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Complete 911 Timeline

Afghan/Pakistani Drug Connections

Project: Complete 911 Timeline
Open-Content project managed by matt, Paul, KJF, mtuck, paxvector

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Norman Bailey, a member of the National Security Council (NSC) whose specialty is monitoring terrorism by tracking finances, will later reveal that in the early 1980s the NSC learns that BCCI is not just a bank but is engaged in widespread criminal activity. “We were aware that BCCI was involved in drug-money transactions,” he will later say. “We were also aware that BCCI was involved with terrorists, technology transfers—including the unapproved transfer of US technology to the Soviet bloc—weapons dealing, the manipulation of financial markets, and other activities.” The main source for the NSC about this are reports from the CIA. From 1981 on, the NSC learns of BCCI’s role in illegal technology deals for Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Iran, and other countries. A clear picture has emerged by the start of 1984. But neither the CIA nor the NSC take any action against the bank. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 291, 315]

Entity Tags: Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Norman Bailey, National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, BCCI, Drugs

CIA covert weapons shipments are sent by the Pakistani army and the ISI to rebel camps in the North West Frontier province near the Afghanistan border. The governor of the province is Lieutenant General Fazle Haq, who author Alfred McCoy calls Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq’s “closest confidant and the de facto overlord of the mujaheddin guerrillas.” Haq allows hundreds of heroin refineries to set up in his province. Beginning around 1982, Pakistani army trucks carrying CIA weapons from Karachi often pick up heroin in Haq’s province and return loaded with heroin. They are protected from police search by ISI papers. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 477] By 1982, Haq is listed with Interpol as an international drug trafficker. But Haq also becomes known as a CIA asset. Despite his worsening reputation, visiting US politicians such as CIA Director William Casey and Vice President George H. W. Bush continue to meet with him when they visit Pakistan. Haq then moves his heroin money through the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). A highly placed US official will later say that Haq “was our man… everybody knew that Haq was also running the drug trade” and that “BCCI was completely involved.” [Scott, 2007, pp. 73-75] Both European and Pakistani police complain that investigations of heroin trafficking in the province are “aborted at the highest level.” [McCoy, 2003, pp. 477] In 1989, shortly after Benazir Bhutto takes over as the new ruler of Pakistan, Pakistani police arrest Haq and charge him with murder. He is considered a multi-billionaire by this time. But Haq will be gunned down and killed in 1991, apparently before he is tried. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 483] Even President Zia is implied in the drug trade. In 1985, a Norwegian government investigation will lead to the arrest of a Pakistani drug dealer who also is President Zia’s personal finance manager. When arrested, his briefcase contains Zia’s personal banking records. The manager will be sentenced to a long prison term. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 481-482]

Entity Tags: Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Fazle Haq, William Casey, George Herbert Walker Bush, Pakistani Army

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI, Drugs

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]

Entity Tags: William French Smith, Central Intelligence Agency, William Casey

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI, Drugs

According to Alfred W. McCoy, author of The Politics of Heroin, in 1983 Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq allows Pakistani drug traffickers to deposit their drug profits in the BCCI bank without getting punished. The criminal BCCI bank has close ties to the Pakistani government and the US funding of the Afghan war. It will be shut down in 1991. BCCI also plays a critical role in facilitating the movement of Pakistan’s heroin money. By 1989, Pakistan’s heroin trade will be valued at $4 billion a year, more than all of Pakistan’s legal exports. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 480]

Entity Tags: Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, Alfred McCoy, Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI, Drugs

Bin Laden first works for Maktab al-Khidamat from this building in Peshawar, a former British government guesthouse.Bin Laden first works for Maktab al-Khidamat from this building in Peshawar, a former British government guesthouse. [Source: PBS]Bin Laden moves to Peshawar, a Pakistani town bordering Afghanistan, and helps run a front organization for the mujaheddin known as Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), which funnels money, arms, and fighters from the outside world into the Afghan war. [New Yorker, 1/24/2000] “MAK [is] nurtured by Pakistan’s state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA’s primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow’s occupation.” [MSNBC, 8/24/1998] Bin Laden becomes closely tied to the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and greatly strengthens Hekmatyar’s opium smuggling operations. [Le Monde (Paris), 9/14/2001] Hekmatyar, who also has ties with bin Laden, the CIA, and drug running, has been called “an ISI stooge and creation.” [Asia Times, 11/15/2001] MAK is also known as Al-Kifah and its branch in New York is called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. This branch will play a pivotal role in the 1993 WTC bombing and also has CIA ties (see January 24, 1994).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Central Intelligence Agency, Maktab al-Khidamat, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, Al-Kifah/MAK, Drugs

ISI headquarters in Islamabad, Pakistan.ISI headquarters in Islamabad, Pakistan. [Source: Banded Artists Productions]The Pakistani ISI starts a special cell of agents who use profits from heroin production for covert actions “at the insistence of the CIA.” “This cell promotes the cultivation of opium, the extraction of heroin in Pakistani and Afghan territories under mujaheddin control. The heroin is then smuggled into the Soviet controlled areas, in an attempt to turn the Soviet troops into heroin addicts. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the ISI’s heroin cell started using its network of refineries and smugglers for smuggling heroin to the Western countries and using the money as a supplement to its legitimate economy. But for these heroin dollars, Pakistan’s legitimate economy must have collapsed many years ago.” [Financial Times, 8/10/2001] The ISI grows so powerful on this money, that “even by the shadowy standards of spy agencies, the ISI is notorious. It is commonly branded ‘a state within the state,’ or Pakistan’s ‘invisible government.’” [Time, 5/6/2002]

Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

According to controversial author Gerald Posner, ex-CIA officials claim that General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, Pakistani ISI’s head from 1980 to 1987, regularly meets bin Laden in Peshawar, Pakistan. The ISI and bin Laden form a partnership that forces Afghan tribal warlords to pay a “tax” on the opium trade. By 1985, bin Laden and the ISI are splitting annual profits of up to $100 million a year. [Posner, 2003, pp. 29]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Akhtar Abdur Rahman

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

The New York Times reports that “Afghanistan is one place where the drug issue has been subordinated to the [Reagan] administration’s policy of supporting anti-Communist insurgencies.” In interviews with The New York Times in 1986, dozens of Afghan rebel leaders admitted cultivating and selling opium poppies. US intelligence suspects that the same planes and trucks sending US aid to rebels in Afghanistan are returning to Pakistan with drugs. However, little is being done about this. One anonymous Reagan administration official tells the Times: “We’re not going to let a little thing like drugs get in the way of the political situation. And when the Soviets leave and there’s no money in the country, it’s not going to be a priority to disrupt the drug trade.” [New York Times, 4/10/1998]

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Drugs

Pakistan’s army chief and the head of the ISI, its intelligence agency, propose to sell heroin to pay for the country’s covert operations, according to Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister at the time. Sharif claims that shortly after becoming prime minister, army chief of staff Gen. Aslam Beg and ISI director Gen. Asad Durrani present him with a plan to sell heroin through third parties to pay for covert operations that are no longer funded by the CIA, now that the Afghan war is over. Sharif claims he does not approve the plan. Sharif will make these accusations in 1994, one year after he lost an election and became leader of the opposition. Durrani and Beg will deny the allegations. Both will have retired from these jobs by the time the allegations are made. The Washington Post will comment in 1994, “It has been rumored for years that Pakistan’s military has been involved in the drug trade. Pakistan’s army, and particularly its intelligence agency… is immensely powerful and is known for pursuing its own agenda.” The Post will further note that in 1992, “A consultant hired by the CIA warned that drug corruption had permeated virtually all segments of Pakistani society and that drug kingpins were closely connected to the country’s key institutions of power, including the president and military intelligence agencies.” [Washington Post, 9/12/1994]

Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Aslam Beg, Nawaz Sharif, Asad Durrani

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

BCCI logo.BCCI logo. [Source: BCCI]In early 2001, anonymous US officials will say that when the notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) is shut down in July 1991 (see July 5, 1991), Osama bin Laden suffers a heavy blow because he has put much of his money in the bank and he loses everything he invested there. As a result, he begins to launder money from the drug trade to make up for the lost revenue. He cooperates with Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is already diverting profits from the Afghan drug trade to help finance Islamic terrorist movements. Others claim bin Laden begins his involvement with the drug trade several years later. [United Press International, 3/1/2001] It also seems that bin Laden’s financial network eventually grows to at least partly replace the role of BCCI for Islamist militant financing (see After July 1991).

Entity Tags: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Osama bin Laden, Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Category Tags: Osama Bin Laden, Terrorism Financing, BCCI, Drugs

July 5, 1991: Criminal BCCI Bank Is Shut Down

A Time magazine cover story on BCCI.A Time magazine cover story on BCCI. [Source: Time Magazine]The Bank of England shuts down Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the largest Islamic bank in the world. Based in Pakistan, this bank financed numerous militant organizations and laundered money generated by illicit drug trafficking and other illegal activities, including arms trafficking. Bin Laden and many other militants had accounts there (see July 1991). [Detroit News, 9/30/2001] One money-laundering expert later claims, “BCCI did dirty work for every major terrorist service in the world.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/2002] Regulators shut down BCCI offices in dozens of countries and seize about $2 billion of the bank’s $20 billion in assets. BCCI is the seventh largest bank in the world. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), owns 77% of the bank at the time of its closing. He and the UAE government will end up losing about $8 billion. About 1.4 million people had deposits in the bank and will end up losing most of their money. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 98-99] American and British governments were aware of its activities yet allowed the bank to operate for years. The Pakistani ISI had major connections to the bank. [Detroit News, 9/30/2001] The Bank of England is forced to close BCCI largely because of outside pressure. Beginning in February 1991, the mainstream media began reporting on BCCI’s criminal activities as more and more whistleblowers came forward. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 95] However, as later State Department reports indicate, Pakistan remains a major drug trafficking and money-laundering center despite the bank’s closing. [Detroit News, 9/30/2001] Most of the bank’s top officials will escape prosecution, and remnants of the bank will continue operating in some countries under new names (see August 1991). A French intelligence report in 2001 will suggest the that Osama bin Laden will later build his financial network on the ruins of the BCCI network, oftentimes using former BCCI officials (see October 10, 2001). [Washington Post, 2/17/2002]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Bank of England, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, BCCI, Drugs

Albanian drug smugglers are found to be playing a prominent role in funding the Muslim arms buildup in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, and Macedonia. In addition to small arms and machine guns, the criminal arms deals include surface-to-surface missiles and helicopters. [Independent, 12/10/1993; San Francisco Chronicle, 6/10/1994]

Category Tags: Drugs, Al-Qaeda in Balkans

The New York Times reports that tens of thousands of Islamic radicals from around the world have come to train in Afghanistan since the end of the Soviet-Afghan war, in order to bring the militant jihad struggle back to their home countries. There are dozens of training camps all over the country, with around 20 under control of warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar alone. [New York Times, 3/13/1994] Even though bin Laden is living in Sudan at this time and has moved some training camps there, he also keeps some camps and guesthouses open in Pakistan and Afghanistan until he moves back to Afghanistan take direct control of them in 1996. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 63] A civil war that has raged non-stop since the Soviets left and the growing importance of the opium crop made Afghanistan into “essentially a lawless country. There is no civil law, no government, no economy—only guns and drugs and anger.” Abdul Haq, a politically moderate warlord, says, “For us, Afghanistan is destroyed. It is turning to poison, and not only for us but for all others in the world. If you are a terrorist, you can have shelter here, no matter who you are. Day by day, there is the increase of drugs. Maybe one day [the US] will have to send hundreds of thousands of troops to deal with that. And if they step in, they will be stuck. We have a British grave in Afghanistan. We have a Soviet grave. And then we will have an American grave.” [New York Times, 3/13/1994]

Entity Tags: Abdul Haq, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War, Drugs

Avelino “Sonny” Razon.Avelino “Sonny” Razon. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corp.]In December 1994, Philippine police reportedly begin monitoring a Pakistani businessman by the name of Tariq Javed Rana. According to Avelino Razon, a Philippine security official, the decision to put Rana under surveillance is prompted by a report that “Middle Eastern personalities” are planning to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his upcoming January 1995 visit to Manila. “[We] had one man in particular under surveillance—Tariq Javed Rana, a Pakistani suspected of supporting international terrorists with drug money. He was a close associate of Ramzi Yousef,” Razon later recalls. But it is possible that police began monitoring Rana before this date. In September, the Philippine press reported that he was a suspect in an illegal drug manufacturing ring, and the US embassy in Manila received a tip that Rana was linked to the ISI and was part of a plot to assassinate President Clinton during his November 1994 visit to Manila (see September 18-November 14, 1994). [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006] While under surveillance in December, Rana’s house burns down. Authorities determine that the fire was caused by nitroglycerin which can be used to improvise bombs. One month later, a fire caused by the same chemical is started in Ramzi Yousef’s Manila apartment (see January 6, 1995), leading to the exposure of the Bojinka plot to assassinate the Pope and crash a dozen airplanes. [Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002; CounterPunch, 3/9/2006] Rana is arrested by Philippine police in early April 1995. It is announced in the press that he is connected to Yousef and that he will be charged with investment fraud. He is said to have supported the militant group Abu Sayyaf and to have helped Yousef escape the Philippines after the fire in Yousef’s apartment. A search of the Lexis Nexus database shows there have been no media reports about Rana since his arrest. Around the same time as his arrest, six other suspected Bojinka plotters are arrested, but then eventually let go (see April 1, 1995-Early 1996). [Associated Press, 4/2/1995]

Entity Tags: Tariq Javed Rana, Abu Sayyaf, Ramzi Yousef, Avelino Razon, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, John Paul II

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Remote Surveillance, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef, Pakistan and the ISI, Philippine Militant Collusion, Drugs, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia

The Taliban, while just starting to take over Afghanistan, forms an important alliance with a powerful mafia of truck transporters based in Quetta, Pakistan (near the Afghanistan border) and Kandahar, Afghanistan. [Rashid, 2001, pp. 22] The transporters pay hefty fees to the Taliban, who, in return, suppress any local warlords who interfere with the mafia’s trade. Additionally, the Taliban ensures that roads are kept open so that the transporters can operate freely. Taliban expert and author Ahmed Rashid argues that the alliance between the Taliban and the Quetta mafia becomes so successful that it ultimately destabilizes not only Afghanistan, but Pakistan as well. [Rashid, 2001, pp. 191-195]

Entity Tags: Taliban

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

According to a book (citing federal law enforcement sources) by Jurgen Roth, described by Newsday as “one of Germany’s top investigative reporters,” in this year the BKA (the German Federal Office for criminal investigations) investigates future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta for petty drug crimes and falsifying phone cards whilst he is a student at the Technical University at Hamburg-Harburg. While he isn’t charged, a record of the investigation will prevent him from getting a security job with Lufthansa Airlines in early 2001 (see February 15, 2001). [Roth, 2001, pp. 9f; Newsday, 1/24/2002]

Entity Tags: Jurgen Roth, Bundeskriminalamt Germany, Mohamed Atta, Germany

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Mohamed Atta, Drugs

According to a report in Jane’s Intelligence Review, Albanian narco-terrorism, gun-running, and smuggling organizations are becoming a dominant economic, political, and military force in the Balkans. Jane’s expresses the concern that if left unchecked, the Albanian mafia will become powerful enough to control one or more states in the region. Albanian President Sali Berisha “is now widely suspected of tolerating and even directly profiting from drug-trafficking for wider political-economic reasons, namely the financing of secessionist political parties and other groupings in Kosovo and Macedonia.” [Jane's Intelligence Review, 2/1/1995]

Entity Tags: Albania, Sali Berisha

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Balkans, Drugs

Albanian Mafia and KLA take control of Balkan route heroin trafficking from Turkish criminal groups. In 1998, Italian police are able to arrest several major traffickers. Many of the criminals involved are also activists for the Kosovo independence movement, and some are KLA leaders. Much of the money is funneled through the KLA (see 1997), which is also receiving support and protection from the US. The Islamic influence is obvious in the drug operations, which for example shut down during the month of Ramadan. Intercepted telephone messages speak of the desire “to submerge Christian infidels in drugs.” [Agence France-Presse, 6/9/1998; Corriere della Sera (Milan), 10/15/1998; Corriere della Sera (Milan), 1/19/1999] Testifying to Congress in December 2000, Interpol Assistant Director Ralph Mutschke states that “Albanian organized crime groups are hybrid organizations, often involved both in criminal activity of an organized nature and in political activities, mainly relating to Kosovo. There is evidence that the political and criminal activities are deeply intertwined.” Mutschke also says that there is also strong evidence that bin Laden is involved in funding and organizing criminal activity through links to the Albanian mafia and the KLA.(see Early 1999) [US Congress, 12/13/2000 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army, Ralph Mutschke, Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Balkans, Drugs

In 1996, al-Qaeda assumes control of Ariana Airlines, Afghanistan’s national airline, for use in its illegal trade network. Passenger flights become few and erratic, as planes are used to fly drugs, weapons, gold, and personnel, primarily between Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Pakistan. The Emirate of Sharjah, in the UAE, becomes a hub for al-Qaeda drug and arms smuggling. Typically, “large quantities of drugs” are flown from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Sharjah, and large quantities of weapons are flown back to Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/2001] About three to four flights run the route each day. Many weapons come from Victor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer based in Sharjah. [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/2002] Afghan taxes on opium production are paid in gold, and then the gold bullion is flown to Dubai, UAE, and laundered into cash. [Washington Post, 2/17/2002] Taliban officials regularly provide militants with false papers identifying them as Ariana Airlines employees so they can move freely around the world. For instance, one flight on a Ariana small plane in 2000 lists 33 crew members. A former National Security Council official later claims the US is well aware at the time that al-Qaeda agents regularly fly on Ariana Airlines. (However, US intelligence will not learn of the widespread use of forged Ariana IDs until after 9/11.) The CIA learns of Bout’s connection to Ariana and the Taliban in 1998, but takes no action (see 1998). The US presses the UAE for tighter banking controls, but moves “delicately, not wanting to offend an ally in an already complicated relationship,” and little changes by 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/2001; Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 139] Much of the money for the 9/11 hijackers flows though these Sharjah, UAE, channels. There also are reports suggesting that Ariana Airlines might have been used to train Islamic militants as pilots. The illegal use of Ariana Airlines helps convince the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in 1999, but the sanctions lack teeth and do not stop the airline. A second round of sanctions finally stops foreign Ariana Airlines flights, but its charter flights and other charter services keep the illegal network running. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/2001] About nine of the 9/11 hijackers work at the Kandahar airport in 2000, which is Ariana’s main hub (see Summer 2000).

Entity Tags: Taliban, United Arab Emirates, United Nations, Al-Qaeda, Ariana Airlines, Victor Bout

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Victor Bout, Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

Bin Laden establishes and maintains a major role in opium drug trade, soon after moving the base of his operations to Afghanistan. Opium money is vital to keeping the Taliban in power and funding bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network. One report estimates that bin Laden takes up to 10 percent of Afghanistan’s drug trade by early 1999. This would give him a yearly income of up to $1 billion out of $6.5 to $10 billion in annual drug profits from within Afghanistan. [Financial Times, 11/28/2001] The US monitors bin Laden’s satellite phone starting in 1996 (see November 1996-Late August 1998). According to one newspaper, “Bin Laden was heard advising Taliban leaders to promote heroin exports to the West.” [Guardian, 9/27/2001]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Taliban

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs, Osama Bin Laden

The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) emerges to resist Serbia’s campaign against Yugoslavia’s Albanian population. The force is financed by Albanian expatriates and Kosovar smugglers (see 1996-1999) (see Early 1999). According to news reports, the KLA receives some $1.5 billion in drug and arms smuggling profits from Kosovar Albanian traffickers each year. [Mother Jones, 1/2000] The US Drug Enforcement Agency office in Rome tells the Philadelphia Inquirer in March 1999 that the KLA is “financing [its] war through drug trafficking activities, weapons trafficking, and the trafficking of other illegal goods, as well as contributions of their countrymen working abroad.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/15/1999] Less than a year later, Mother Jones magazine will report that it obtained a congressional briefing paper which states: “We would be remiss to dismiss allegations that between 30 and 50 percent of the KLA’s money comes from drugs.” [Mother Jones, 1/2000]

Entity Tags: Drug Enforcement Administration, Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Balkans, Drugs

Raed Hijazi’s Boston taxi license.Raed Hijazi’s Boston taxi license. [Source: FBI]Raed Hijazi, an al-Qaeda operative later convicted in Jordan for attempting to blow up hotels there, is living and working in Boston with Nabil al-Marabh. According to an FBI source described in media reports as both “reliable” and “high-level,” Hijazi is approached by FBI agents investigating a drug-trafficking network bringing in white heroin from Afghanistan. According to the source, Hijazi becomes “a willing informant” about the network. The source will claim that Hijazi also provided information about “Arab terrorists and terrorist sympathizers,” but the agents were more interested in the heroin trade. [WCVB 5 (Boston), 10/16/2001] The timing of this is unclear, but it must have occurred between early 1997 and late 1998, the only time Hijazi lived in Boston (see June 1995-Early 1999). An FBI spokeswoman will decline to comment on the issue except to say, “Based on the reporting, I would question [Hijazi’s] reliability [as an informant].” [Boston Herald, 10/17/2001]

Entity Tags: Nabil al-Marabh, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Raed Hijazi

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Nabil Al-Marabh, Drugs, Millennium Bomb Plots, Other Possible Moles or Informants

A classified US cable on this date reveals US intelligence is aware that the Taliban are paying the Pakistani government for wheat and fuel with drugs. The cable suggests that Pakistan is planning to demand hard currency instead of drugs in order to restrain drug trafficking and increase revenue, but it is unclear if this change ever takes place. [US Embassy (Islamabad), 8/13/1997 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US intelligence, Pakistan, Taliban

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

A houbara bustard.A houbara bustard. [Source: Eric and David Hosking / Corbis]In 1998, the CIA becomes interested in the links between arms dealer Victor Bout, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, and some US counternarcotics officials are particularly intrigued by a pattern they see between the flight patterns of Bout’s airplanes to and from Afghanistan and the hunting vacations of some Persian Gulf royals. Many of the Persian Gulf elite are known to regularly go bird hunting in Afghanistan, sometimes meeting Taliban ruler Mullah Omar and/or Osama bin Laden during their hunting trips (see 1995-2001). US analysts notice that there is a surge of Bout-controlled flights to Afghanistan in February and March of each year, the same time many royal elite fly to Afghanistan on their private jets in time for the migration of thousands of houbara bustards through Afghanistan. Then, in early autumn, there is another surge of flights by both Bout’s planes and the royal jets when the bustards migrate through the country again. Officials at the CIA’s counternarcotics center suspect some of the royals are using the hunting flights as cover to export heroin. The Bout flights increase the suspicion, since he is a known drug trafficker as well as an arms dealer. Scheuer will later comment, “They were very interested on the counternarcotics side about the patterns between Bout’s flights and the bustard-hunting season.” British intelligence is interested in the same thing, and at one point they approach United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials for permission to sneak a team of agents aboard one of Bout’s flights to search for Afghan heroin. However, they are unable to get permission, and the CIA also does not act on these suspicions. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 141]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Victor Bout, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Michael Scheuer

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Victor Bout, Saudi Arabia, Drugs

By this time, US intelligence has documented many links between the Pakistani ISI, Taliban, and al-Qaeda. It is discovered that the ISI maintains about eight stations inside Afghanistan which are staffed by active or retired ISI officers. The CIA has learned that ISI officers at about the colonel level regularly meet with bin Laden or his associates to coordinate access to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The CIA suspects that the ISI is giving money and/or equipment to bin Laden, but they find no evidence of direct ISI involvement in al-Qaeda’s overseas attacks. The ISI generally uses the training camps to train operatives to fight a guerrilla war in the disputed Indian province of Kashmir. But while these ISI officers are following Pakistani policy in a broad sense, the CIA believes the ISI has little direct control over them. One senior Clinton administration official will later state that it was “assumed that those ISI individuals were perhaps profiteering, engaged in the drug running, the arms running.” One US official aware of CIA reporting at this time later comments that Clinton’s senior policy team saw “an incredibly unholy alliance that was not only supporting all the terrorism that would be directed against us” but also threatening “to provoke a nuclear war in Kashmir.” [Coll, 2004, pp. 439-440]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Taliban

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

Julie Sirrs.Julie Sirrs. [Source: Julie Sirrs]Julie Sirrs, a military analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), travels to Afghanistan. Fluent in local languages and knowledgeable about the culture, she made a previous undercover trip there in October 1997. She is surprised that the CIA was not interested in sending in agents after the failed missile attack on Osama bin Laden in August 1998, so she returns at this time. Traveling undercover, she meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. She sees a terrorist training center in Taliban-controlled territory. Sirrs will later claim: “The Taliban’s brutal regime was being kept in power significantly by bin Laden’s money, plus the narcotics trade, while [Massoud’s] resistance was surviving on a shoestring. With even a little aid to the Afghan resistance, we could have pushed the Taliban out of power. But there was great reluctance by the State Department and the CIA to undertake that.” She partly blames the interest of the US government and the oil company Unocal to see the Taliban achieve political stability to enable a trans-Afghanistan pipeline (see May 1996 and September 27, 1996). She claims, “Massoud told me he had proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul.” She also states, “The State Department didn’t want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban.” After two weeks, Sirrs returns with a treasure trove of maps, photographs, and interviews. [ABC News, 2/18/2002; ABC News, 2/18/2002; New York Observer, 3/11/2004] By interviewing captured al-Qaeda operatives, she learns that the official Afghanistan airline, Ariana Airlines, is being used to ferry weapons and drugs, and learns that bin Laden goes hunting with “rich Saudis and top Taliban officials” (see Mid-1996-October 2001 and 1995-2001). [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/2001] When Sirrs returns from Afghanistan, her material is confiscated and she is accused of being a spy. Says one senior colleague, “She had gotten the proper clearances to go, and she came back with valuable information,” but high level officials “were so intent on getting rid of her, the last thing they wanted to pay attention to was any information she had.” Sirrs is cleared of wrongdoing, but her security clearance is pulled. She eventually quits the DIA in frustration in 1999. [ABC News, 2/18/2002; New York Observer, 3/11/2004] Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) will claim that the main DIA official behind the punishment of Sirrs is Lieutenant General Patrick Hughes, who later becomes “one of the top officials running the Department of Homeland Security.” [Dana Rohrabacher, 6/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Unocal, Osama bin Laden, US Department of State, Northern Alliance, Patrick Hughes, Defense Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Al-Qaeda, Julie Sirrs, Central Intelligence Agency, Dana Rohrabacher, Ariana Airlines

Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, Hunt for Bin Laden, Drugs

A group of Abu Sayyaf militants photographed on July 16, 2000.A group of Abu Sayyaf militants photographed on July 16, 2000. [Source: Associated Press]In the book “Dollars for Terror” published this year, investigative journalist Richard Labeviere claims that the Philippine drug trade is worth billions of dollars a year and that Muslim militants connected to al-Qaeda have a role in it. “Admittedly, the Islamists do not control all of these flows, but the Abu Sayyaf group plays a big part. Its mercenaries look after the protection of transport and the shipping of cargoes via jungle airports in the [southern Philippines.] By the same air channels, and also by sea, weapons are delivered for the group’s combat unit. This supply chain is managed by Pakistani intermediaries who are trained directly in the Afghan camps around Peshawar” in Pakistan. He does not give his source for this information. [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 365] Perhaps not coincidentally, a Pakistani believed to be connected to the drug trade is suspected of helping to fund the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), which was planned in the Philippines with the help of the Abu Sayyaf (see December 1994-April 1995). Victor Bout, the world’s biggest illegal arms dealer, is said to use his network to ship weaponry to the Abu Sayyaf, though details have not been reported. Bout’s network also delivers weapons to the Taliban (see Mid-1996-October 2001). [New York Times, 2/27/2002; Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 pdf file] There are many reports on the Abu Sayyaf’s involvement with illegal drugs. For instance, in 2002 a Philippine newspaper will note that the region dominated by Abu Sayyaf has become such a notorious drug center that it is sometimes nicknamed “Little Colombia.” [Manila Times, 3/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Richard Labeviere, Abu Sayyaf, Victor Bout

Category Tags: Philippine Militant Collusion, Drugs, Victor Bout, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia

The police forces of three Western European countries, as well as Europol, the European police authority, are separately investigating a growing pool of evidence that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is being funded by drug money. And on March 24, 1999, the London Times reports that “Europol… is preparing a report for European interior and justice ministers on a connection between the KLA and Albanian drug gangs.” (see 1996-1999) [London Times, 3/24/1999]

Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Balkans, Drugs

In his 1999 book The New Jackals, journalist Simon Reeve will write: “According to some intelligence reports, bin Laden and al-Qaeda benefit [from] drug money because bin Laden is understood to have helped the Taliban arrange money-laundering facilities through the Russian and Chechen Mafia. One American intelligence source claims that bin Laden’s involvement in the establishment of new financial networks for drug distribution and sales has been pivotal, and that by the spring of 1999 bin Laden was taking a cut of between 2 and 10 percent from all Afghan drug sales.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 208] Other reports suggest bin Laden is taking a cut of up to 10 percent by this time (see Late 1996).

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden

Category Tags: Osama Bin Laden, Drugs

An unnamed European intelligence agency secretly reports that al-Qaeda has provided financial support for the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Documents found on a KLA militant further reveal that he has been smuggling combatants into Kosovo, mostly Saudis with Albanian passports. The report further notes that the KLA is largely financed by drug trafficking, bringing drugs from Afghanistan into Europe with the blessing of the Taliban. [Jacquard, 2002, pp. 71-72]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Kosovo Liberation Army

Timeline Tags: Kosovar Albanian Struggle

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Balkans, Drugs

The United Nations Drug Control Program determines that the ISI makes around $2.5 billion annually from the sale of illegal drugs. [Times of India, 11/29/1999]

Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, United Nations

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

CIA Director George Tenet tells a Senate committee in open session that bin Laden “wants to strike further blows against America.” He points out the close links between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad and says this is part of an “intricate web of alliances among Sunni extremists worldwide, including North Africans, radical Palestinians, Pakistanis, and Central Asians.” He points out ties between drug traffickers and the Taliban and says, “There is ample evidence that Islamic extremists such as Osama bin Laden use profits from the drug trade to support their terror campaign.” But there is no mention of Pakistan’s support for al-Qaeda and the Taliban, despite CIA knowledge of this (see Autumn 1998). Instead, he claims Iran is “the most active state sponsor” of terrorism. Additionally, he does not mention that bin Laden is capable of planning attacks inside the US, even though he told that to Congress in a closed session six months earlier (see June 24, 1999). [Senate, 2/2/2000]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, US Congress, George J. Tenet, Osama bin Laden, Islamic Jihad, Taliban

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Warning Signs, Drugs

A secret CIA report details al-Qaeda’s use of the honey trade to generate income and secretly move weapons, drugs, and operatives around the world. The CIA had been gathering information and monitoring some honey stores for almost two years before the study. Bin Laden is believed to control a number of retail honey shops in various countries, especially in Sudan, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Khalil Deek, an American citizen, are said to be particularly tied to the honey trade. One US official will later say, “The smell and consistency of the honey makes it easy to hide weapons and drugs in the shipments. Inspectors don’t want to inspect that product. It’s too messy.” But although a number of companies dealing in honey are tied to al-Qaeda (and sometimes to Islamic Jihad), the US will not make any move to freeze the assets of these companies until after 9/11. [New York Times, 10/11/2001] Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later claim Deek was “running an underground railroad in the Middle East for terrorists, shuttling them to different countries,” which would fit with his alleged role in the honey network. [LA Weekly, 9/15/2005]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Abu Zubaida, Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalil Deek

Category Tags: Khalil Deek, Terrorism Financing, Drugs, Abu Zubaida

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

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

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

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Drugs

Kevin Ingram, Randy Glass, and Diaa Mohsen in August 1999.Kevin Ingram, Randy Glass, and Diaa Mohsen in August 1999. [Source: Getty Images] (click image to enlarge)Operation Diamondback, a sting operation uncovering an attempt to buy weapons illegally for the Taliban, bin Laden, and others, ends with a number of arrests. An Egyptian named Diaa Mohsen and a Pakistani named Mohammed Malik are arrested and accused of attempting to buy Stinger missiles, nuclear weapon components, and other sophisticated military weaponry for the Pakistani ISI. [CNN, 6/15/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/23/2001; Washington Post, 8/2/2002] Malik appears to have had links to important Pakistani officials and Kashmiri militants, and Mohsen claims a connection to a man “who is very connected to the Taliban” and funded by bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/2002; MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Some other ISI agents came to Florida on several occasions to negotiate, but they escaped being arrested. They wanted to pay partially in heroin. One mentioned that the WTC would be destroyed. These ISI agents said some of their purchases would go to the Taliban in Afghanistan and/or militants associated with bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/2002; MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Both Malik and Mohsen lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/2001] Mohsen pleads guilty after 9/11, “but remarkably, even though [he was] apparently willing to supply America’s enemies with sophisticated weapons, even nuclear weapons technology, Mohsen was sentenced to just 30 months in prison.” [MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Malik’s case appears to have been dropped, and reporters find him working in a store in Florida less than a year after the trial ended. [MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Malik’s court files remain completely sealed, and in Mohsen’s court case, prosecutors “removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns.” [Washington Post, 8/2/2002] Also arrested are Kevin Ingram and Walter Kapij. Ingram pleads guilty to laundering $350,000 and he is sentenced to 18 months in prison. [CNN, 6/15/2001; Black Enterprise, 6/19/2001; Associated Press, 12/1/2001] Ingram was a former senior investment banker with Deutsche Bank, but resigned in January 1999 after his division suffered costly losses. [Black Enterprise, 6/19/2001; Jersey Journal, 6/20/2001] Walter Kapij, a pilot with a minor role in the plot, is given the longest sentence, 33 months in prison. [CNN, 6/15/2001; Black Enterprise, 6/19/2001; Palm Beach Post, 1/12/2002] Informant Randy Glass plays a key role in the sting, and has thirteen felony fraud charges against him reduced as a result, serving only seven months in prison. Federal agents involved in the case later express puzzlement that Washington higher-ups did not make the case a higher priority, pointing out that bin Laden could have gotten a nuclear bomb if the deal was for real. Agents on the case complain that the FBI did not make the case a counterterrorism matter, which would have improved bureaucratic backing and opened access to FBI information and US intelligence from around the world. [Washington Post, 8/2/2002; MSNBC, 8/2/2002] Federal agents frequently couldn’t get prosecutors to approve wiretaps. [Cox News Service, 8/2/2002] Glass says, “Wouldn’t you think that there should have been a wire tap on Diaa [Mohsen]‘s phone and Malik’s phone?” [WPBF 25 (West Palm Beach), 8/5/2002] An FBI supervisor in Miami refused to front money for the sting, forcing agents to use money from US Customs and even Glass’s own money to help keep the sting going. [Cox News Service, 8/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Malik, Kevin Ingram, World Trade Center, Diaa Mohsen, US Customs Service, Walter Kapij, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Randy Glass, Operation Diamondback

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Randy Glass/ Diamondback, Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs, Other Possible Moles or Informants

In October 2001, an Iranian named Mehrzad Arbane will tell an associate that he may have smuggled two of the 9/11 hijackers into the US. The associate, a known cocaine smuggler, will be so alarmed that he will become a government informant against Arbane. In 2004, Arbane will be convicted of smuggling cocaine from Latin America into the US and it will be reported he is also being investigated for money laundering and smuggling people from the Middle East into the US. It is not known which hijackers he may have smuggled into the US or when this may have taken place. [Village Voice, 5/25/2004] This runs counter to the 9/11 Commission’s claim, as expressed by one 9/11 Commission staffer, “The plotters all used their own passports to get into the country.” [United Press International, 8/17/2005]

Entity Tags: Mehrzad Arbane

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Other 9/11 Hijackers, Drugs, Other Possible Moles or Informants

The Sydney Morning Herald discusses the connections between the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI, and the ISI’s long-standing control over the Taliban. Drugs are a big part of their operation: “opium cultivation and heroin production in Pakistan’s northern tribal belt and adjoining Afghanistan were a vital offshoot of the ISI-CIA cooperation. It succeeded in turning some of the Soviet troops into addicts. Heroin sales in Europe and the US, carried out through an elaborate web of deception, transport networks, couriers, and payoffs, offset the cost of the decade-long war in Afghanistan.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/27/2001]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs, Haven in Pakistan Tribal Region, Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11

November 21, 2001: Opium Boom in Afghanistan

The Independent runs a story with the title: “Opium Farmers Rejoice at the Defeat of the Taliban.” Massive opium planting is underway all across Afghanistan. [Independent, 11/21/2001] Four days later, the Observer runs a story headlined, “Victorious Warlords Set to Open the Opium Floodgates.” It states that farmers are being encouraged by warlords allied with the US to plant “as much opium as possible.” [Observer, 11/25/2001]

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

Ayub Afridi, a well-known Afghan warlord and drug baron, is released from prison in Pakistan and sent to Afghanistan with the apparent approval of both the US and Pakistani governments. Afridi had just begun serving a seven year sentence after being convicted of attempting to smuggle over six tons of hashish into Belgium. The Pakistani government gave no explanation for his release nor pointed to any law allowing the release. The Asia Times claims, “Afridi was a key player in the Afghan war of resistance against the Soviet Union’s occupying troops in the decade up to 1989.” The CIA lacked the billions of dollars need to fund the Afghan resistance. “As a result, they decided to generate funds through the poppy-rich Afghan soil and heroin production and smuggling to finance the Afghan war. Afridi was the kingpin of this plan. All of the major Afghan warlords, except for the Northern Alliance’s Ahmed Shah Massoud, who had his own opium fiefdom in northern Afghanistan, were a part of Afridi’s coalition of drug traders in the CIA-sponsored holy war against the Soviets.” The Asia Times speculates that Afridi, an ethic Pashtun, was released to help unify Pashtun warlord support for the new US supported Afghan government. Afridi also served three years in a US prison for drug smuggling in the mid-1990s. [Asia Times, 12/4/2001]

Entity Tags: Pakistan, United States, Ayub Afridi

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

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: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Drugs, 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: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs, Afghanistan, Key Captures and Deaths

According to one former National Security Council official, Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith argues in a White House meeting that since counter-narcotics is not part of the war on terrorism, the Pentagon doesn’t want to get involved in it. The former official complains, “We couldn’t get [the US military] to do counter-narcotics in Afghanistan.” Author James Risen comments, “American troops were there to fight terrorists, not suppress the poppy crop, and Pentagon officials didn’t see a connection between the two. The Pentagon feared that counter-narcotics operations would force the military to turn on the very same warlords who were aiding the United States against the Taliban, and that would lead to another round of violent attacks on American troops.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 154] Immediately after 9/11, the US had decided not to bomb drug-related targets in Afghanistan and continued not to do so (see Shortly After September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Douglas Feith

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Drugs, Afghanistan

March 1, 2002: ISI Maintains Huge Drug Economy

Vanity Fair suggests the ISI is still deeply involved in the drug trade in Central Asia. It estimates that Pakistan has a parallel drug economy worth $15 billion a year. Pakistan’s official economy is worth about $60 billion. The article notes that the US has not tied its billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan to assurances that Pakistan will stop its involvement in drugs. [Vanity Fair, 3/1/2002]

Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, United States

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb).Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb). [Source: US Defense Department]Alleged al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb) is arrested in Faisalabad, Pakistan, as part of a series of raids that also results in the arrest of al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida and other suspected al-Qaeda operatives (see March 28, 2002). Apparently, he is in the same house as Zubaida when both of them are arrested. Ahmed is transferred to US custody two months later, and then sent to the US-run prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, on August 5, 2002.
History of Robbery and Drug Dealing - Ahmed is an Algerian in his late 40s. In the early 1980s, he served in the Algerian army for four years. He was found guilty several times of robbery. In the early 1990s, he lived in Italy and was found guilty several times of drug dealing and robbery. From 1994 onwards he lived in Hamburg, Germany, and spent a total of two years in prison for a variety of crimes, including robbery and credit card fraud. He continued to deal illegal drugs. Eventually, he became a radical Islamist and associated with members of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, although when and how this happened is unclear. (Note that in 1995, Hamburg cell member and future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta was investigated for petty drug crimes (see 1995).) [US Department of Defense, 9/16/2005]
Plane Flight with Hamburg Cell Members - On September 3, 2001, Ahmed flew to Pakistan with cell member Said Bahaji, another older Algerian named Ismail Bin Murabit (a.k.a. Ismail Ben Mrabete), and others suspected of links to the Hamburg cell. They stayed in the same hotel when they arrived in Karachi, Pakistan. Information on Ahmed’s travel was uncovered by German investigators (see September 3-5, 2001).
Training and Fighting in Afghanistan, Hiding in Pakistan - According to Ahmed’s 2008 Guantanamo file, Ahmed confesses that he, Bin Murabit, and Bahaji traveled together to the al-Faruq training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan. There, they met Zakariya Essabar, another Hamburg cell member who had just left Germany (see Late August 2001). Ahmed and Bin Murabit stayed together and trained at a variety of locations in Afghanistan. Later in 2001, they fought against US forces near Bagram, Afghanistan. Ahmed then snuck across the Pakistan border with the help of the Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group, and lived in the same safe house as Zubaida and other militants for about a month before they are all captured. Apparently, Ahmed split up from Bin Murabit at some point, because Bin Murabit is not captured, and it is unclear what happens to him. [US Department of Defense, 4/23/2008] (Note that the contents of these Guantanamo files are often based on dubious sources, and sometimes on torture (see April 24, 2011).) Despite Ahmed’s links to the Hamburg cell and Zubaida, he will be transferred to Algeria on November 10, 2008. It is unknown if he is set free or imprisoned by the Algerian government. [New York Times, 4/25/2011]

Entity Tags: Said Bahaji, Labed Ahmed, Ismail Bin Murabit, Al-Qaeda, Zakariya Essabar, Abu Zubaida, Lashkar-e-Toiba

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Germany, Key Captures and Deaths, Drugs

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: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

Afghan Vice President Hajji Abdul Qadir is assassinated by Afghan warlords. Some believe that Qadir was assassinated by opium warlords upset by Qadir’s efforts to reduce the rampant opium farming and processing that has taken place since the US occupation. Qadir had been overseeing a Western-backed eradication program, and had recently complained that the money meant to be given to reward farmers for not planting opium was in fact not reaching the farmers. Additionally, Qadir “had long been suspected of enriching himself through involvement in the opium trade.” [New York Times, 7/8/2002; Chicago Tribune, 7/8/2002]

Entity Tags: Hajji Abdul Qadir

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

An Afghan refines opium into heroin.An Afghan refines opium into heroin. [Source: BBC]In the past, Afghanistan had mostly exported raw opium, but now many new refineries are converting the opium into heroin. The British government has spent £20 million to eradicate opium, but the program is marred by corruption and largely seen as a failure. The new heroin factories are said to be “working in broad daylight.” There has been a rash of bombings and assassinations in Afghanistan as various factions fight over drug profits. Reporters for a British newspaper are able to determine the precise location of some of these factories, but the US-led forces in Afghanistan are doing nothing to stop them. [Observer, 8/11/2002]

Entity Tags: United Kingdom

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

Beginning around January 2003, Spanish authorities discover that a group of Islamist militants living in Madrid are committing a variety of crimes. Barakat Yarkas, the head of the al-Qaeda cell in Madrid, was arrested with some associates in November 2001 (see November 13, 2001) and this group is largely led by other associates who were not arrested then (see November 13, 2001). Police learn members of this group are creating false passports for other militants, and stealing cars and selling them in Morocco to raise money for their militant activities. [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/10/2005] A number of them are drug dealers. For instance, Jamal Ahmidan, who begins associating with Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet and many of the other militants in 2003, leads a group of about six drug dealers. For example, in December 2003, Ahmidan shoots someone in the leg for failing to pay for the drugs he had given him. And mere days before the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), he flies to the Spanish island of Mallorca to organize a sale of hashish and Ecstasy. Three of the seven men who blow themselves up in April 2003 with Fakhet and Ahmidan are believed to be drug dealers as well (see 9:05 p.m., April 3, 2004). [Los Angeles Times, 5/23/2004; El Mundo (Madrid), 2/12/2006; New York Times Magazine, 11/25/2007] In fact, Spanish authorities have observed militants committing various crimes to fund their activities since 1995, but they continue to merely gather intelligence and none of them are ever arrested for these crimes (see Late 1995 and After). This pattern continues, and none of the militants will be arrested for obvious criminal activity until after they commit the Madrid bombings.

Entity Tags: Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, Jamal Ahmidan

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Spain, 2004 Madrid Train Bombings, Drugs

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

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

Mark Schneider, senior vice president of the nonprofit think tank the International Crisis Group, later says that during a trip to Afghanistan in November 2003, he is told by US military commanders and State Department officials that they are frustrated by rules preventing them from fighting Afghanistan’s booming illegal drug trade. Author James Risen notes the US military’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan states that if US soldiers discover illegal drugs they “could” destroy them, which is “very different from issuing firm rules stating that US forces must destroy any drugs discovered.” An ex-Green Beret later claims that he was specifically ordered to ignore heroin and opium when his unit discovered them on patrol. Assistant Secretary of State Bobby Charles, who fights in vain for tougher rules of engagement (see November 2004), will later complain, “In some cases [US troops] were destroying drugs, but in others they weren’t. [Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld didn’t want drugs to become a core mission.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 152-162]

Entity Tags: Robert Charles, International Crisis Group, Donald Rumsfeld, Mark Schneider

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Drugs, Afghanistan

Bags of hashish, below, found on the fishing boat, above, in the Arabian Sea in December 2003.Bags of hashish, below, found on the fishing boat, above, in the Arabian Sea in December 2003. [Source: Michael Sandburg / US Navy]In December 2003, a US naval vessel stops a small fishing boat in the Arabian Sea. According to a Western anti-narcotics official, a search turns up “several al-Qaeda guys sitting on a bale of drugs.” Later that month, a raid on a drug runner’s house in Kabul, Afghanistan, leads to the discovery of a number of satellite phones. The CIA determines the phones had been used to call numbers linked to suspected al-Qaeda-linked operatives in Turkey, the Balkans, and Western Europe. One official describes this as part of “an incredibly sophisticated network.” In March 2004, US troops raiding a suspected al-Qaeda hideout in remote Afghanistan discover opium with a street value of $15 million. [Time, 8/2/2004]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Drugs, Afghanistan

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

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

Assistant Secretary of State Bobby Charles asks the CIA to analyze where the drug profits in Afghanistan are going. The CIA concludes that it is probable some of the drugs are going to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an al-Qaeda-related group just north of Afghanistan; the Taliban; the anti-US warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; and possibly al-Qaeda. Charles says, “The linkages were there.” Author James Risen later comments, “The connections between drug trafficking and terrorism that the Pentagon didn’t want to acknowledge were real and growing, and were clearly helping to fuel a revival of guerrilla activity in Afghanistan.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 152-162] An article in the Independent this year will come to similar conclusions (see August 14, 2004). Based on this report and other evidence, Charles will push for a tough counter-narcotics policy but will end up losing his job instead (see November 2004).

Entity Tags: Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Taliban, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Robert Charles, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, James Risen

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

A British special forces team in Afghanistan calls in a US air strike on a drug lab. The damage leads to a 15 percent spike in heroin prices. It is unclear if US commanders knew that the proposed target was a drug lab. However, this seems to be nearly the only such strike on drug-related targets since 9/11. Shortly after 9/11, the US military decided to avoid such targets (see Shortly After September 11, 2001). The US continued to gain new intelligence on the location of drug facilities and continued not to act. Assistant Secretary of State Bobby Charles later will complain, “We had regular reports of where the labs were. There were not large numbers of them. We could have destroyed all the labs and warehouses in the three primary provinces involved in drug trafficking… in a week. I told flag officers, you have to see this is eating you alive, that if you don’t do anything by 2006 you are going to need a lot more troops in Afghanistan.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 152-162]

Entity Tags: Robert Charles

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Drugs, Afghanistan

A senior UN official reports that conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated significantly in nearly every respect. According to Lakhdar Brahima, UN special envoy to Afghanistan, the situation “is reminiscent to what was witnessed after the establishment of the mujaheddin government in 1992.” Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a member of the Wahhabi sect of Islam who opposed the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, along with several other warlords accused of atrocities in the mid-1990s, have returned to power and are effectively ruling the country, Brahima says. Several hold key positions within the government. They “continue to maintain their own private armies and… are reaping vast amounts of money from Afghanistan’s illegal opium trade…” The US, while claming to support Afghan President Karzai, is relying on these warlords to “help” hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda factions, although the success rate is abysmal, and much of the intelligence provided by the warlords is faulty. The Taliban has begun to regroup, and now essentially controls much of the southern and eastern regions of the country. [Foreign Affairs, 5/2004]

Entity Tags: Hamid Karzai, Bush administration (43), Taliban, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, Lakhdar Brahima, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Drugs, Afghanistan

Emilio Suarez Trashorras.Emilio Suarez Trashorras. [Source: Agence France-Presse / Getty Images]Spanish government officials announce that the Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004) were funded largely by drug money. The bombers bought the explosives from a criminal using drugs as payment. The criminal, Emilio Suarez Trashorras, will turn out to also work as a government informant, informing about drug deals (see June 18, 2004)). The bombers also use profits from drug sales to rent an apartment, buy a car, and purchase the cell phones used as detonators in the bombs. No estimate is given as to just how much money the plotters made by selling drugs. But because of these profits the bombers apparently do not need any money from militants overseas. [Associated Press, 4/14/2004] One of the main bombers, Jamal Ahmidan, alias “El Chino,” was a long time dealer in hashish. [Irujo, 2005] Several months before the bombings, he shot someone in the leg for failing to pay for the drugs he had given them. [New York Times Magazine, 11/25/2007]

Entity Tags: Jamal Ahmidan, Emilio Suarez Trashorras

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Spain, 2004 Madrid Train Bombings, Drugs

The Independent reports that “there is mounting evidence that [Afghanistan’s] booming opium trade is funding terrorists linked to al-Qaeda.” The governor of Kandahar, in a joint press conference with a US general, states, “One of the most important things prolonging terrorism is drugs. We are 100 percent sure that some of the top terrorists are involved in drug smuggling, and eradication of this industry would not only benefit Afghanistan but would be a step towards eradicating terrorism [worldwide].” The Independent comments, “Patrolling US troops routinely turn a blind eye to opium farming and trading, ignoring poppy fields, and have recruited warlords suspected of being drug dealers to fight al-Qaeda.” Troops are explicitly told not to engage in drug eradication (see November 2003). It is believed that the US and allied military forces are overstretched in Afghanistan, and would face a violent backlash if they took more steps to confront drug trafficking. The Independent notes, “The drugs business is widely believed to have corrupted officials up to cabinet level, and many Afghans fear that they may have exchanged Taliban fundamentalism for rule by narco-mafias in the future.” Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has raised the possibility of using the 17,000 US soldiers still stationed in Afghanistan to take a more active role against the drug trade. [Independent, 8/14/2004] However, nine months later, no such change of policy will be evident. It will be reported that US and Afghan officials decided in late 2004 that a more aggressive anti-poppy effort is “too risky.” [New York Times, 5/22/2005]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

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)

Category Tags: Drugs, Pakistan and the ISI, Afghanistan

Bobby Charles.Bobby Charles. [Source: State Department]Assistant Secretary of State Bobby Charles, who runs the State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), has been growing increasingly concerned about the worsening drug crisis in Afghanistan. He starts warning his superiors that unless the problem is dealt with, it could “devour” the Afghan government. Charles pushes for a multi-faceted counter-narcotics program. One controversial aspect of his program would involve aggressive aerial spraying of Afghan poppy fields using a diluted solution of the pesticide known commercially as Roundup. To minimize Afghan opposition to the spraying, the program would be combined with an informational campaign asserting that the pesticide is safe and an aid package for alternative agricultural development. Further, the US military would begin counter-narcotics missions such as destroying drug labs. Secretary of State Colin Powell presents Charles’ program to President Bush and other top officials shortly after Bush’s reelection. Bush completely agrees with the program, even saying that he is determined not to “waste another American life on a narco-state.” However, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is firmly opposed to the program and, as author James Risen notes, “Time and again in the Bush administration, Rumsfeld simply ignored decisions made by the president in front of his war cabinet, according to several senior administration officials.” One month later, with Powell losing power as he leaves the Bush administration, Rumsfeld decreases support for the program, effectively killing it. Charles is told that he is now “highly inconvenient” and is pushed out of his job by the new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in early 2005. [Risen, 2006, pp. 152-162]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Robert Charles, US Department of State

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

Ahmed Wali Karzai.Ahmed Wali Karzai. [Source: ABC News]According to classified files stolen from a US army base in Afghanistan and sold in a local market, some senior officials in the Afghan government are also believed to be drug lords. Described as “Tier One Warlords” in a document, they include Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the Chief of Staff of the army, and Gen. Mohammad Daud, the Interior Minister for Counternarcotics (see April 17, 2006). Further, Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is listed in a classified document as a “problem maker” who “receives money from drug lords as bribe[s] to facilitate their work and movement.” [Independent, 4/13/2006; ABC News, 6/22/2006; Associated Press, 6/23/2006] In early 2006, Newsweek will report that the president’s brother is “alleged to be a major figure by nearly every source who described the Afghan network… including past and present government officials and several minor drug traffickers.” One Interior Ministry official says, “He is the unofficial regional governor of southern Afghanistan and leads the whole trafficking structure.” Newsweek adds that, “Diplomats and well-informed Afghans believe that up to a quarter of the new Parliament’s 249 elected members are linked to narcotics production and trafficking.” [Newsweek, 1/2/2006]

Entity Tags: Abdul Rashid Dostum, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Mohammad Daud

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

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

Category Tags: Drugs, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the ISI, Key Captures and Deaths

A State Department report on world drug production suggests that, as the Associated Press puts it, “Afghanistan has been unable to contain opium poppy production and is on the verge of becoming a narcotics state.” The area in Afghanistan devoted to poppy cultivation (the raw material for opium and heroin) in 2004 more than tripled the figure for 2003. The report suggests this situation “represents an enormous threat to world stability.” [Associated Press, 3/4/2005] Drug eradication efforts have been almost completely ineffectual. For instance, in May 2005 it will be reported that Afghanistan’s US-trained Central Poppy Eradication Force has destroyed less than 250 acres, well short of its original goal of 37,000 acres. [New York Times, 5/22/2005] The drug economy now accounts for between a third and half of the country’s economic output. The World Bank estimates that opium cultivation can generate at least 12 times as much income as alternative crops. [Slate, 5/18/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, World Bank

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

Sam Karmilowicz, a former security officer at the US embassy in Manila, suggests in an interview with CounterPunch magazine, that US intelligence may have failed to properly follow leads in a counterterrorism case because of a potential link to Pakistani intelligence. In September 1994, Karmilowicz allegedly received information that a Pakistani businessman with possible ties to the ISI was part of a plot to assassinate President Clinton during his November 1994 visit to Manila (see September 18-November 14, 1994). An interagency US security team that was tasked with investigating the tip ended its investigation after only a few weeks. “My experience in the Philippines shows the US government has compartmentalized information… in order to cover-up its gross incompetence or its complicity in illegal and questionable activities conducted by, or against, foreign powers,” Karmilowicz says. [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006]

Entity Tags: Sam Karmilowicz, US intelligence

Category Tags: Drugs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Drugs, 1995 Bojinka Plot, Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs, Philippine Militant Collusion, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia

Mohammad Daud.Mohammad Daud. [Source: Dieter Nagl / AFP / Getty Images]Interior Minister for Counternarcotics Gen. Mohammad Daud is the top counter-narcotics official in the Afghan government, but it is reported on this day that there are allegations Daud is simultaneously a drug kingpin. One anonymous senior drug official from an unnamed country says, “He frustrates counternarcotics law enforcement when it suits him. He moves competent officials from their jobs, locks cases up and generally ensures that nobody he is associated with will get arrested for drug crimes.” Daud denies the allegations. Additionally, there are allegations that some provincial governors, cabinet ministers, and even the president’s own brother are involved in the drug trade. Although there are several dozen prominent major drug traffickers in the country, only two have been arrested and held since 9/11. [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/17/2006] Daud’s name also appears on a classified document from a US military base listing known Afghan drug kingpins (see Early 2005).

Entity Tags: Mohammad Daud

Category Tags: Drugs, Afghanistan

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

Category Tags: Drugs, Afghanistan

NATO Commander Gen. James L. Jones, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, says that the Taliban and al-Qaeda continue to profit from the sale of opium in Afghanistan. He says: “We’re losing ground. It affects the insurgency because there’s increasing evidence that a lot of funding goes from the narcotics traffickers to the criminal elements, to what’s left of al-Qaeda, to the Taliban and anyone else that wants to create mischief.” [ABC News, 9/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Al-Qaeda, James L. Jones

Category Tags: Drugs, Afghanistan

Victor Bout in handcuffs in Thailand on the day of his arrest.Victor Bout in handcuffs in Thailand on the day of his arrest. [Source: Associated Press]Victor Bout, the world’s biggest illegal arms dealer, is arrested in Thailand. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had set up a sting operation to nab Bout. For months, DEA agents posed as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a militant group linked to drug trafficking and organized crime. DEA agents and Thai police meet Bout at the five-star Sofitel Silom Hotel in Bangkok, supposedly to finalize an arms deal, and immediately arrest him and his bodyguards. According to a Thai police officer, Bout does not resist arrest but merely says, “The game is over.” A relatively new DEA task force is behind Bout’s arrest, even as news reports indicate Bout’s fleet of aircraft has been shipping supplies to the US military in Iraq in recent years. The DEA agents posed as arms dealers working for FARC but went after Bout because of evidence that he had been involved in drug smuggling as well. Bout faces up to 10 years in prison in Thailand for taking part in illegal weapons deals there. US officials are also seeking Bout’s extradition to the US so he can face more charges. Bout is a Russian citizen and has been based in Russia in recent years, but the Russian government has decided against seeking his extradition. Mother Jones comments, “Willing to work for anyone, Bout’s business divorced itself from any political, philosophical, or moral constraint. It delivered military cargo with equal enthusiasm to terrorists, guerrilla insurgents, rebel warlords, embattled dictatorships, legitimate businesses, humanitarian aid groups, and sovereign governments, including the United States” (see Late April 2003-2007). He also worked with the Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked groups (see Summer 2002 and Late July 2006). Experts note that Bout’s network has been unique in providing a full range of smuggling services and it is unlikely it will survive without him. [Mother Jones, 3/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Drug Enforcement Administration, Victor Bout

Category Tags: Victor Bout, Drugs, Key Captures and Deaths, Counterterrorism Action After 9/11

American Delta Force commandos in Afghanistan reportedly net a “high ranking al-Qaeda official” in a secret raid that leaves five people dead, upsetting German military officials and intelligence sources who later tell Der Spiegel magazine that the US forces are actually used by a drug clan to execute an underworld rival. The secret raid, which the Germans describe as “unilateral,” takes place in Kunduz province where German forces are assisting with security and reconstruction. According to the Der Spiegel report, the operation commences when a US liaison officer asks a German reconstruction team to guard the Kunduz airport without informing the Germans of the impending operation. A Hercules transport aircraft then lands at the airfield together with a fleet of combat and transport helicopters, which then take off for the nearby town of Imam Sahib. There, the American commandos reportedly storm a guesthouse owned by the local mayor, killing his driver, cook, bodyguard, and two of his guests. According to the US military, one of those captured is the target of the operation, a “high-ranking” member of al-Qaeda, but Der Spiegel reports that the tip-off to the person’s location comes from a source in a rival drug clan close to a member of the Afghan government reputed to be deeply involved in the drug trade. High-ranking German commanders in Afghanistan are later understood to have alerted Der Spiegel to the mission and intelligence sources explain how the Americans are “set up.” There will be no immediate comment from the American military regarding the allegations. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 3/30/2009; Daily Telegraph, 3/30/2009]

Entity Tags: 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment--Delta, Al-Qaeda, Germany, US Special Forces

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

Thousands of US Marines launch Operation Khanjar (“Strike of the Sword”) in a campaign to assert control in the lower Helmand River valley, a stronghold of the Taliban and other insurgent groups and center of the world’s largest opium poppy producing region. Nearly 4,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) are deployed in the offensive, which is being called one of the biggest operations conducted by foreign troops in Afghanistan since the 1989 Soviet withdrawal. Approximately 650 Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police forces also participate in the mission. An adjacent operation called “Panther Claw” initiated by British-led Task Force Helmand has been under way in northern Helmand for a week. Operation Khanjar marks the beginning of a new effort by the US and its allies to assert control in Afghanistan since the arrival of commander General Stanley McChrystal, as well as the first major initiative under the Obama administration’s troop increase and counterinsurgency strategy, which it says is intended to secure and stabilize the country. US commanders say the operation is part of an effort to restore the authority of local government and security forces in Helmand and to secure the region for the presidential elections scheduled for August. “What makes Operation Khanjar different from those that have occurred before is the massive size of the force introduced, the speed at which it will insert, and the fact that where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build, and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces,” says Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general of the MEB in Afghanistan. US Forces reportedly meet with very little direct resistance as insurgents blend into the local population and prepare for later attacks. [Reuters, 7/2/2009; Marines.mil, 7/2/2009]

Entity Tags: Task Force Helmand, Taliban, Larry Nicholson, Obama administration, Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, Stanley A. McChrystal, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

Inter Press Service correspondent Gareth Porter reports that provincial police forces in Helmand province of Afghanistan accused of systemic abuses against the local population are likely returning to the opium-rich area behind US and British forces engaged in major military operations there (see Early Morning July 2, 2009). One stated goal of the coalition operations is to clear out the Taliban and secure the region in order to allow the Afghan National Army and police to take over control of the population. Porter reports that the strategy poses an acute problem because the Afghan police in the province are linked to corrupt local warlord Sher Mohammed Akhunzadeh and have systematically committed abuses against the population, including the abduction and rape of pre-teen boys. As a result, the local population has repeatedly expressed a preference for the Taliban over the local police force (see July 12-14, 2009). Akhunzadeh, an ally of President Hamid Karzai, has been implicated in heroin trafficking and the maintenance of a vengeful private militia from which many of the local police force were drawn under a Karzai plan to form an “Afghanistan National Auxiliary Police.” Porter writes that it is not clear whether US and British forces in Helmand will prevent the return of these abusive police. On the one hand, US troops in the town of Aynak have reportedly sent problematic police stationed in the local headquarters out of the province for several weeks of training, replacing them with a unit they had brought with them. Yet this implies the old police will return after training. Furthermore, the spokesman for the British Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, tells Porter that both the Afghan military and police, who had been ousted by the Taliban before the US-British offensive in Helmand, “are returning to the area bit by bit.” In fact, the Associated Press reports that US troops encountered a group of these police occupying the headquarters when they entered the village of Aynak, suggesting the police force had either returned or had never left. [Associated Press, 7/13/2009; Inter Press Service, 7/29/2009]

Entity Tags: Taliban, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Nick Richardson, Afghan Ministry of Interior, Sher Mohammed Akhunzadeh, Afghan National Army, Afghan National Security Forces, Afghan National Police, Hamid Karzai

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Afghanistan, Drugs

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Key Events

Key Day of 9/11 Events (100)Key Hijacker Events (145)Key Warnings (95)

Day of 9/11

All Day of 9/11 Events (1227)Dick Cheney (52)Donald Rumsfeld (33)Flight AA 11 (145)Flight AA 77 (145)Flight UA 175 (87)Flight UA 93 (240)George Bush (114)Passenger Phone Calls (67)Pentagon (117)Richard Clarke (31)Shanksville, Pennsylvania (23)Training Exercises (56)World Trade Center (87)

The Alleged 9/11 Hijackers

Alhazmi and Almihdhar (343)Marwan Alshehhi (134)Mohamed Atta (205)Hani Hanjour (72)Ziad Jarrah (74)Other 9/11 Hijackers (172)Possible Hijacker Associates in US (80)Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training (73)Hijacker Contact w Government in US (33)Possible 9/11 Hijacker Funding (42)Hijacker Visas and Immigration (135)

Alhazmi and Almihdhar: Specific Cases

Bayoumi and Basnan Saudi Connection (51)CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar (120)Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US (39)

Projects and Programs

Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit (172)Able Danger (60)Sibel Edmonds (61)Phoenix Memo (27)Randy Glass/ Diamondback (8)Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal (67)Remote Surveillance (241)Yemen Hub (75)

Before 9/11

Soviet-Afghan War (105)Warning Signs (432)Insider Trading/ Foreknowledge (53)US Air Security (71)Military Exercises (66)Pipeline Politics (67)Other Pre-9/11 Events (55)

Counterterrorism before 9/11

Hunt for Bin Laden (158)Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11 (223)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (249)

Warning Signs: Specific Cases

Foreign Intelligence Warnings (35)Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB (39)Presidential Level Warnings (31)

The Post-9/11 World

9/11 Investigations (652)9/11 Related Criminal Proceedings (22)9/11 Denials (29)US Government and 9/11 Criticism (67)9/11 Related Lawsuits (24)Media (47)Other Post-9/11 Events (75)

Investigations: Specific Cases

9/11 Commission (257)Role of Philip Zelikow (87)9/11 Congressional Inquiry (41)CIA OIG 9/11 Report (16)FBI 9/11 Investigation (144)WTC Investigation (112)Other 9/11 Investigations (129)

Possible Al-Qaeda-Linked Moles or Informants

Abu Hamza Al-Masri (102)Abu Qatada (36)Ali Mohamed (78)Haroon Rashid Aswat (17)Khalil Deek (20)Luai Sakra (12)Mamoun Darkazanli (36)Nabil Al-Marabh (41)Omar Bakri & Al-Muhajiroun (25)Reda Hassaine (23)Other Possible Moles or Informants (169)

Other Al-Qaeda-Linked Figures

Abu Zubaida (99)Anwar Al-Awlaki (17)Ayman Al-Zawahiri (81)Hambali (39)Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (139)Mohammed Haydar Zammar (44)Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (47)Osama Bin Laden (228)Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh (105)Ramzi Yousef (67)Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (57)Victor Bout (23)Wadih El-Hage (45)Zacarias Moussaoui (159)

Al-Qaeda by Region

"Lackawanna Six" (13)Al-Qaeda in Balkans (168)Al-Qaeda in Germany (189)Al-Qaeda in Italy (55)Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia (149)Al-Qaeda in Spain (121)Islamist Militancy in Chechnya (50)

Specific Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks or Plots

1993 WTC Bombing (73)1993 Somalia Fighting (13)1995 Bojinka Plot (78)1998 US Embassy Bombings (121)Millennium Bomb Plots (43)2000 USS Cole Bombing (114)2001 Attempted Shoe Bombing (23)2002 Bali Bombings (36)2004 Madrid Train Bombings (82)2005 7/7 London Bombings (87)

Miscellaneous Al-Qaeda Issues

Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks (89)Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements (102)Key Captures and Deaths (124)

Geopolitics and Islamic Militancy

US Dominance (112)Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links (255)Iraq War Impact on Counterterrorism (83)Israel (61)Pakistan and the ISI (470)Saudi Arabia (249)Terrorism Financing (312)Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism (322)US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy (69)Algerian Militant Collusion (41)Indonesian Militant Collusion (20)Philippine Militant Collusion (74)Yemeni Militant Collusion (47)Other Government-Militant Collusion (23)

Pakistan / ISI: Specific Cases

Pakistani Nukes & Islamic Militancy (37)Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11 (73)Saeed Sheikh (59)Mahmood Ahmed (30)Haven in Pakistan Tribal Region (179)2008 Kabul Indian Embassy Bombing (10)Hunt for Bin Laden in Pakistan (154)

Terrorism Financing: Specific Cases

Al Taqwa Bank (29)Al-Kifah/MAK (54)BCCI (37)BIF (28)BMI and Ptech (21)Bin Laden Family (62)Drugs (71)

'War on Terrorism' Outside Iraq

Afghanistan (299)Drone Use in Pakistan / Afghanistan (49)Destruction of CIA Tapes (92)Escape From Afghanistan (61)High Value Detainees (179)Terror Alerts (50)Counterterrorism Action After 9/11 (352)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (432)Internal US Security After 9/11 (125)
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