How the US military's opium war in Afghanistan was lost - BBC News
Soldiers patrol opium fields in Afghanistan. [Source:]

On September 11, 2001—a day that will live in infamy in U.S. history—hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center in New York City and one side of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., which experienced destruction. President George W. Bush’s administration started a war in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, after quickly blaming Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and Afghanistan’s Taliban for harboring bin Laden.

The Bush administration, however, had spurned an agreement by which the Taliban would have turned over bin Laden which was agreed to following al-Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000. According to Kabir Mohabbat, an Afghan-American businessman and State Department envoy to the Taliban, by the end of 1999, in the face of crippling U.S. sanctions, the Taliban had come to see bin Laden and his training camps as “just a damn liability.”

A person with a beard and a white turban with a microphone

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Osama bin Laden speaks at a press conference in Khost, Afghanistan, in 1998. The Taliban came to see him as a nuisance and offered to turn him over to the U.S. [Source:]

The fact that the Taliban then were hostile to bin Laden, and wanted to turn him over but were refused, indicates that the Bush administration had ulterior motives for invading Afghanistan. These motives apparently included gaining access to resources, particularly opium, to boost the US-dominated Western financial system.

Afghan’s Oil and Lithium

While organizations such as Architects and Engineers for 911 Truth’s nearly 3,500 industry professionals have provided a mass of evidence on the pre-planned demolition of the twin towers and World Trade Center 7,[1] Professor Peter Dale Scott and others unearthed evidence on the Bush administration’s real reason for invading Afghanistan. They say it was for access to its poppy fields and its proximity to oil resources.

Prof. Scott quoted a Foreign Military Studies Office of Fort Leavenworth article published three months before the World Trade Center destruction. It discussed the large inland sea to the west of Afghanistan, through which oil companies proposed a key pipeline: “The Caspian Sea appears to be sitting on yet another sea—a sea of hydrocarbons [oil, gas, etc].”[2]

Kashagan: A look at Caspian Sea oil and natural gas production
The prospects of enabling unlimited oil exploration for U.S. oil corporations in the Caspian Sea was a key motive behind the Afghan War. [Source:]

The U.S. had also identified vast Afghan mineral resources, including copper, cobalt, gold and, perhaps most importantly, critical industrial metals like lithium. The Pentagon stated that lithium deposits they found could lead the country to equal or surpass the world-leading supply found in Bolivia. Lithium is increasingly used in batteries of all kinds, from household to auto and airplane, and in various types of electronic equipment.[3]

Afghan laborers collect salt from mines in Namak Aab district of Takhar province, Afghanistan.
Afghans hoping to strike lithium. [Source:]

Additionally, a number of sources, such as Minot State University’s Rural Methamphetamine Education Project, offer an interesting side note regarding lithium’s use in underground methamphetamine labs: “Lithium metal is a key element in the clandestine production of methamphetamine. Lithium is used as a reducing agent during the chemical process.”[4]

In September 2017, Reuters stated that President Donald Trump met with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani who agreed to let U.S. companies develop Afghanistan’s reserves of minerals. Given the immense challenges of profitable resource extraction in Taliban-held territory, Australian research firm analyst Mike Harrowell said that this project “makes no sense on almost any level” unless understood a state-subsidized, long-term project for Afghanistan.[5]

To Slow U.S. Exit, Afghanistan Leader Offers Trump a Cost Reduction - The  New York Times
Donald Trump shakes hands with Ashraf Ghani in September 2017 meeting. Ghani was agreeing to sell off Afghanistan’s mineral wealth while personally enriching himself. [Source:]

CIA, “Muslim Brotherhood,” Pakistan Intelligence and Heroin Trafficking

Reuters [British AP] confirmed that a guerrilla warfare training camp in Afghanistan was “set up in the early 1980s by the CIA and [Pakistani] ISI and run by … [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar.” Hekmatyar founded a Muslim Brotherhood-style organization in Afghanistan, Hizb-i-Islami. It eventually became a leading component of the CIA-backed mujaheddin resistance to the Soviet Union.[6]

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Richard J. Kerr, Deputy Director of CIA, right, meeting with Hekmatyar in Islamabad in 1988. [Source:]

In his book The Politics of Heroin, Professor Alfred W. McCoy stated that Hekmatyar’s organization had hundreds of heroin refineries, and they targeted the Pakistani people, increasing heroin addiction there from 5,000 users in 1980 to 1.3 million by 1986.

This was further confirmed in a 1990 front-page article in The Washington Post which stated that according to a senior White House official, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Pakistan ISI were American allies involved in heroin trafficking.[7]

The increased CIA involvement in the Golden Crescent area for poppy fields along the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan contributed to the ever-increasing opium production there. After a growth to 1,200 tons in 1978, it increased more than three-fold in the next twenty years. The United Nations said Afghanistan’s opium production had risen to 4,600 tons in 1999, or seventy percent of the world’s crop.[8]

Cultivating poppies in Afghanistan for opium. Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency.
Cultivating poppies in Afghanistan for opium. [Source:]

Afghanistan’s Taliban Banned Opium

Before September 11, 2001, a major change took place in Afghanistan that affected the world’s opium trade. The Taliban controlled most of the country at that time and, by 1999, they were profiting the most, in supplying a great majority of the world’s heroin.

Mohammed Omar - Wikipedia
Mullah Mohammed Omar [Source:]

In July 2000, as confirmed by a United Nations report printed in The Washington Post, the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, imposed a ban on opium production in Afghanistan.

The New York Times also printed the 2001 headline “Taliban’s Ban on Poppy a Success, U.S. Aides Say.” That ban “resulted in 70% of the world’s illicit opium production [4,600 tons] being virtually wiped out at a stroke” that year. The Taliban reportedly did this for religious reasons.[9]

Afghans collect resin from poppies on a poppy field in Lashkar Gah, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday. Afghanistan is one of the top producers of opium in the world.
Afghans collect resin from poppies on a poppy field in Lashkar Gah, south of Kabul, Afghanistan. [Source:]

The Northern Alliance, also known as the United Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, had formed in 1996 as an opposition group to the Taliban. The CIA backed them, as they tried to counter the opium ban in Afghanistan in 2000.

The Northern Alliance increased its own opium production and trafficking. The London Observer wrote: “During the ban the only source of poppy production was territory held by the Northern Alliance. It tripled its production … for 83% of the total Afghan production for 185 tons of opium during the ban.”[10]

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Ahmad Shah Massoud with Northern Alliance fighters in the 1990s. [Source:]

U.S. Invasion and Increase in Opium Supply

The Northern Alliance’s drastically low production went on for only 15 months, before the U.S. and other Western countries invaded on October 2, 2001. The timing of the Afghanistan invasion leaves the impression that a motive was to regain control over the opium-producing poppy fields. Besides illicit opium and heroin, opiates are used in various medicines.[11]

After the Afghanistan invasion, the U.S. and British forces put Hamid Karzai in power. Karzai had represented the Northern Alliance/United Front.

In early October 2008, The New York Times published evidence suggesting that Hamid’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, protected caches of heroin found by lower-level Afghan authorities. The article claimed solid evidence of Ahmed Karzai’s drug trafficking, and noted that even the “White House believes Ahmed Wali Karzai is involved in drug trafficking,” though they only talked about him being a political liability.[12]

Karzai's Brother Assassinated in Kandahar - WSJ
Ahmed Wali Karzai [Source:]

Several weeks later, The New York Times printed another article stating that Ahmed Karzai had been on the CIA’s payroll for the past eight years. BBC News reported that, by 2007, the 8,000-plus tons of Afghan opium production almost doubled any previous production.[13] In his book American War Machine, Prof. Peter Dale Scott quoted a U.S. State Department source stating that the country accounted for “93% of the world’s opium.”

Prof. Scott also cited a 2006 report to the World Bank which stated that, “at the top level, around 25-30 key traffickers … [worked] closely with sponsors in top [Afghan] government and political positions. Prof. Scott further noted how the CIA worked with Ahmad Shah Massoud, Colonel Abdul Razik, Haji Zaman (who “British and American officials persuaded to return” to Afghanistan in 2001), Sher Mohammed Akhundzada, and Haji Bashar Noorzai who were all involved in drug trafficking.[14]

Opiates, Money Laundering and Stock Markets

A former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Housing and Wall Street insider, Catherine Austin Fitts, explained a little-known aspect of illicit drugs’ huge effect on the U.S. stock market. Fitts had worked in the first President Bush administration and was managing director and a member of the board of directors of Dillon, Read & Co, considered one of the “Wall Street dynasties.” She later started The Solari Group, Inc.[15]

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Catherine Austin Fitts [Source:]

Fitts suggested that the CIA and Department of Justice had created a secret understanding that permitted the CIA to help its allies and assets to traffic in drugs with impunity. Scholars like Alfred McCoy and Peter Dale Scott have documented how CIA assets trafficked Southeast Asian opium from the Golden Triangle during America’s second longest war in Vietnam. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) led a Senate investigation that documented U.S. governmental complicity with drug traffickers in Central America in the 1980s, which was reported on by mainstream publications like the Washington Post. A CIA Inspector General’s report confirmed that covert networks which supplied arms clandestinely to the Nicaraguan Contras (counter-revolutionaries), were bringing narcotics back into American cities with the “blessing of U.S. officials” at the height of the urban drug epidemic.[16]

Real Life Air America: The CIA's Covert Airline Used for Everything,  including Drug Smuggling
Air America helicopters which smuggled drugs during the Vietnam War. [Source:]

Fitts referred to money made from illicit drug sales as “narco dollars.” She said “The power of narco dollars comes when you combine drug trafficking with the stock market,” detailing how narco dollars exponentially increase the value of a company’s stock. She explained that stocks are valued at 20 times their income so, “for every $100,000 of income [a company] makes, its stock [total market capitalization] goes up $2 million.”[17]

According to Fitts, banks and many other companies “launder” money from drug sales in their company’s income to increase their stock market value. Laundering means taking the cash from drug dealers and listing it in their income reports as part of their sales. With the 20 times increase in the stock value of the company that owns the restaurant and banks, it’s easy to return the money to the drug dealer in other ways that launders it of its source from the illegal drug trade, and hides it from the Internal Revenue Service.[18]

Whatever one makes of Fitts, the uncanny overlap of America’s foreign interventions and the world’s top drug traffickers is cause for concern. As one of the most lucrative international trades, proceeds from drug trafficking cannot but have some considerable impact on the dollar-dominated global financial system.

International Banks’ Laundering and a Stock Theft Excuse?

The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime agreed with Fitts on the role of all this cash keeping some banks afloat, noting that during the bank crisis of 2008 and 2009, a number of “inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade … there were signs that some banks were rescued that way.”[19]

The International Monetary Fund stated, “The amount of money laundering occurring on a yearly basis could range between … $600 billion and $1.5 trillion.” U.S. lawmakers believe that “half is being laundered through U.S. banks.” A majority of this money revolves around the drug trade.[20]

Carl Levin - Wikipedia
Carl Levin [Source:]

In a 2001 report, Correspondent Banking: A Gateway for Money Laundering, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, released the results of a year-long investigation on how foreign banks use U.S. banks to launder money.

One of its many findings was that U.S. banks were working with foreign banks and “Laundering illicit proceeds and facilitating crime by accepting deposits or processing wire transfers involving funds that the high-risk foreign bank knew or should have known were associated with drug trafficking.”[21]

Correspondent Banking - A Gateway For Money Laundering: ImpactAML-INX3  Financial Press: Books

The report implicated Bank of America, Bank of New York, Barnett Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank (now J.P. Morgan Chase), Citibank, First Union National Bank, Harris Bank International, Popular Bank of Florida, Security Bank N.A, and Toronto Dominion Bank (New York branch) in money laundering.[22]

The Los Angeles Times noted that the European banks involved in this money laundering included HSBC, Credit Suisse, Barclays, Lloyds, and ING.[23] Bloomberg News reported that Europe’s largest bank, HSBC, failed to monitor more than $670 billion in wire transfers and $9.7 billion in purchases of U.S. currency, “allowing money laundering, prosecutors said.”[24]

BoE dividend pressure reignites HSBC domicile debate | Financial Times

According to Professor James Petras, “U.S. banks have developed a highly elaborate set of policies for transferring illicit funds to the U.S., investing those funds in legitimate businesses and legitimating them … [to] buttress a fragile empire.”[25]

Headlines in France and elsewhere have stated, “The Taliban vow to ban opium again.” While President Biden’s Afghanistan pullout appears commendable, it is uncertain what impact the decline in opium production will have upon the Western financial system if the Taliban’s opium ban is successful.

This article was adapted from chapters of this writer’s book, Drugs as Weapons Against Us.

  1. Peter Dale Scott, Drugs, Oil and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia and Indochina (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003).

  2. Lester W. Grau, “Hydrocarbons and the New Strategic Region: The Caspian Sea and Central Asia.” Military Review, May-June 2001, cited in Scott, Drugs, Oil and War, p. 31. On proposed oil pipelines, see Paul Mathieu and Clinton R. Shiells, “The Commonwealth of Independent States Troubled Energy Sectors,” Finance and Development (a quarterly magazine of the International Monetary Fund) Vol. 39 No. 3, September 2002, fandd/2002/09/mathieu.html

  3. James Risen, “U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan,” The New York Times, June 13, 2010, On lithium,

  4. See the Rural Methamphetamine Education Project at Minot State University: .

  5. Reuters Staff, “Trump, Ghani agree U.S. can help develop Afghanistan’s rare earth minerals,” Reuters, September 21, 2017.

  6. On Reuters quote, see Levon Sevunts, “Who’s Calling the Shots? Chechen Conflict Finds Islamic Roots in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” The Gazette, Montreal, October 26, 1999.

  7. The Washington Post, May 13, 1990. On increase of addicts in Pakistan, Pakistan Narcotics Control Board, National Survey on Drug Abuse in Pakistan (Islamabad: Narcotics Control Board, 1986), pp. iii, ix, 23, 108; Zahid Hussain, “Narcopower: Pakistan’s Parallel Government?” Newsline (Karachi), December 1989, p. 17. All in, Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1991), pp. 453, 455.

  8. On 1971-78, see McCoy, The Politics of Heroin, p. 446. On 1999, see Cooley, Unholy Wars, p. 139. Cited in Scott, Drugs, Oil, and War, pp. 40-41.

  9. Barbara Crossette, “Taliban’s Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say,” The New York Times, May 20, 2001, Also see Paul Salopek, “With Taliban gone, poppy crops return,” Chicago Tribune, December 26, 2001,

  10. Paul Harris, “Victorious Warlords Set to Open the Opium Floodgates,” The Observer/The Guardian (UK), November 24, 2001, .

  11. On dollar per milligram for opiates such as Oxycontin: .

  12. James Risen, “Reports Link Karzai’s Brother to Afghan Heroin Trade,” The New York Times, October 4, 2008,

  13. Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazetti and James Risen, “Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by C.I.A.” The New York Times, October 27, 2009. Alastair Leithead, “Afghanistan Opium Production at Record High,” BBC News, August 27, 2007.

  14. “25-30 traffickers” see “Afghanistan: Drug Industry and Counter-Narcotics Policy,” Report to the World Bank, November 28, 2006,,,contentMDK:21133060-pagePK:146736~theSitePK:223547,00.html . “93% of world’s opium” from USA Today, January 12, 2009. “Massoud,” of Northern Alliance chosen as principal ally despite national security adviser’s objection, who said “Massoud was a drug trafficker.” Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, (New York: Penguin, 2004), p. 536. “Zaman” Philip Smucker, Al Qaeda’s Great Escape,” (Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 2004), p. 9. “Razik” a drug trafficker and Karzai ally whose rise was “abetted by … NATO commanders.” Mattieu Aikins, “The Master of Spin Boldak,” Harper’s Magazine, December 2009, “Akhundzada–” in 2005 DEA agents found more than nine tons of opium in his office. He was then “given a seat in the senate.” Independent (London), April 13, 2006; James Nathan, “Ending the Taliban’s Money Stream: U.S. Should Buy Afghanistan’s Opium,” Washington Times, January 8, 2009. “Norzzai” found by House International Relations Committee testimony to be smuggling two metric tons of heroin to Pakistan every eight weeks. Mark Corcoran, Australian Broadcasting Company, 2008, see All cited or adapted from Peter Dale Scott, American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010). Amazon Kindle edition. “2007 … 93% of world’s opium” from section “America’s Addiction to Drug-Assisted War: Afghanistan in the 1980s.” “Massoud, Zaman, and Razik … drug traffickers” from “America’s Return in 2001, Again with the Support of Drug Traffickers.”

  15. On Fitts’s résumé, see . On Dillon, Read as one of Wall Street Dynasties, see Charles Geisst, The Last Partnerships: Inside the Great Wall Street Money Dynasties (New York: McGraw Hill, 2001), http://books. summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. Also see her hosting of a drug forum reprinted by The New York Times:

  16. On CIA Inspector General reporting CIA drug trafficking, Dale Russakoff, “Shifting Within Party to Gain His Footing,” The Washington Post, A1, A8, 7/26/04. Catherine Austin Fitts, “Narco Dollars for Beginners; How the Money Works in the Illicit Drug Trade; Part II: The Narco Money Map, Narco News Bulletin, October 31, 2001. For other researchers on Air America, see Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade (New York: Lawrence Hill, 1976/1991), and Christopher Robbins, Air America (New York: Avon Books, 1985).

  17. Catherine Austin Fitts, “Narco Dollars for Beginners; How the Money Works in the Illicit Drug Trade; Part II: The Narco Money Map, Narco News Bulletin, October 31, 2001.

  18. Catherine Austin Fitts, “Narco Dollars for Beginners; How the Money Works in the Illicit Drug Trade; Part II: The Narco Money Map, Narco News Bulletin, October 31, 2001,

  19. Rajeev Syal, “Drug Money Saved Banks in Global Crisis, Says UN Adviser,” The Guardian/The Observer (UK), December 12, 2009,

  20. “Money Laundering,” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin vol. 70, no. 5 (May 2001), pp. 1-9. In Michigan State University Libraries, Criminal Justice Resources: Money Laundering: http://staff. . Note that the U.S. General Accounting Office wrote a report in the new millennium outlining the huge scope of money laundering. It stated that “$500 billion to $1 trillion is laundered worldwide annually, according to the United Nations Office of Drug Control and Prevention. ”United States General Accounting Office, “Report to Congressional Requesters: Combatting Money Laundering,” September 2003, d03813.pdf Also see Fitts, “Narco Dollars for Beginners.”

  21. Linda Gustitus, Elise Bean, and Robert Roach, Democratic Staff, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, “Correspondent Banking: A Gateway for Money Laundering,” p. 28. From different pdf. better web link here:

  22. “Levin Shows How U.S. Banks are Used to Launder Drug Money and Fraud Proceeds: Findings of Year-Long Staff Investigation into High Risk Foreign Banks Released Today,” February 5, 2001, used-to-launder-drug-money-and-fraud-proceeds/?section=alltypes. For a later hearing where Sen. Levin discussed these issues, see transcript:

  23. Associated Press, “HSBC to Pay $1.9 Billion to Settle Money-Laundering Case,” Los Angeles Times, December 11, 2012,

  24. Christie Smythe, “HSBC Judge Approves $1.9 B Drug Money Laundering Accord,” July 3, 2013,

  25. James Petras, “Dirty Money, Foundation of U.S. Growth and Empire,” La Jornada, May 19, 2001, reprinted in Global Research

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About the Author


  1. The US is a miasma of corruption. When the illicit drug trade is necessary to continue the expansion of its economy, you know that the whole rotten edifice needs to be pulled down. It is a danger to the whole World!

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