treatment of women — nor were they hiding Osama bin Laden; it was because they had become more of liabilities than assets. It is yet another case of the Empire discarding its puppets when they have outlived their usefulness due to incompetence and being unable to “follow the rules properly” — not unlike the U.S. removal of military dictator Manuel Noriega who was staunchly pro-American and who, in collaboration with fellow CIA asset and notorious cartel drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, previously sold drugs for the CIA to help finance the anti-communist campaign in Central America.

George W. Bush visits Hamid Karzai, who participated in the Mujahideen in the past and led the puppet government that replaced the Taliban.

By 2002, and as a result of the 2001 intervention, the lucrative opium poppy production had seen a huge boom once again. In 2014, Afghanistan’s opium poppy production made up 90% of the world’s heroin supply, leading to a decrease in opium prices. And according to a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the opium production in Afghanistan increased by 43% to 4,800 metric tons in 2016.

Although the United States has always been one of the top producers of oil in the world, another reason for establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in Afghanistan was to gain control over its vast untapped oil reserves, which the U.S. had known about prior to 9/11. Oil is yet another lucrative commodity, and ensuring that Afghanistan had a compliant government that would acquiesce to its demands was important for the U.S. in this aspect as well. Naturally, the nationalist government of the PDPA was also seen as a threat to the profit-making interests of U.S. oil companies, and any nation that was an independent oil producer (or merely a potential independent oil producer, in Afghanistan’s case) was seen as an annoying competitor by the United States. However, Afghanistan would not begin its first commercial oil production until 2013, partly because of the ongoing geopolitical instability, but also because opium production continues to dominate the economy. Plus, it is likely that neither the monarchy nor the PDPA realized that there existed such vast untapped oil reserves since there were very limited volumes of oil (compared to the higher volumes of natural gas) being produced from 1957 to 1989, and which stopped as soon as the Soviet troops left. Later, reassessments were made during the 1990s; hence the U.S. ‘discovery’ of the untapped petroleum potential. But, when intensive negotiations between U.S.-based oil company Unocal and the Taliban went unresolved in 1998 due to a dispute over a pipeline deal that the latter wanted to strike with a competing Argentine company, it would lead to growing tensions between the U.S. and the Taliban. The reason for the dispute was that Unocal wanted to have primary control over the pipeline located between Afghanistan and Pakistan that crossed into the Indian Ocean. From this point on, the U.S. was starting to see the Taliban as a liability in its prerogative of establishing political and economic dominance over Central and West Asia.

In either case, oil and other “strategic” raw materials such as opium are essential for the U.S. to maintain its global monopolistic power. It is here that we see a manifestation of the economic roots of empire-building.

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Continued in Part 2.

Originally published by LLCO.org on March 30, 2019. For the full-length article and bibliography, click here.

Janelle Velinais a Toronto-based political analyst, writer, and an editor and frequent contributor for New-Power.org andLLCO.org. She also has a blog at geopoliticaloutlook.blogspot.com.

All images in this article are from the author; featured image: Brzezinski visits Osama bin Laden and other Mujahideen fighters during training.

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