The Guardian, July 26, 2010
Leaked Afghanistan files reveal corruption and drug-dealing
It describes how X, who controlled the local highway police, divided up control of opium areas with another police chief
By Richard Norton-Taylor
The depths of crime and drug-dealing in Afghan society are highlighted in lurid terms by the US intelligence reports.
Harvesting opium in a poppy field in Farah province. (Photo: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
One log claims to describe how a "notorious criminal" was recruited to spy for Iran. It says he returned to Afghanistan and then became a police chief, gaining power and wealth by drug-dealing. This byzantine story comes from Bala Beluk, a district in the country's south-western province of Farah.
The report from Farah's US provincial reconstruction team (PRT), dated 13 May 2007, records: "It was reported that [X] is a notorious criminal in Afghanistan and a spy for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)."
The report claims: "During the time of the jihad in Afghanistan against the Russians, [X] did not participate in the jihad, but went into Iran and became a spy for the IRGC. By order of the IRGC, the jihadi commanders in western Afghanistan were to protect [X] and help him attain a government job. In this way, [X] became [a] chief of police."
While he was chief of police, says the report, he "encouraged the farmers of Bala Bluk, Khaki Safeed, and Bagwa districts, Farah province, to start to cultivate poppies". He made money because "[X] was in a position to protect these farmers and to collect a tithe from them as well".
It describes how X, who controlled the local highway police, divided up control of opium areas with another police chief.
The villainous police chief depicted in the report made short work of a presumably upright police officer, who opposed him. The files describe how this man, Qateb Saleh, "tried to stop a convoy of drug smugglers in western Farah province.
"During the ensuing struggle, Qateb Saleh shot one of the drug smugglers, who were [sic] a member of the Gorg tribe. The Gorg tribesmen are notorious drug smugglers in Lash Jaween district, X had Qateb Saleh thrown in jail because of his actions against the drug smugglers." The report continues: "X later sold Qateb Saleh into the hands of the Gorg tribe. Members of the Gorg tribe put a rope around Qateb Saleh's's neck and dragged him behind a car through the streets of Farah city ... until he died."
Another report, a US "daily cable summary", dated 6 April 2007 is one of many detailing how popular support for opium poppy cultivation derails well-meaning foreign attempts to curtail it. "Thousands of protesters in Helmand province thwarted the Afghan Eradication Forces (AEF) attempts to eradicate poppy in the provinces Nahi Sirraj district on April 6; efforts will resume tomorrow," it says.
The action followed what are described as intense negotiations with ISAF, UK Task Force Helmand, and GoA [government of Afghanistan] officials to gain consent for eradicating local opium poppies. The report adds: "The protesters complained to Helmand deputy governor ... that the AEF's presence was unfair given the governor's earlier promises that there would be no more eradication in the district. GoA officials, for four hours, attempted to reach a compromise with the protesters but were forced to send the AEF back to their base camp."
The report reflects the concern among British commanders about Nato and UN's aim to eradicate opium poppies in Helmand, the source of most of the heroin on British streets.
Although Tony Blair said Britain would take lead responsibility for eradicating the poppy harvest, little thought was given to the problems involved. British commanders warned that such an unpopular move, depriving farmers of their livelihood, would increase attacks on their troops. Reluctant Afghan authorities were persuaded to back the plan, as Britain and the US insisted it had to be "Afghan-led".
The logs contain numerous examples of police corruption. A September 2007 report to Nato forces warns that a former police chief met a "prominent Taliban leader" in Kohi Safi, a district in Parwan province, south-east Afghanistan – which includes the large US base at Bagram – and instructed his officers to give the Taliban commander "free passage". The same month, a second report notes that a police chief had ordered his officers not to pursue the Taliban leader, described as a "suspected leader of multiple fighters".
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