As Obama Prepares to Not Withdraw from Afghanistan, Treasury Declares the War on Drugs There

Jim had a perceptive post this morning talking about how, now that Obama has won re-election promising an Afghan withdrawal plan, his Administration has started negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement that will allow forces to stay past 2014. There were several other hints today that we’ll be in Afghanistan past that promised date, starting with General Joseph Dunford’s confirmation hearing to take over the Afghan Command from General John Allen (which Jim will hit in detail tomorrow).

Then there’s this. For the first time ever, Treasury has designated a key Taliban member–Mullah Naim Barich–not a terrorist, but a drug kingpin.

The Treasury Department has previously sanctioned Taliban leaders and affiliates for their support of terrorism, as well as money-exchange housessupporting the Taliban, but Thursday’s designation marks the first time the department has designated a senior Taliban official for narcotics trafficking.

Treasury said Thursday that Mullah Naim Barich, the “shadow governor” of Afghanistan’s largest opium-producing province, is a narcotics kingpin.

“Today’s action exposes the direct involvement of senior Taliban leadership in the production, manufacturing, and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan and underlines the Taliban’s reliance on the drug trade to finance their acts of terror and violence,” David S. Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a news release. “Treasury will continue exposing links between the international narcotics trade and terrorist networks, in Afghanistan, and wherever else they exist.”

Now, the Taliban and other Afghans have been neck deep in the opium trade forever. Indeed, Wikileaks just released a 2007 Stratfor document claiming that DEA had been ordered to back off Hamid Karzai’s now-deceased brother Ahmed Wali Karzai’s drug involvement.

Yet, as WSJ notes, Treasury has always gone after the Taliban via terrorism designations, not drug ones.

Terrorism designations will be more difficult to sustain if we “pull out” in 2014 declaring victory in Afganistan.

Worry not! We’ve got the Global War on Drugs in Afghanistan now.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

12 replies
  1. JThomason says:

    Well some of us were of the understanding that O would have more flexibility to negotiate matters of foreign concern after the election.

  2. may says:

    has anybody ever taken notice of the islamic eastern Med region wide traditional use of opium?
    it (apparently)has been in existence for millennia.

    as an aside
    just after the capture of the silk road trade route the first camel shipment of opium made it’s way to the celestial kingdom.
    very profitable,very desirable as a medicine but no-one told the Chinese there was a hook in product.

    could it be that most of the raw opium is sold unrefined?

  3. orionatl says:


    either this is more of that famously fabulous 11th-dimensional smoke-and-mirrors (to get the mullet thinking seriously),

    mullah obama
    has been captured and
    is being held hostage by

    the national security forces
    of the world’s greatest nation,

  4. orionatl says:


    thanks for the historical perspective.

    will we american puritans ever come to an understanding of the arrogance and folly of our puritanism?

  5. P J Evans says:

    You know, if we weren’t consuming heroin, the people in Afghanistan would have a smaller market.
    And if we’d fulfilled the promises we made to them, when we first invaded, they wouldn’t have to be producing opium.

  6. DonS says:

    I imagine Karzi will rake in beaucoups cash to be our heroin fighting partner, or adversary, or something. In any case, he’ll rake in the cash.

  7. marksb says:

    @SpanishInquisition: Well that “interview” just sounds weird. A reporter on the phone reporting her impressions and her conversations with Gen P, as if she’s the news source, including
    ““I also have never known him to tell me something that is not true,” Phillips told Meade”
    and then
    “David Petraeus has been speaking directly to our own Kyra Phillips, apparently, since the scandal broke, about his affair …”

    Perhaps Ms. Phillips could spend some of the weekend charting how many times and how many people, including his wife and his military colleagues, he has not told the truth.

    Can we find some sane folks to report on this thing? Perhaps EW and Jim and Bmaz?

  8. bell says:

    …”the Taliban’s reliance on the drug trade to finance their acts of terror and violence”

    does this mean it is ‘high time’ the war machines reliance on the us/uk banking system for financing their acts of terror and violence is fair game too?

    silly me.. i have been thinking all along how the drug trade and the banking system were in cahoots with one another all along…

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