Iran’s Drug Control Chief: US Aircraft Smuggling Narcotics Out of Afghanistan

Eskandar Momeni, director general of Iran Drug Control Headquarters, said Monday that not only has the US war in Afghanistan caused an explosion in poppy cultivation, but also that US military aircraft are smuggling drugs out of the country.

Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported Monday that Momeni blamed the US for the explosion of the Afghan drug trade over the last 20 years.

“In the year 2000, the total production of narcotics in Afghanistan stood at about 200 tons, which rose to over 9,000 tons in 2017, an increase of about 50 times,” Momeni said during a Monday video conference with national anti-drug coordination councils, ISNA reported.

“Based on reliable information, planes operated by NATO and the United States transport these illicit drugs in our neighboring country,” he added.Iran’s PressTV noted that Zamir Kabulov, the Russian presidential envoy for Afghanistan, levied a similar accusation last month, saying, “US intelligence officers … are involved in drug trafficking. Their planes from Kandahar, from Bagram [airfield near Kabul] are flying wherever they want to – to Germany, to Romania – without any inspections.”

Kabulov’s claim came amid disputed reports by the New York Times claiming Russian intelligence operatives were bribing Taliban fighters to kill US troops in Afghanistan. Not only have the Russians and the Taliban refuted the accusation, so have many members of the Trump administration and the Pentagon.

While cultivation of poppies, from which opiates like heroin are derived, exploded in Afghanistan during the many years of civil war that spanned the late 20th century, in 2000, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar decreed that growing poppies should cease, as it was un-Islamic. The result was that, between his July 2000 declaration and the US invasion that deposed the Taliban in October 2001, poppy cultivation dropped by 90% in Afghanistan.“When [the] Taliban ordered to stop poppy cultivation, Mullah Omar could enforce it with his blind eye. No one cultivated poppy after the order was passed,” said Tooryalai Wesa, a former governor of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, in a 2017 interview quoted by the Washington Post. “Now, billions of dollars came and were given to the Ministry of Counternarcotics. It actually didn’t decrease [anything]. The poppy even increased.”

Indeed, the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a congressional watchdog agency, blasted US anti-drug programs in the Central Asian country for their complete and utter failure, writing in June 2018 that “no counterdrug program undertaken by the United States, its coalition partners, or the Afghan government resulted in lasting reductions in poppy cultivation or opium production.”Those efforts have run the gamut from spraying chemical defoliants to bribing farmers not to grow the bright red flowers and everything in between. On the more corrupt end, the US released Haji Juma Khan, whom the White House described in 2009 as among “the world’s top drug traffickers,” from prison in 2018 under mysterious circumstances. According to the Intercept, Khan had worked with the Afghan government, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) over the years, before being arrested in 2008 in connection with a Taliban suicide bombing.

The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February, according to which thousands of US troops have gradually been withdrawing from the country, although as the Taliban and Afghan government have not yet signed a similar accord, it remains unclear if the US will totally withdraw its troops.

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