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Context of 'February 1981 and After: US Allegedly Helps Turn Soviet Soldiers Fighting in Afghanistan into Drug Addicts'

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Alexandre de Marenches.Alexandre de Marenches. [Source: Thierry Orban/ Corbis Sygma]Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence from 1979, will say in a 2002 speech in the US, “In 1976, after the Watergate matters took place here, your intelligence community was literally tied up by Congress. It could not do anything. It could not send spies, it could not write reports, and it could not pay money. In order to compensate for that, a group of countries got together in the hope of fighting Communism and established what was called the Safari Club. The Safari Club included France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Iran.” (Scott 2007, pp. 62) An Egyptian reporter digging through Iranian government archives will later discover that the Safari Club was officially founded on September 1, 1976. Alexandre de Marenches, head of the French external intelligence service SDECE, was the chief instigator of the group. Millions are spent to create staff, offices, communications, and operational capability. Periodic secret conferences are held in Saudi Arabia, France, and Egypt. This group plays a secret role in political intrigues in many countries, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. For instance, a rebellion in Zaire is put down by Moroccan and Egyptian troops, using French air support. It also plays a role in the US-Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979. (Cooley 2002, pp. 15-17) Author Joe Trento will later allege that the Safari Club, and especially the Saudi intelligence agency led by Kamal Adham and then his nephew Prince Turki from 1979 onwards, fund off-the-books covert operations for the CIA. But rather than working with the CIA as it is being reformed during the Carter administration, this group prefers to work with a private CIA made up of fired agents close to ex-CIA Director George Bush Sr. and Theodore Shackley, who Trento alleges is at the center of a “private, shadow spy organization within” the CIA until he is fired in 1979. The Safari Club and rogue CIA will play a major role in supporting the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. (Scott 2007, pp. 63-64, 111) It is not clear when the Safari Club disbands, but it existence was exposed not long after the shah was deposed in Iran in 1979, and it seems to have disappeared by the time de Marenches stepped down from being head of French intelligence in 1982. (Cooley 2002, pp. 15-17)

Alexandre de Marenches, head of French intelligence and leader of the Safari Club, a secret cabal of intelligence agencies, meets President Reagan at the White House shortly after Reagan’s inauguration. De Marenches proposes a joint French-American-ISI operation to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan, and dubs it Operation Mosquito. As de Marenches will later explain in his memoirs, he suggests making fake Russian newspapers with articles designed to demoralize Soviet troops, and other propaganda. He also suggests the US take drugs seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other agencies that would normally be destroyed and secretly supply them to Soviet soldiers fighting in Afghanistan instead. According to de Marenches, the idea is ultimately rejected because of fear of media leaks. But in fact, fake issues of the Soviet army newspaper later do appear in Kabul, Afghanistan. And large qualities of hashish, opium, and heroin are made available to Soviet soldiers, resulting in widespread addiction. Such addiction to local drugs would have taken place to some degree in any case, but intriguingly, some quantities of cocaine also appear in Afghanistan. At the time, cocaine is only grown in South America. A team of Russian military historians will later write a candid book on the Afghan war and one will say, “there certainly was circumstantial evidence for some kind of systematic program” to addict Soviet soldiers. (Cooley 2002, pp. 106-108) In 1982, a secret memo will exempt the CIA from reporting on drug smuggling conducted by CIA officers or assets (see February 11, 1982). Mathea Falco, head of the State Department’s International Narcotics Control program, will later allege that the CIA and ISI worked together to encourage the mujaheddin to addict Soviet troops. And a book cowritten by two Time magazine reporters will allege that “a few American intelligence operatives were deeply emeshed in the drug trade” during the war. (Scott 2007, pp. 124-125)

CIA Director William Casey gets a legal exemption sparing the CIA for a requirement that they report on drug smuggling by CIA officers, agents, or assets. Attorney General William French Smith grants the exemption in a secret memorandum. On March 2, Casey thanks Smith for the exemption, saying it will help protect intelligence sources and methods. (Cooley 2002, pp. 110-111) There are allegations that in 1981 President Reagan approved a covert program to weaken Soviet soldiers fighting in Afghanistan by addicting them to illegal drugs (see February 1981 and After). A book cowritten by two Time magazine reporters will even allege that “a few American intelligence operatives were deeply emeshed in the drug trade” during the war. (Scott 2007, pp. 124-125) President Clinton will rescind the exemption in 1995. (Cooley 2002, pp. 111)

Count Alexandre de Marenches, the former head of France’s secret services for 11 years (1970-1981), publishes his last book, The Fourth World War: Diplomacy and Espionage in the Age of Terrorism (co-authored with journalist David A. Andelman). In addition to many cloak-and-dagger stories, the book warns that “the Fourth World War has already begun,” waged by “small, highly deadly units of terrorists,” and that Americans will eventually have to deal with terrorism at home. (de Marenches and Andelman 1992) One 1992 reviewer says, “These extreme views inadvertently cast some doubt on his judgment while running French intelligence.” (Pierre 12/1/1992) However, after 9/11, the expression “World War Four” is taken up by neoconservatives. In 2006, Tony Corn will write in Policy Review, “Back in 1992, the former head of the French Intelligence Service Alexandre de Marenches had already raised the specter of a ‘Fourth World War.’ In the aftermath of 9/11, the concept was given a new currency by former CIA Director James Woolsey and others, both in the US and abroad. So long as it is clearly understood that ‘World War IV-as-Fourth-Generation Warfare’ will not be a copycat either of War World II or the Cold War, it is indeed no exaggeration to speak in terms of a fourth World War.” (Corn 1/2006; Savage 7/25/2006)


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