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Context of 'September 2, 2006: Afghanistan’s Opium Production Hits Record Levels Again'

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1942: UN Formed

United Nations logo.United Nations logo. [Source: United Nations]The United Nations is formed. Article 51 of the charter states that a country has the “right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a member of the United Nations,” but otherwise prohibits the use of force in international affairs. [United Nations, 6/26/1945]

Entity Tags: United Nations

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

A sign put up by the Taliban reads: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan not only engenders illegal things forbidden but launches effective struggles against illicit drugs as these drugs are a great threat to personality, wisdom, life, health, economy, and morality.”A sign put up by the Taliban reads: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan not only engenders illegal things forbidden but launches effective struggles against illicit drugs as these drugs are a great threat to personality, wisdom, life, health, economy, and morality.” [Source: BBC]The Taliban bans poppy growing in Afghanistan. As a result, the opium yield drops dramatically in 2001, from 3,656 tons to 185 tons. Of that, 83 percent is from Northern Alliance-controlled lands. This is supposedly done in response to Western pressure. [Observer, 11/25/2001; Guardian, 2/21/2002; Reuters, 3/3/2002] However, United Nations officials later suggest that the ban was actually used by the Taliban to drive up their drug profits. According to these officials, for several years, the Taliban had stockpiled over half of their annual opium harvest in a series of warehouses around the country. When the ban begins, a kilogram of opium sells for around $44 wholesale, but one year later the price rises to $400. [USA Today, 10/16/2001] Time magazine will later suggest that the ban was the idea of al-Qaeda’s financial experts working with Haji Juma Khan (see December 2001 and After) and other alleged top Afghan drug traffickers. The ban “meant huge profits for the Taliban and their trafficker friends who were sitting on large stockpiles when prices soared.” [Time, 8/2/2004]

Entity Tags: Northern Alliance, Taliban, Haji Juma Khan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Secretary of State Powell announces that the US is granting $43 million in aid to the Taliban government, purportedly to assist hungry farmers who are starving since the destruction of their opium crop occurred in January on orders of the Taliban. [Los Angeles Times, 5/22/2001] Powell promises that the US will “continue to look for ways to provide more assistance to the Afghans.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/13/2004] And in fact, in the same month Powell asks Congress to give Afghanistan $7 million more, to be used for regional energy cooperation and to fight child prostitution. [Coll, 2004, pp. 559] This follows $113 million given by the US in 2000 for humanitarian aid. [US Department of State, 12/11/2001] A Newsday editorial notes that the Taliban “are a decidedly odd choice for an outright gift… Why are we sending these people money—so much that Washington is, in effect, the biggest donor of aid to the Taliban regime?” [Newsday, 5/29/2001] However, there were allegations that the drug ban was merely a means for the Taliban to drive up prices (see July 2000). In fact, according to a March 2001 State Department report, “Prospects for progress on drug-control efforts in Afghanistan remain dim as long as the country remains at war. Nothing indicates that either the Taliban or the Northern Alliance intend to take serious action to destroy heroin or morphine base laboratories, or stop drug trafficking.” [USA Today, 10/16/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Colin Powell, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Haji Juma Khan.Haji Juma Khan. [Source: US government]Afghan drug kingpin Haji Juma Khan (see July 2000) is arrested and taken into US custody. Although his role in the illegal drug trade is known to US officials, he is let go. A European counterterrorism expert says, “At the time, the Americans were only interested in catching bin Laden and Mullah Omar.” Another major kingpin is arrested and released around this time as well (see Late 2001). After being released, Khan reestablishes a smuggling network that greatly benefits the Taliban and al-Qaeda. For instance, in May 2004, a tip off will reveal that Khan is employing a fleet of cargo ships to move Afghan heroin out of Pakistan to the Middle East. Some return trips bring back plastic explosives, antitank mines, and other weapons to be used against US troops in Afghanistan. In 2004, Assistant Secretary of State Bobby Charles says of Khan, “He’s obviously very tightly tied to the Taliban.… There are central linkages among Khan, Mullah Omar, and bin Laden.” [Time, 8/2/2004] In 2006, a report by the research arm of Congress will label Khan as one of three prominent drug kingpins with ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but he apparently has not yet been put on the official US list of wanted drug figures. [Congressional Research Service, 1/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Robert Charles, Taliban, Haji Juma Khan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

In the 1990s, Afghan drug kingpin Haji Bashir Noorzai developed close ties to Taliban top leader Mullah Omar, al-Qaeda, and the Pakistani ISI. He becomes the top drug kingpin in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. He is also reputedly the richest person in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s banker. For instance, according to US sources, as the Taliban began their military defeat after 9/11, they entrusted Noorzai with as much as $20 million in Taliban money for safekeeping. But he then surrenders to the US military in Afghanistan. Noorzai later says of this time, “I spent my days and nights comfortably. There was special room for me. I was like a guest, not a prisoner.” [CBS News, 2/7/2002; Risen, 2006, pp. 152-162] He spends several days in custody at the Kandahar airport. He speaks to US military and intelligence officials, but is released before Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents arrive in the country to question him. [National Public Radio, 4/26/2002] The other top drug kingpin for the Taliban is also arrested then let go by the US at this time (see December 2001 and After). Noorzai then lives in Pakistan, where he has been given a Pakistani passport by the ISI. He operates drug-processing laboratories there and has little trouble traveling to other countries. [Risen, 2006, pp. 152-162] In 2004 it will be reported, “According to House International Relations Committee testimony this year, Noorzai smuggles 4,400 pounds of heroin out of the Kandahar region to al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan every eight weeks.” [USA Today, 10/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Haji Bashir Noorzai, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

April 1, 2002: Afghan Opium Crackdown Fails

An Afghani farmer stands in his opium poppy fields.An Afghani farmer stands in his opium poppy fields. [Source: Shaul Schwarz/ Corbis]“American officials have quietly abandoned their hopes to reduce Afghanistan’s opium production substantially this year and are now bracing for a harvest large enough to inundate the world’s heroin and opium markets with cheap drugs.” They want to see the new Afghan government make at least a token effort to destroy some opium, but it appears that the new government is not doing even that. Afghan leader Hamid Karzai had announced a total ban on opium cultivation, processing, and trafficking, but it appears to be a total sham. The new harvest is so large that it could be “enough opium to stockpile for two or two and a half more years.” [New York Times, 4/1/2002] Starting this month, Karzai’s government offers farmers $500 for every acre of poppies they destroy, but farmers can earn as much as $6,400 per acre for the crop. The program is eventually cancelled when it runs out of money to pay farmers. [Associated Press, 3/27/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Hamid Karzai

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

The Afghan government warns that unless the international community hands over the aid it promised, Afghanistan will slip back into its role as the world’s premier heroin producer. The country’s foreign minister warns Afghanistan could become a “narco-mafia state.” [BBC, 3/17/2003] A United Nations study later in the month notes that Afghanistan is once again the world’s number one heroin producer, producing 3,750 tons in 2002. Farmers are growing more opium poppies than ever throughout the country, including areas previously free of the crop. [Associated Press, 3/27/2003]

Entity Tags: United Nations, Afghanistan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Opium production in Afghanistan, 1980-2005. Based on United Nations data.Opium production in Afghanistan, 1980-2005. Based on United Nations data. [Source: UNODC/MCN] (click image to enlarge)Roughly 4,600 tons of opium are harvested in Afghanistan during 2004, according to a December 2004 statement by Russian Federal Drug Control Service Oleg Kharichkin. By the end of the year, more than 206,000 hectares in Afghanistan are reportedly planted with the crop. The Russians believe that 2005 production will approach 5,000 tons. [PakTribune (Islamabad), 12/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Russia

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bashir Noorzai.Bashir Noorzai. [Source: DEA]Haji Bashir Noorzai, reputedly Afghanistan’s biggest drug kingpin with ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, was arrested by US forces then inexplicably released in late 2001 (see Late 2001). He lives in Pakistan with the protection of the ISI, but in June 2004, the Bush administration adds his name to a US government list of wanted drug figures. Concerned that he may eventually be arrested again, he agrees to hold secret talks with a FBI team to discuss a deal. According to author James Risen, “The message the Americans delivered to Noorzai was a simple one: you can keep on running, or you can come work with us. Cooperate, and tell us what you know about the Afghan drug business, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and their financiers.” Arrangements are made for Noorzai to meet the FBI team in a hotel in the United Arab Emirates to finalize a deal. But the FBI team never arrives. According to Risen, “American sources add that the local CIA station in the UAE was so preoccupied with the war in Iraq that it was unable to devote any attention to the Noorzai case.” Noorzai eventually tires of waiting and returns to Pakistan. One US official familiar with the case says, “We let one of the big drug kingpins go, someone who was a key financier for al-Qaeda, someone who could help us identify al-Qaeda’s key financiers in the Gulf. It was a real missed opportunity. If the American people knew what was going on, they would go nuts.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 152-162; Congressional Research Service, 1/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Haji Bashir Noorzai, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Haji Bashir Noorzai, reputedly Afghanistan’s biggest drug kingpin with ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, had been arrested and then released by the US in late 2001 (see Late 2001), and then ignored when he wanted to make a deal with US in 2004 (see Autumn 2004). In spring 2005, the US again contacts him and offers a deal. Author James Risen explains, “The Americans asked Noorzai to come to the United States to negotiate a deal, and to the astonishment of nearly everyone involved in the case, he agreed. Noorzai flew on a regular commercial flight to New York, where he was met by federal agents. The Bush administration was so startled that he had actually agreed to come to the United States that it was not quite sure what to do with him.” Secret talks are held in New York City, resulting in Noorzai being indicted in April 2005. “By the summer of 2005, Noorzai was in jail and was talking, but questions remained about whether the Bush administration really wanted to hear what he had to say, particularly about the involvement of powerful Afghans and Pakistanis in the heroin trade.” [BBC, 4/26/2005; Risen, 2006, pp. 152-162]

Entity Tags: Haji Bashir Noorzai

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan by province, 2005. Based on satellite surveys and other analysis by the UN. Redder provinces produce more.Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan by province, 2005. Based on satellite surveys and other analysis by the UN. Redder provinces produce more. [Source: UNODC/MCN] (click image to enlarge)The United Nations says Afghanistan’s latest opium harvest is the biggest ever. The harvest was 6,100 metric tons (enough for 610 tons of heroin), an increase of nearly 50 percent from the year before. This is 92 percent of the world total and 30 percent more than global consumption. Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN’s drug office, says, “It is indeed very bad, you can say it is out of control.” He says the Taliban have profited from the drug trade, and they promise protection to growers who expand their operations. 400,000 acres were planted with poppies in 2006; about ten percent of these poppy fields were destroyed by the Afghan government’s eradication program. About five percent was destroyed in the previous year. [New York Times, 9/2/2006; Associated Press, 9/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Antonio Maria Costa, United Nations

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Libertarian Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) introduces the American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2009, which would withdraw the United States from the United Nations. The bill is referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where it is expected to languish without coming up for a full House vote. The bill specifically claims it is designed “[t]o end membership of the United States in the United Nations.” It would repeal the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 and the United Nations Headquarters Agreement Act of 1947, and order the president to “terminate all participation by the United States in the United Nations, and any organ, specialized agency, commission, or other formally affiliated body of the United Nations.” The bill would remove the UN Mission from New York City to somewhere outside US borders. The US would terminate all funding it provides to the UN and terminate any participation in UN peacekeeping operations. It would also withdraw the US from the World Health Organization (WHO) and repeal the United Nations Environment Program Participation Act of 1973. Any treaties, conventions, agreements, and other such interactions between the US and UN would be terminated. [US Fed News Service, 2/27/2009] Paul will reintroduce the bill two years later (see March 17, 2011).

Entity Tags: United Nations Headquarters Agreement Act of 1947, American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2009, House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ron Paul, United Nations Participation Act of 1945, World Health Organization, United Nations, United Nations Environment Program Participation Act of 1973

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

Libertarian Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) reintroduces the American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2009, which would withdraw the United States from the United Nations. He introduced the same act in 2009, where it died in committee (see February 24, 2009). The bill specifically claims it is designed “[t]o end membership of the United States in the United Nations.” It would repeal the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 and the United Nations Headquarters Agreement Act of 1947, and order the president to “terminate all participation by the United States in the United Nations, and any organ, specialized agency, commission, or other formally affiliated body of the United Nations.” The bill would remove the UN Mission from New York City to somewhere outside US borders. The US would terminate all funding it provides to the UN and terminate any participation in UN peacekeeping operations. It would also withdraw the US from the World Health Organization (WHO) and repeal the United Nations Environment Program Participation Act of 1973. Any treaties, conventions, agreements, and other such interactions between the US and UN would be terminated. [US Fed News Service, 4/4/2011]

Entity Tags: United Nations, American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2009, Ron Paul, United Nations Headquarters Agreement Act of 1947, United Nations Participation Act of 1945, World Health Organization, United Nations Environment Program Participation Act of 1973

Timeline Tags: US International Relations

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