By Dean Henderson
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has good reasons for trying to shut down US investigations into corruption in his government. The Afghan aristocracy has always run the nation’s heroin trade. But it was the CIA that created it.
In 1933 King Mohammed Zaher Shah took the throne in Afghanistan, ruling the country in feudalistic fashion until he was deposed by his cousin Mohammed Daoud in 1973. A handful of families including the Karzais and the Kalilzidads (Zalmay Kalilzidad is US Ambassador to Afghanistan) owned nearly all arable land, while most Afghans languished amidst some of the planet’s worst poverty. Finally, they’d had enough.
In April 1978 King Daoud was killed in a revolution led by Nor Mohammed Taraki, who became President. Taraki embarked upon an ambitious land reform program to help poor Afghan sharecroppers who were traditionally forced to work the land owned by the king and his cronies. He built schools for women, who were banned from education under the monarchy. He opened Afghan universities to the poor and introduced free health care.
When counter-revolutionary bandits began to burn down universities and girl’s schools, many Afghan’s saw the hand of the CIA. By April 1979, a full seven months before the much-ballyhooed Soviet “invasion” of Afghanistan, US officials were meeting with corrupt Afghan warlords and oligarchs bent on overthrowing Taraki.
As the campaign of sabotage intensified, Kabul revolutionaries called on Soviet leader Leonid Brezynev to send troops to repel the bandits. Brezynev refused. The situation deteriorated.
Pro-Taraki militants, convinced of a CIA destabilization plot, assassinated CIA Kabul Chief of Station Spike Dubbs. On July 3, 1979 President Jimmy Carter signed the first national security directive authorizing secret aid to Afghan warlords. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said later that he had convinced Carter that in his, “…opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.” Brzezinski, who co-founded the Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller, was baiting the Soviets to invade Afghanistan.
The embattled Taraki appointed Tabizullah Amin as cabinet minister in charge of land reform. Amin launched a brutal campaign of terror against political opponents, turning world opinion against the previously celebrated Taraki government. Former KGB Chief Yuri Andropov believed that Amin was an agent provocateur working with the CIA to infiltrate the Kabul government, intent on discrediting its progressive agenda.
Taraki sensed the same and traveled to Moscow to consult with the Soviets on a strategy to get rid of Amin. When he returned to Kabul, he was executed. Amin seized power. A few weeks later CIA-backed warlords massacred dozens of Afghan government officials in the western city of Herat. This combination of events forced Brezynev’s hand.
In December 1979 Soviet tanks rolled across the Panshir Valley, while KGB operatives stormed the Royal Palace in Kabul. They assassinated Tabizullah Amin and installed Babrak Karmal as the new leader of Afghanistan. Brzezinski now had the justification he’d been looking for to begin overtly arming the counter-revolutionaries in Afghanistan.
Though the decade-long Afghan conflict killed 2 million people, Brzezinski later boasted, “That (Carter’s secret directive) was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap.”
CIA agents streamed into Peshawar in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. The city lay at the foot of Khyber Pass, the gateway to Afghanistan. Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees were flooding into Peshawar to escape the looming war. With help from the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), the CIA scoured the refugee camps looking for modern-day Islamic fundamentalist Assassins who were prepared to intensify the guerilla war on Kabul’s socialist government and now, to repel the Soviets from Afghanistan.
The CIA found what it needed in Hezbi-i Isbmi, a force of feudal-minded Islamist fighters assembled and trained by the Pakistani military with CIA oversight. Their leader was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a fanatic who in the early 1970’s had ordered his followers to throw acid into the faces of Afghan women who refused to wear their burkhas. In 1996 Hekmatyar’s troops took Kabul in a coup against the leftist Rabbani government, then handed it over to the Taliban. The recently released Wikileaks documents say Hekmatyar is now helping the Taliban attack US soldiers.
In 1972 Hezbi-i Isbmi murdered hundreds of left-wing students in Afghanistan then fled to Peshawar, where they escaped prosecution under the protection of the US-allied Pakistan military government. The group was feared and despised by Afghans and Pakistanis alike, who viewed them as a terrorist organization.
The US armed these terrorists with Soviet weapons purchased from Egypt, China and Czechoslovakia. Pakistan’s military dictator Zia ul-Huq allowed the CIA to open an intelligence station facing the Soviet Union and to use Pakistani military bases from which the CIA could fly reconnaissance over Afghanistan. These same bases were used to give advanced guerilla warfare training to Hekmatyar’s troops, whom the Reagan State Department would soon fondly refer to as the mujahadeen.
President Zia’s Pakistan became the third largest recipient of US military aid in the world, behind only Israel and Egypt. Much of that aid was going to arm the mujahadeen who launched raids into Afghanistan, seizing large chunks of real estate and immediately planting it to poppies. Between 1982-83 opium harvests along the Afghan/Pakistani border doubled in size, and by 1984 Pakistan was exporting 70% of the world’s heroin.
During that time the CIA Station in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, became the largest spook den in the world. It was no coincidence that Golden Crescent heroin output soon surpassed that of the Golden Triangle, just as the CIA was launching its biggest operation since Vietnam.
While Hekmatyar’s troops planted poppies, another mujahadeen leader, Sayed Ahmed Gailani, was supplying the Turkish Gray Wolves syndicate with Pathan opium. Gailani was a wealthy Afghan aristocrat with ties to former King Zaher Shah. He owned the Peugeot dealership in Kabul and his drug smuggling was underwritten by the Saudis. Hekmatyar himself ran six heroin labs in Baluchistan Province.
But Hekmatyar and Gailani were merely following in the footsteps of Vang Pao, Phoumi Nosavan and Khun Sa, the CIA’s heroin warlords of the Golden Triangle.
In the 1980’s Pakistan became the world’s poster child for political corruption. The Islamabad junta’s unflagging support for Reagan’s mujahadeen was at the root of the corruption. A senior US official stated that, “key Hekmatyar commanders close to the ISI run heroin laboratories in SW Pakistan and the ISI cooperates in heroin operations”. In September 1985 the Pakistan Herald reported that military trucks belonging to the National Logistics Cell of the Pakistan Army were being used to transport arms from the Port of Karachi to Peshawar on behalf of the CIA, and that those same trucks were returning to Karachi sealed by the Pakistani military and loaded with heroin. The practice, according to the Herald, had been going on since 1981, just as Hekmatyar’s forces began planting poppies.
Two high-ranking Pakistani military officers were caught with 220 kilos of heroin, but were never prosecuted. Golden Crescent heroin captured 60% of the US market and bricks of hashish appeared in US cities stamped with a logo of two crossed AK-47 assault rifles circled by the words, “Smoke Out the Soviets”. From 1982-92, roughly the period of US involvement in Afghanistan, heroin addiction in the US rose by 50%. All the while Nancy Reagan was telling us all to “Just Say No”.
For the sake of the oligarchs and their CIA hatchet men, Karzai had better keep the shredder running. There are lots of skeletons in the Afghan closet.