AFP, May 9, 2007
Taliban and armed Afghan groups process opium to boost drug profits: US
US drug control policy director John Walters said the groups, sometimes with the help of corrupt government officials
BRUSSELS - Taliban insurgents and armed Afghan groups are processing opium in makeshift laboratories to maximise drug profits and better fund the fight against Western forces, a top US drug official said on Monday.
US drug control policy director John Walters said the groups, sometimes with the help of corrupt government officials, are then shifting the heroin to outside networks which move it on through Iran or Pakistan and into Europe.
The list of those suspected of involvement in the drug trade reaches high into Karzai's government.
Nyamat [a former intelligence agent] and an Afghan trafficker singled out Gen. Mohammed Daoud, a former warlord who is Afghanistan's deputy interior minister in charge of the anti-drug effort.
The Kunduz trafficker said he wasn't worried. He counts Daoud as one of his connections. Late in the summer of 2003, he said, Daoud helped him retrieve heroin worth $200,000 that had been seized at the Salang Tunnel.
Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2005
"These processing centres have moved around," he told reporters during a visit to Brussels for talks with European Union and NATO officials, generally in southern provinces like Helmand, Kandahar and Nimroz.
"These labs are not places with beakers and glass-ware. They are essentially cans and pans of chemicals and opium that are mixed up in a kind of dirty kitchen, or a garage where you're changing your oil," he said.
"It's not hard to move that around." Afghanistan produces more than 90 per cent of the world's opium and according to United Nations figures production for 2006 was to increase to a record 6,100 tonnes, after an "alarming" jump in the lawless south.
Opium poppies needs little water and is easy to grow and transport in the drought-stricken country. It is also a major source of funds for the Taliban, which were ousted from power by a US-led coalition in late 2001.
"One of the reasons, aside from the profit, they can benefit by processing the heroin inside the country is that they gain maximum value ... for the product as it crosses their border out of their hands," Walters said. It is then handled by international networks.
"The bulk of it looks like it goes out of Afghanistan through Iran, and being smuggled across the border through Pakistan (and) up via sea routes, and through in some cases Turkey, and into the nations of Europe," he said.
"Some cabinet ministers in Afghanistan are deeply implicated in the drugs trade"
The Telegraph, Feb. 5, 2006
Some heroin also moves into Russia and increasingly through China. He said the Afghan heroin industry, once legal under the Taliban, does not rely on large and powerful structures like the cartels in South America.
"There seems to be a more diverse underlying infrastructure here that involves some key people in Afghanistan, key people in some of the other countries," he said. Corruption is also an important factor.
"We still have problems of corruption, the use of this money to compromise political officials or have some powerful, wealthy political individuals who may be involved in the drug trade," he said.
And despite what he said was the progress made by President Hamid Karzai's government, Afghanistan's police and justice infrastructure was still far from being ready to cope with the problem.
"I frankly feel that it will be some time before they are able to handle some of the most powerful individuals but they are starting to gain confidence," he said.
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