Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rubin: Bush Administration on Drugs in Afghanistan -- So Wrong, So Long

This reminds me of an old Jewish joke (scroll down for joke), updated:
The rabbi was in his study deep in thought, when in rushed Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Thomas Schweich, Senior Coordinator for Rule of Law and Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan, and Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State. It was clear that they had been having a heated argument that only the learned rabbi could resolve.

"Rabbi, goodness gracious, this mission creeper wants to drag our warfighters into police work!," burst out Rumsfeld. "First we must win the war on terror, even if it means arming, funding, and protecting drug traffickers! Then let others win the war on drugs! Mercy me!"

The rabbi thoughtfully scratched his beard. "You're wrong," he said.

"Of course he's wrong, rabbi," yelled Schweich. "Drugs are funding the Taliban and al-Qaida! Not only that -- our supposed allies in the Afghan government are protecting traffickers! The poor Tajiks and Uzbeks and Hazaras have all stopped growing poppy and only the greedy rich Pashtuns still want more! Even the UN Agency that I fund says so! The only answer is aerial spraying!"

The rabbi studied the commentaries in a holy book and seemed lost in contemplation. "You're wrong," he said.

"But rabbi," pleaded Condi Rice, "Both of these political appointees from different factions of the Republican Party have the ear of the President! So what if neither of them knows anything about Afghanistan or the economics of the drug industry or counter-insurgency? They can't both be wrong!"

The rabbi stared at the ceiling, as if seeking the counsel of a Higher Father. Finally he spoke: "You're wrong too."
(Note to Afghans: to change cultural context, replace learned rabbi with Mullah Nassruddin. Christians -- not sure, but you could try Father Ted or a character from Garrison Keillor.)

If only I were exaggerating....

Rumsfeld armed and empowered anybody who would or could fight the Taliban and resisted any attempt to curb them, since he didn't want any trouble while we saved our forces for success in Iraq (and then needed more to make it even more successful!). The U.S. doesn't do nation building, it does regime destroying. The Bush administration didn't even allocate any new money for reconstruction the first year! They wanted other countries to clean up Afghanistan after we had destroyed al-Qaida and Taliban. Then -- next!

Schweich (and his predecessor, Bobby Charles) revolted against this policy. Drugs, they rightly argued, were funding the insurgency and government corruption. The war on drugs is part of the war on terror. We have to do both at the same time! Spray the fields and arrest the power-holders! If anyone opposes us, arrest them too!

But nobody ever explained how to win over the farmers while destroying their crops before they had secure alternatives. (Schweich denies he was doing this, which shows how little he understands peasant villages in general, let alone Afghanistan.) Nobody every explained how to fight the Taliban and build security in alliance with a government based on the power of drug-trafficking militia commanders funded and armed by the U.S. while arresting these same people. Consequently the U.S. pursued a bad counter-insurgency strategy and a bad pro-insurgency strategy simultaneously, which Schweich confirms in his account of the total absence of an inter-agency process for implementation of counter-narcotics . It's difficult to say if the government as described by Schweich was not implementing a strategy or implementing no strategy.

The answer is, THINK!!! What are we trying to accomplish, where, with whom, and with what resources? Then develop a strategy for the specific situation instead of taking dogmatic unexamined concepts like "war on terror" and "war on drugs" and trying to smash them together.

The goal is political -- to help our Afghan allies win the battle for legitimacy. The political, military, and economic strategies (including counter-narcotics, which cuts across them) have to be integrated for that end. Yes, integrate counter-insurgency, counter-narcotics, development, and lots of other types of operations by disaggregating them into lines of policy and figuring out priorities and relationships: strengthen counter-insurgency AND counter-narcotics by massive aid to increase the productivity and connectivity to markets of rural communities without attacking their livelihoods before the aid comes to fruition; strengthen legitimacy and governance with massive aid to the police and justice system (refused by Rumsfeld to President Karzai's face) while offering a package of cooptation or marginalization for leaders formerly or presently involved in trafficking; use military force sparingly but only against the highest part of the value chain (heroin labs, major trafficking operations); and attack the sources of the drug industry outside of Afghanistan by programs against the export of precursors to the country and money laundering.

I know that was an excessively dense paragraph. For an excessively lengthy exposition of the same thing, see the report I wrote with Jake Sherman.

In conclusion, a warning from Mullah Nasruddin about policy recommendations:
At a gathering where Mullah Nasruddin was present, people were discussing the merits of youth and old age. They had all agreed that, a man's strength decreases as years go by. Mullah Nasruddin dissented.
- I don't agree with you gentlemen, he said. In my old age I have the same strength as I had in the prime of my youth.
- How do you mean, Mullah Nasruddin? asked somebody. Explain yourself.
- In my courtyard, explained Mullah Nasruddin, there is a massive stone. In my youth I used to try and lift it. I never succeeded. Neither can I lift it now.

Only God knows the whole truth.



Dr Rubin,

In the 1980s, at the instance of CIA, the Internal Political Division of ISI headed by Brig (Retd) IMTIAZ, who worked directly under Lt Gen HAMID GUL (ah, the name always crops up ... ), started a special cell for the use of HEROIN (From AFGHANISTAN) for covert activities. (NOTE: CIA - ISI joint collaboration).

On july 31, 2001, Brig. IMTIAZ was jailed for 8 yrs for having : a) Forex Bearer Certificate of US $ 20.08 million, b) Pk Rupee a/c with Union Bank with a balance of Rs 2.13 billion, c) US $ a/c in Deutsche Bank with a balance of US$ 19.1 million, d) 5 residential houses, 5 commercial units and 3 shops. This huge weatlh was accumulated through heroin smuggling.

During discussions with Mrs Christina Rocca, the then US Asst Secy of State with Mullah Abdus Zaeef, the Taliban Ambassador in Pakistan, stated and reported in Frontier Post of Peshawar (3rd August, 2001): "We have told the US team that Afghanistan was earning US $ 12 billion a year from poppy cultivation and we have eliminated the poppy from the country." Note: At least US $ 11 billion per annum was going to PAKISTAN.

How so ?

1. Taliban budget published the figure of US $ 45 million per annum from heroin trade, an amount equal to that of Amir's (Mullah Omar) Discretionary Fund

2. No report of large scale US dollars circulating in private hands in Afghanistan, but Pakistan is awash with it.

3. Resident Pakistanis are allowed to maintain dollar accounts with local banks, with no questions asked about their origin and about its liability for Income Tax.

At present, therefore, PAKISTAN's HEROIN economy is larger than its legitimate STATE economy.

While opium cultivation flourished, so did the Pakistani owned HEROIN REFINERIES. And the person responsible for shipment of HEROIN from Afghanistan to AFRICA (where new refineries have mushroomed) and then to EUROPE & USA is being controlled by DAWOOD IBRAHIM (he is now figuring is US State Dept whose who list!!). And DAWOOD is a state guest of ISI.

Hence, Dr Rubin, however much we start with the premise - that Afghanistan is a state and Anand's excellent post that stated building a state through sound economics is the path forward (long drawn and tortuous), nothing much can be done, till the ISI stranglehold on HEROIN trade is stopped.

The other approach would be to systematically target and bomb PAKISTANI REFINERIES in Taliban controlled areas, Pakistani controlled areas and also across AFRICA. The disruption has to come to the LOGISTICS NERVE CENTRE and not the poppy cultivation per se.

Otherwise, much like Brig IMTIAZ, 50 or so ISI officers are on the drug multi millionaires list, and for them it is a deadly business venture costing lives of coalition forces. Mostly it gives them the financial "oxygen" to sustain the war for a very very long time .....

Anonymous said...

The ISI is a holy cow which can't be touched, having many Cold War allies in the CIA, the Pentagon and US State Department.

The whole region must be subjected to unreasonable demands and unsustainable solutions because the ISI can't be touched. Afghans, Pashtuns, Kashmiris can be railroaded to accept unrepresentative leaders, Islamic extremism, lack of education, destroying of modern economy, cultural isolation and unceasing terrorism sabotaging their silly misguided efforts to lead normal human lives but the ISI can't be touched. Its a holy cow, did anyone mention?

Manan Ahmed said...

Can I just say that, even by your lofty standards, your last month of blogging has been absolutely amazing? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

We need to leave Afghanistan, and offer peaceful as carefully directed we can manage, but Obama has been pitching war indefinitely in Afghanistan along with the little emperor Sarkozy.

Ahmad Waheed said...

I absolutely agree with Dr.Rabin. aerial spray is never useful to counter narcotics in Afghanistan. One who suggests this option, do not know enough about Afghanistan. One of the main reasons behind insurgency is "unempolyed youth." Therefore by implementing this option, We will invite more uneducated Afghan people to fight against the Afghan government and its international allies.

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