Socialist Worker

The drugs don’t work—behind our rulers’ Afghanistan lies

John Newsinger cuts through our rulers’ tears for the British dead in Afghanistan. Here he exposes the corrupt narco regime imposed by the West

Issue No. 2445

US soldier in a poppy field in Afghanistan

US soldier in a poppy field in Afghanistan (Pic: Gunnery Sgt. Bryce Piper, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs)


On Friday the 13th —no less—a memorial service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London to commemorate British soldiers who died in Afghanistan. 

A good few of those responsible for the fiasco, including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, were present. 

They faked sympathy for the dead and injured, hoping to sustain the myth that the war was “worthwhile”. This is a lie. 

When the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to overthrow the Taliban regime, it put in power the warlords, gangsters and drug traffickers of the Northern Alliance. 

Hamid Karzai, the president between 2004 and 2014, was the presentable face of this new regime. It was as if the US had invaded Columbia to put the drug cartels in power. 

In 2000 and 2001, the Taliban had successfully eradicated opium production in most of Afghanistan. Production only continued in the areas under the Northern Alliance’s control. 

But when the warlords came into power, opium production quickly boomed. In 2001 opium production was 185 tons, but by 2007 it had rocketed to 8,200 tons. 

The Afghan regime had established itself at the heart of the international heroin trade and production. It was a narcotics state run by a local mafia and defended by US and British troops.

According to one researcher working for Nato, Afghanistan under Karzai wasn’t just a “mafia state”. But “even by the standards of mafia rule, the post-2002 Afghan system comes up short”. 

The US military commander general David Petraeus privately described Karzai’s government as a “criminal syndicate”. 

Endemic

Corruption was absolutely endemic from top to bottom. State employees had to buy their jobs in the expectation that they would recoup the outlay through bribery and extortion. 

The most expensive jobs were predictably in “counter narcotics”, with some senior posts costing £130,000 a year. 

When US pressure forced Karzai to appoint a “trouble shooter” to root out corruption, he gave the job to Izzatullah Wasifi. 

This was a man who had been arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada, trying to sell heroin worth some £1.3 million.

As well as drugs, the warlords and traffickers of course prey on their own people.

But they have also been involved in pillaging billions of dollars from international aid donations. In 2011, around £3 billion left the country in suitcases and cardboard boxes for investment in Bahrain, London and elsewhere. 

This was the equivalent of Afghanistan’s annual budget. The Afghan criminal elite has billions invested abroad, while the country remains one of the poorest in the world.

And the massive electoral fraud that determined the 2009 election surely removed any fig-leaf that the war was about democracy or good governance.

Despite the worst ballot-rigging that observers had ever seen, Karzai remained in power.

British troops were in Afghanistan propping up a gangster regime for one reason and one reason only—the “special relationship”. 

They were there so that the Labour government could keep in with the US. None of this was mentioned at the memorial service, although many of those there know it is the truth.


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