Douglas Farah and Richard Shultz report on Al Qaeda's shift toward Africa for bases of operation and financing.
U.S. Gen. Charles Wald, deputy commander of the European Central Command, has been warning Congress and the Pentagon for months that al Qaeda-affiliated groups are active in Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Niger. The trade in diamonds used by terrorist groups, begun under the protection of former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor, continues despite international efforts to curb it. "The terrorist activity in this area is not going to go away," Wald warned recently. "This could affect your kids and your grandchildren in a huge way. If we don't do something about it, we are going to have a real problem on our hands."
Farah and Shultz discuss the ways that Al Qaeda has tried to adapt to efforts to stop their use of banks by shifting to other means to move money around and raise money such as trading in diamonds. People who think the US and its allies have made some sort of permanent gain in their ability to cut Al Qaeda financing ought to consider the history of the fight against the illegal drug trade.
Speaking of the Taliban and the drug trade: now that the Taliban are overthrown opium poppy growing has surged to place Afghanistan once more in the number 1 spot for heroin production.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage admitted during a hearing last month that last year was the ''biggest year ever -- for poppy cultivation and growth in Afghanistan. So you would be wrong if you don't hold us responsible.'' The future looks even worse: A U.N. report says that two out of every three Afghan farmers plan to increase their poppy crop in 2004.
Dirty drug money
While the administration has made inroads into eradicating Colombian coca fields and is attacking Colombia's heroin as well, it has dangerously ignored Afghanistan's poppy problem. Afghanistan, after a two-year lapse, is once again ''the world's largest cultivator and producer'' of opium and heroin, according to the 2004 White House National Drug Control Strategy. Afghani crops in 2003 were more than double the 2002 crop. As much as half of Afghanistan's GDP now comes from poppy cultivation and heroin production.
Some of that money is getting into the hands of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. So some of that money is going to finance terrorism.
Robert Weiner, co-author of that previous article, was a drug policy spokesman for the Clinton Administration. So there may be some partisan motivation to the complaints. But the complaint has some logic behind it. That the Bush Administration is unwilling to support a major crackdown on Afghan heroin production even as the US finances a major crackdown in Colombia. Yet it is the money that flows in the sales of the Afghan production that is at risk of being diverted to support terrorist activities.
Why the difference in the handling of Afghanistan versus Colombia? Some of the Afghan heroin money flows to the Northern Alliance commanders and troops. Does the US need to look the other way in order to maintain their support for a continued US presence to hunt down Al Qaeda?
Informal networks for transferring money, drug dealing networks, organized crime networks, and the chaos of much of Africa weigh against efforts to cut off financing for terrorists. Do not be too surprised if Al Qaeda becomes the major smuggling organization for getting heroin and other drugs into Europe. Al Qaeda members would have no compunction about harm to non-believers from addictive drug use. Al Qaeda members would also have no problem with being ruthless about knocking off competitors since the competitors would be either non-Muslims or "bad" Muslims who were working for themselves rather than the cause of jihad.
Probably the biggest obstacle facing Al Qaeda as a drug smuggling organization is that intelligence agencies will be far more willing to carry out extra-judicial killings and use other means to stop Al Qaeda that most regular Western law enforcement agencies will rarely if ever use. If terrorist financing becomes heavily reliant upon the illegal drug trade expect to see the fight over the drug trade to become a national security issue handled by spooks and special forces.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2004 July 16 03:26 PM Terrorists Activities|