poppies and pipelines

pipelines, poppies, al-Qaeda and control of Eurasia

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"To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11."
-- Tony Blair comments to the Commons liaison committee, (London) Times, July 17 2002,12956,1036687,00.html

13 November 2013 Last updated at 02:41 ET
Afghanistan opium harvest at record high - UNODC


Poppies for "Poppy" Bush (George HW Bush)
Let's see now...
The Taliban in Afghanistan destroys their entire opium crop in January of 2001.
The United States bombs, attacks and has occupied Afghanistan since Oct 2001.
Now Afghanistan is the top heroin producer...'s not about controlling drug profits, or is it?
- From The Wilderness


The Lies About Taliban Heroin

by Jamey Hecht


Why We Are In Afghanistan (in my humble opinion)

1. heroin poppies & paste;

2. pipeline control;

3. access to valuable minerals in Afghanistan & adjoining regions;

4. DOD procurement pulling tax $$ into profits for KBR-Halliburton, Blackwater, Boeing, Raytheon, McDonnel Douglas, Northrop Grumman, etc., the giant weapons corporations that maintain the federally run socialist mini-state that is the US Military's global web of bases;

5. strategic regional encirclement;

6. the spooky unconscious collective aggression of US society, which both sacrifices its soldiers, and attacks the enemy, for lack of a culture more capable of diffusing aggression.

The cover story--about democracy and terror and humanitarian effort--is the absurd part. The actual reasons for this war and the hundreds like are not irrational or foolish, but evil.

PBS's Bill Moyers' Journal on Jan. 30, 2009

BILL MOYERS: Marilyn Young is a professor of history at New York University. She's published numerous books and essays on foreign policy, including THE VIETNAM WARS, 1945-1990, THE NEW AMERICAN EMPIRE and IRAQ AND THE LESSONS OF VIETNAM. She is the co-editor of a collection of essays to be released next month titled BOMBING CIVILIANS: A TWENTIETH-CENTURY HISTORY.

Pierre Sprey is a former Pentagon official, one of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's famous "whiz kids" who helped design and develop two of the military's most successful airplanes, the F-16 Falcon Fighter and the A-10 Warthog Tankbuster. But in the late 1970s, with a handful of Pentagon and congressional insiders, Sprey helped found the military reform movement. They risked their careers taking issue with a defense bureaucracy spending more and more money for fewer and fewer, often ineffective weapons.


PIERRE SPREY: Their importance is enormously exaggerated, as is their glamour. A Predator is a very large radio-controlled model airplane with a 48-foot wingspan and a snowmobile motor in the back. It only goes about 80 miles an hour. And it stays up for 10, 15 hours and carries a missile. And when they launch the missile, the missile is not pinpoint accurate. You know, if it's a house, reasonably often it hits the house it's aimed at. And when it does, it usually kills a bunch of other people around.

MARILYN YOUNG: And it's true, you can aim at this table. But the question is who's sitting at - well, they might want to aim at this table. But, you know, who's sitting at the table? And you don't know. Or actually you do want to hit Pierre but you don't want to hit the two of us. Unfortunately, pieces of what hit him hit us. And we are severely injured or dead. But really Pierre is what you wanted and Pierre is what you got. And this is supposed to be a triumph. And it seems to me that it is a triumph in the most abstract sense. And if you are on the ground as one of these things come at you, the material meaning of being bombed becomes very clear. And that's not ever discussed or taken into account.

BILL MOYERS: The material meaning?

MARILYN YOUNG: Yes. What it feels like to be bombed, not to be in the crosshairs going down but to be on the ground looking up. And the footage that we have in the sense we have of drones is of someone 10,000 miles away pushing a button and, wham, there it goes. But nobody's sitting there on the ground looking at what happens after it goes up.

PIERRE SPREY: And what happens on the ground is for every one of those impacts you get five or ten times as many recruits for the Taliban as you've eliminated. The people that we're trying to convince to become adherents to our cause have turned rigidly hostile to our cause in part because of bombing and in part because of, you know, other killing of civilians from ground forces. But we're dealing with a society here, that's based on honor, you know? The Pashtun are very ancient people.

BILL MOYERS: This is the tribe in the southern part of the-

PIERRE SPREY: Well, it's not a tribe. It's a nation. This is 40 million people spread across Afghanistan and Pakistan, you know, who don't even recognize that border. It's their land.

BILL MOYERS: Forty million?

PIERRE SPREY: There's 40 million of them. That's a nation, not a tribe. Within it are tribal groupings and so on. But they all speak the common language. And they all have a very similar, very rigid, in lots of ways very admirable code of honor much stronger than their adherence to Islam.

PIERRE SPREY: They have to resist, you know, being invaded, occupied, bombed, and killed. It's a matter of honor. And they're willing to die in unbelievable numbers to do that.

BILL MOYERS: Are you suggesting that these strikes could be contributed to the destabilization of Pakistan, one of our allies?

MARILYN YOUNG: It's clear that they're doing that. I mean, there never was before an organization called Taliban in Pakistan. This didn't exist as an organization. It does now. It's unclear to me as well the relationship between our punitive enemy, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. That's unclear. And it's, it's very unclear what American policy will be with respect to either group. Mainly what's unclear is what our goal is in Afghanistan. It's really unclear.


“Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death” was Broadcast Simultaneously on over 140 Radio and Cable Public Access Stations, Satellite TV and the Internet Marking Its First U.S. Showing
Film Documents Alleged Massacre of 3,000 Taliban Prisoners in Afghanistan
CIA veteran explains why bombing won't solve terrorism problem
US concern for Afghan women isn't sincere
AFGHANISTAN 1979-1992 America's Jihad
from William Blum, "Killing Hope"
1979: Covert War in Afghanistan


In 1973, the Afghan monarchy was overthrown. The new government, led by Mohammad Daoud - one of the king's cousins - was supported by the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and other leftist parties and organizations.

         The U.S. and Iran pressured Daoud to sever ties the U.S.SR.  The U.S. offered $2 billion in aid and urged Afghanistan to join the Regional Cooperation for Development, which included Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, America's main client states in the region.

         The Daoud regime began moving steadily into the U.S. orbit.  They killed a PDP leader, arresting many others and purged hundreds of their sympathizers from government positions.  In April 1978, the PDP, aided by military supporters, revolted against Daoud and took power. The stated goal of this "April revolution" was to drag Afghanistan out of feudal existence. Life expectancy was about 40, infant mortality was about 25%, sanitation was primitive, there was widespread malnutrition and illiteracy was more than 90%.

         In William Blum's classic summary of the CIA's covert wars, Killing Hope, he outlines some of the revolutionary government's social and economic programs:

         "The new government under President Taraki declared a commitment to Islam within a secular state, and to non-alignment in foreign affairs. It said the coup was not foreign inspired and that they were not Communists but rather nationalists and revolutionaries. They pushed radical reforms, they talked about class struggle, they used anti-imperialist rhetoric, they supported Cuba, they signed a friendship treaty and other cooperative agreements with the Soviets and they increased the number of Soviet civilian and military advisers in Afghanistan.... In May 1979, British political scientist Fred Halliday said 'probably more has changed in the countryside over the last year than in the two centuries since the state was established.'"67

         The most significant of these changes included the cancellation of peasant's debts to landlords, the building of hundreds of schools and medical clinics, the outlawing of child marriage and the marital exchange of women for money or commodities, the legalization of trade unions and women's education.

         This new government was not, of course, acceptable to the U.S., which allied itself with large landowners, tribal chiefs, Afghan businessmen and royalty.  Within two months, the new government was under attack by conservative Islamist guerrillas (mujahideen).

Pretext Incident

In his memoirs, former CIA director Robert Gates (1991-1993) said that the U.S. provoked the December 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan by giving military assistance to the mujahideen. Gates recalls a meeting, nine months earlier, on March 30, 1979, when Under Secretary of Defense Walter Slocombe said "there was value in keeping the Afghan insurgency going, 'sucking the Soviets into a Vietnamese quagmire.'"68

         In 1998, this U.S. effort to entrap the Soviets in the Afghan civil war, was confirmed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's National Security Advisor (1977-1981).  Brzezinski bragged that by covertly arming and financing the mujahideen, the U.S. deliberately drew the Soviets into the war: "According to the official version of history, the CIA assistance to the Mujahideen began during 1980, i.e. after the Soviet army had invaded Afghanistan on December 24, 1979. But the reality, kept secret until now, is very different: it was July 3, 1979 when President Carter signed the first directive on the clandestine assistance to opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. On that day, I wrote a note to the President in which I explained that in my opinion this aid would bring about a military intervention by the Soviets..... We did not push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would."69

         In March 1979, Afghan President Taraki visited Moscow to request Soviet help to fight the mujahideen. The Soviets did promise some military aid, but they would not commit ground troops. As Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin told Taraki: "The entry of our troops into Afghanistan would outrage the international community, triggering a string of extremely negative consequences. Our common enemies are just waiting for the moment when Soviet troops appear in Afghanistan. This will give them the excuse they need to send armed bands into the country."70

         Blum notes that "prior to the Soviet invasion, the CIA had been beaming radio propaganda into Afghanistan and cultivating alliances with exiled Afghan guerrilla leaders by donating medicine and communications equipment. U.S. foreign service officers had been meeting with Mujahideen leaders to determine their needs at least as early as April 1979. And, in July, President Carter had signed a 'finding' to aid the rebels covertly, which led to the U.S. providing them with cash, weapons, equipment and supplies, and engaging in propaganda and other psychological operations in Afghanistan on their behalf."71

Follow Up

The U.S. government and corporate media, characterized the mujahideen as "freedom fighters" and the Soviets simply as invaders of a defenseless country.  Blum describes the propaganda offensive: "The Carter administration jumped on the issue of the Soviet 'invasion' and launched a campaign of righteous indignation, imposing what Carter called 'penalties' - from halting the delivery of grain to the Soviet Union to keeping the U.S. team out of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.   On this seemingly clear-cut, anti-communist issue, the U.S. public and media easily fell in line with the president. The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 7, 1980) called for a 'military' reaction, the establishment of U.S. bases in the Middle East, 'reinstatement of draft registration,' development of a new missile and giving the CIA more leeway."72

         After the Soviets were drawn into the Afghan trap, the U.S. rapidly escalated their support for the mujahideen. It is widely considered to have been "the largest covert operation in the history of the CIA."73 After the Soviets sent in their troops, the CIA poured billions of dollars into arming a dozen mujahideen factions throughout the 1980s.

         The CIA's Afghan war was very similar to its covert war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.  Both sets of contras (or counter-revolutionaries) used terror tactics to attack literacy programs, schools, health clinics, co-ops and other social and economic programs of the government. Both contras were also heavily involved in the drug trade.  The anti-Sandinista contras financed much of their terror by moving cocaine into the U.S., while the Afghan contras grew opium for heroine production and trade. "There's no doubt about it. The rebels keep their sales going through the sale of opium." David Melocik, Drug Enforcement Agency Congressional Affairs liaison. Dr. David Musto of the White House Strategy Council on Drug Abuse warned: "We were going into Afghanistan to support the opium growers in their rebellion against the Soviets."74

Real Reasons

The main goal of the CIA's covert war against Afghanistan was to "'bleed' the Soviet Union, just as the U.S. had been bled in Vietnam."75  As Brzezinski said: "For almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire."76

         When asked if he regretted arming the mujahideen, Brzezinski said:

"Regret what? This secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of luring the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, in substance: 'We now have the opportunity to give the U.S.SR its war of Vietnam.' In fact, Moscow had to conduct an unbearable war for almost ten years, a conflict which led to the demoralization and finally the break up of the Soviet empire."

Interviewer: "Do you regret supporting Islamic fundamentalism, having given weapons and advice to... terrorists?"

Brzezinski: "What is most important from the point of view of the history of the world? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet empire? A few excited Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and end of the cold war?"77

         Besides being an effort to destroy the Soviet Union, the Afghan war was also waged in order to send a threatening message to other Third World countries. In August 1979, three months before the Soviet intervention, a classified State Department Report stated: "the United States's larger interests... would be served by the demise of the Taraki-Amin regime, despite whatever setbacks this might mean for future social and economic reforms in Afghanistan.... the overthrow of the D.R.A. [Democratic Republic of Afghanistan] would show the rest of the world, particularly the Third World, that the Soviets' view of the socialist course of history as being inevitable is not accurate."78

The CIA's Intervention in Afghanistan
Interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski,
President Jimmy Carter's National Security AdviserLe Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998
Posted at 15 October 2001

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

B: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

B: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalism, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

B: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

B: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.

Translated from the French by Bill Blum
The URL of this article is:
Copyright, Le Nouvel Observateur and Bill Blum. For fair use only.


US Government Admits - Afghan Production of Heroin is Up, Now That "We" Are In Control
U.S. : Afghan poppy production doubles
Friday, November 28, 2003 Posted: 1:34 PM EST (1834 GMT)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan doubled between 2002 and 2003 to a level 36 times higher than in the last year of rule by the Taliban, according to White House figures released Friday.
The area planted with poppies, used to make heroin and morphine, was 152,000 acres in 2003, compared with 76,900 acres in 2002 and 4,210 acres in 2001, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said in a statement.
The Taliban was cracking down on poppy production in the year before the U.S. military drove the movement out of office in late 2001 in response to its friendship and cooperation with the al Qaeda organization of Osama bin Laden.
The new Afghan government, led by President Hamid Karzai, has not been able to impose its will in many areas of the country, which remain under the control of warlords.
The White House statement said, "A challenging security situation ... has complicated significantly the task of implementing counternarcotics assistance programs and will continue to do so for the immediate future."
"Poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is a major and growing problem. Drug cultivation and trafficking are undermining the rule of law and putting money in the pocket of terrorists," it added, quoting office director John Walters.
The U.S. figures differ significantly from those released a month ago by the United Nations, which estimated that poppy cultivation rose 8 percent in 2003, to 200,000 acres from 185,000 in 2002.
The White House said the United Nations used a different method, based a mixture of ground surveys and analysis of imagery from commercial satellites.
The U.S. estimates are based on a sample survey of Afghan agricultural regions conducted with specialized U.S. government satellite imaging systems, it added.
The United States and the United Nations also gave different estimates for Afghanistan's opium production in 2003. The United Nations said it would rise 6 percent to 3,600 metric tons, while the White House said 2003 output would be 2,865 metric tons. The United States did not give a 2002 figure.
Opium production complicates the task of restoring central government authority in Afghanistan because it enables the warlords to run small armies and gives them an extra financial incentive to retain their autonomy.

Friday, 19 November, 2004, 17:13 GMT
The solution to Afghanistan's opium?
By Marc Deeley
Development worker, Spirit Aid

Earlier this year the head of the United Nations drugs control agency said efforts to tackle Afghanistan's growing drugs trade were failing. The UK-based development agency Spirit Aid offers a radical solution to the problem.

Afghanistan produces 75% of the world's opium, says the UN
During the 1990s, five or six provinces in Afghanistan were cultivating opium poppy.
Since the fall of the Taleban, that number has increased to 28 out of 32 regions. That is a major factor in worsening violence this year as people struggle to survive and fight for control of this illegal, socially damaging but lucrative resource.
Afghan farmers produce opium that is sold for some $2.3bn, according to United Nations estimates.
Its value is vastly inflated beyond that by the time it reaches its Western consumers.
Despite this, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest places on Earth.
Collectively the farmers receive less than half a per cent of the wealth generated by their illegal crops. Much of the revenue ends up with local militias.

Environmentally friendly
The organisation I work for, Spirit Aid, has developed a plan to replace Afghan opium - 75% of the global supply - with industrial hemp.
Industrial hemp is perhaps the only economically and environmentally viable alternative to opium cultivation in Afghanistan Your views on this article
Hemp is a fast growing, legal cash crop that presents a host of immediate benefits to Afghan society, including a potentially lucrative source of foreign exchange earnings.
The hemp tree is part of the cannabis species, which includes marijuana plants. However, leaves from hemp trees carry very little of the psychoactive components of the marijuana plant that makes it popular among drug users.
It can be used to produce heating and cooking fuel, thereby ending the need for people to cut down and burn their remaining forests during severe winters.
Using hemp in this way would also help prepare areas of land for future tree planting projects.
But there are other benefits to cultivating hemp.

Renewable energy
At the moment many Afghan children are malnourished. Hemp produces a fruit boasting the nutritional qualities of soya, oily fish and wheat combined.
Hemp trees - can make the world a healthier place
Hemp can produce quantities of wood equivalent to four times that of trees over a similar period of time. This biomass can be used in the production of clean, renewable energy, biodegradable plastics and building composites.
Hemp is currently being grown for these purposes in 36 countries around the world, including Canada and some European Union countries.
If hemp could be successfully introduced in Afghanistan we believe that:
Those who depend on the 90,000 hectares of land dedicated to opium poppies in Afghanistan would instead be able to cultivate industrial hemp to provide heating, shelter, food and would have an alternative source of revenue
Communities in the West would no longer be flooded with cheap heroin in this supply-driven industry
The world would become a cleaner, healthier and more secure place as the need to cut down old growth forests and burn the remaining oil, coal and gas reserves is reduced.
Unique opportunity
Industrial hemp is perhaps the only economically and environmentally viable alternative to opium cultivation in Afghanistan.

Is Afghanistan heading the way of Colombia?
It presents an opportunity to satisfy the immediate fuel, fibre and monetary requirements of two million farming households struggling to survive in one of the most dangerous countries on Earth.
Hemp cultivation also presents a unique opportunity for environmental improvement in Afghanistan.
Crucially the international community has a moral obligation to prevent a Colombian-style "war on drugs" from taking hold in Afghanistan because if this happens we can be certain the violence, and supply of opium, will never end.

America's great game

John Pilger

Published 10 January 2008

The US and Britain claim defeating the Taliban is part of a "good war" against al-Qaeda. Yet there is evidence the 2001 invasion was planned before 9/11

"To me, I confess, [countries] are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a game for dominion of the world."
Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, speaking about Afghanistan, 1898

I had suggested to Marina that we meet in the safety of the Intercontinental Hotel, where foreigners stay in Kabul, but she said no. She had been there once and government agents, suspecting she was Rawa, had arrested her. We met instead at a safe house, reached through contours of bombed rubble that was once streets, where people live like earthquake victims awaiting rescue.

Rawa is the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, which since 1977 has alerted the world to the suffering of women and girls in that country. There is no organisation on earth like it. It is the high bar of feminism, home of the bravest of the brave. Year after year, Rawa agents have travelled secretly through Afghan istan, teaching at clandestine girls' schools, ministering to isolated and brutalised women, recording outrages on cameras concealed beneath their burqas. They were the Taliban regime's implacable foes when the word Taliban was barely heard in the west: when the Clinton administration was secretly courting the mullahs so that the oil company Unocal could build a pipeline across Afghanistan from the Caspian.

Indeed, Rawa's understanding of the designs and hypocrisy of western governments informs a truth about Afghanistan excluded from news, now reduced to a drama of British squaddies besieged by a demonic enemy in a "good war".

When we met, Marina was veiled to conceal her identity. Marina is her nom de guerre. She said: "We, the women of Afghanistan, only became a cause in the west following 11 September 2001, when the Taliban suddenly became the official enemy of America. Yes, they persecuted women, but they were not unique, and we have resented the silence in the west over the atrocious nature of the western-backed warlords, who are no different. They rape and kidnap and terrorise, yet they hold seats in [Hamid] Karzai's government. In some ways, we were more secure under the Taliban. You could cross Afghan istan by road and feel secure. Now, you take your life into your hands."

The reason the United States gave for invading Afghanistan in October 2001 was "to destroy the infrastructure of al-Qaeda, the perpetrators of 9/11". The women of Rawa say this is false. In a rare statement on 4 December that went unreported in Britain, they said: "By experience, [we have found] that the US does not want to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda, because then they will have no excuse to stay in Afghanistan and work towards the realisation of their econo mic, political and strategic interests in the region."

The truth about the "good war" is to be found in compelling evidence that the 2001 invasion, widely supported in the west as a justifiable response to the 11 September attacks, was actually planned two months prior to 9/11 and that the most pressing problem for Washington was not the Taliban's links with Osama Bin Laden, but the prospect of the Taliban mullahs losing control of Afghan istan to less reliable mujahedin factions, led by warlords who had been funded and armed by the CIA to fight America's proxy war against the Soviet occupiers in the 1980s. Known as the Northern Alliance, these mujahe din had been largely a creation of Washington, which believed the "jihadi card" could be used to bring down the Soviet Union. The Taliban were a product of this and, during the Clinton years, they were admired for their "discipline". Or, as the Wall Street Journal put it, "[the Taliban] are the players most capable of achieving peace in Afghanistan at this moment in history".

The "moment in history" was a secret memorandum of understanding the mullahs had signed with the Clinton administration on the pipeline deal. However, by the late 1990s, the Northern Alliance had encroached further and further on territory controlled by the Taliban, whom, as a result, were deemed in Washington to lack the "stability" required of such an important client. It was the consistency of this client relationship that had been a prerequisite of US support, regardless of the Taliban's aversion to human rights. (Asked about this, a state department briefer had predicted that "the Taliban will develop like the Saudis did", with a pro-American economy, no democracy and "lots of sharia law", which meant the legalised persecution of women. "We can live with that," he said.)

By early 2001, convinced it was the presence of Osama Bin Laden that was souring their relationship with Washington, the Taliban tried to get rid of him. Under a deal negotiated by the leaders of Pakistan's two Islamic parties, Bin Laden was to be held under house arrest in Peshawar. A tribunal of clerics would then hear evidence against him and decide whether to try him or hand him over to the Americans. Whether or not this would have happened, Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf vetoed the plan. According to the then Pakistani foreign minister, Niaz Naik, a senior US diplomat told him on 21 July 2001 that it had been decided to dispense with the Taliban "under a carpet of bombs".

Acclaimed as the first "victory" in the "war on terror", the attack on Afghanistan in October 2001 and its ripple effect caused the deaths of thousands of civilians who, even more than Iraqis, remain invisible to western eyes. The family of Gulam Rasul is typical. It was 7.45am on 21 October. The headmaster of a school in the town of Khair Khana, Rasul had just finished eating breakfast with his family and had walked outside to chat to a neighbour. Inside the house were his wife, Shiekra, his four sons, aged three to ten, his brother and his wife, his sister and her husband. He looked up to see an aircraft weaving in the sky, then his house exploded in a fireball behind him. Nine people died in this attack by a US F-16 dropping a 500lb bomb. The only survivor was his nine-year-old son, Ahmad Bilal.

"Most of the people killed in this war are not Taliban; they are innocents," Gulam Rasul told me. "Was the killing of my family a mistake? No, it was not. They fly their planes and look down on us, the mere Afghan people, who have no planes, and they bomb us for our birthright, and with all contempt."

There was the wedding party in the village of Niazi Qala, 100km south of Kabul, to celebrate the marriage of the son of a respected farmer. By all accounts it was a wonderfully boisterous affair, with music and singing. The roar of aircraft started when everyone was asleep, at about three in the morning. According to a United Nations report, the bombing lasted two hours and killed 52 people: 17 men, ten women and 25 children, many of whom were found blown to bits where they had desperately sought refuge, in a dried-up pond. Such slaughter is not uncommon, and these days the dead are described as "Taliban"; or, if they are children, they are said to be "partly to blame for being at a site used by militants" - according to the BBC, speaking to a US military spokesman.

Return of opium

The British military have played an important part in this violence, having stepped up high- altitude bombing by up to 30 per cent since they took over command of Nato forces in Afghan istan in May 2006. This translated to more than 6,200 Afghan deaths last year. In December, a contrived news event was the "fall" of a "Taliban stronghold", Musa Qala, in southern Afghan istan. Puppet government forces were allowed to "liberate" rubble left by American B-52s.

What justifies this? Various fables have been spun - "building democracy" is one. "The war on drugs" is the most perverse. When the Americans invaded Afghanistan in 2001 they had one striking success. They brought to an abrupt end a historic ban on opium production that the Taliban regime had achieved. A UN official in Kabul described the ban to me as "a modern miracle". The miracle was quickly rescinded. As a reward for supporting the Karzai "democracy", the Americans allowed Northern Alliance warlords to replant the country's entire opium crop in 2002. Twenty-eight out of the 32 provinces instantly went under cultivation. Today, 90 per cent of world trade in opium originates in Afghan istan. In 2005, a British government report estima ted that 35,000 children in this country were using heroin. While the British taxpayer pays for a £1bn military super-base in Helmand Province and the second-biggest British embassy in the world, in Kabul, peanuts are spent on drug rehabilitation at home.

Tony Blair once said memorably: "To the Afghan people, we make this commitment. We will not walk away . . . [We will offer] some way out of the poverty that is your miserable existence." I thought about this as I watched children play in a destroyed cinema. They were illiterate and so could not read the poster warning that unexploded cluster bombs lay in the debris.

"After five years of engagement," reported James Fergusson in the Independent on 16 December, "the [UK] Department for International Development had spent just £390m on Afghan projects." Unusually, Fergusson has had meetings with Taliban who are fighting the British. "They remained charming and courteous throughout," he wrote of one visit in February. "This is the beauty of malmastia, the Pashtun tradition of hospitality towards strangers. So long as he comes unarmed, even a mortal enemy can rely on a kind reception. The opportunity for dialogue that malmastia affords is unique."

This "opportunity for dialogue" is a far cry from the surrender-or-else offers made by the government of Gordon Brown. What Brown and his Foreign Office advisers wilfully fail to understand is that the tactical victory in Afghan istan in 2001, achieved with bombs, has become a strategic disaster in south Asia.

Exacerbated by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the current turmoil in Pakistan has its contemporary roots in a Washington-contrived war in neighbouring Afghanistan that has alienated the Pashtuns who inhabit much of the long border area between the two countries. This is also true of most Pakistanis, who, according to opinion polls, want their government to negotiate a regional peace, rather than play a prescribed part in a rerun of Lord Curzon's Great Game.