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2000-2001: US gives Taliban-ruled Afghanistan $245 million in "aid."


In May 2001, US narcotics experts visited Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for the first time. They found the Taliban had followed through on Mullah Omar’s edict outlawing opium-poppy cultivation. In 2000, Afghanistan produced 75% of the world’s opium crop. The Taliban, which since coming to power had used the money from the opium to purchase weapons, had apparently stopped the poppy crop-all in less than a year and with the help of their harsh punishments for farmers found in violation of the ban. The Bush administration found this so satisfying that they immediately pledged an additional $43 million worth of aid to Afghanistan.

As the State Department reported on October 15, 2001:

"The United States has been the single largest donor of humanitarian aid for Afghans for the past several years. In 2000, the United States contributed a total of $113 million in humanitarian aid to Afghans, both inside Afghanistan and in refugee camps in neighboring countries. In 2001, the aid level has already exceeded $184, accounting for some 300,000 tons of American food sent to Afghanistan this year."

That’s almost $300 million in two years with the stated aim of feeding the starving Afghani people.

To put this in perspective, Bangladesh-population 133 million (compared to Afghanistan’s 28 million people)-an equally impoverished country facing similar catastrophic famines, received $100 million from the US in 2001. And that’s humanitarian and economic aid combined, whereas the significantly higher amount of aid given to Afghanistan ($6.57 per capita in Afghanistan, compared to $.75 for each Bangladeshi) is only humanitarian. Both these countries fall under the same watchful eye of the State Department’s Bureau of South Asian Affairs.

Of course, Bangladesh has a government that is already fairly open for foreign investment, and, until the United States replaced the Taliban with a government led by an oil industry insider, Afghanistan was led by a repressive regime totally isolated from the rest of the world. Perhaps that isolation is the reason the United States takes such pride in the help they’ve provided to Afghanistan. By helping them, we were isolated, too!

"- - In 1999 the United States contributed over $70 million in assistance to the Afghan people. This year's total of over $100 million covers food, housing, health and education programs, de-mining and refugee assistance. Of every two dollars of global assistance to Afghans, half is food aid; and of every ten dollars, nine dollars is a United States contribution."

That’s right! No other country could even come close to our generosity. And no other country was so eager to do business with the Taliban. All this from the United States and its leaders who have spent the last ten years blocking humanitarian aid to Iraq because of fears that Saddam Hussein might be redirecting the aid to feed his family and elite guard. So why did we trust the repressive Taliban not to redirect their humanitarian aid, while we continually tried to keep the Iraqi people from receiving aid? Because we’ve been waiting for years to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and India. That’s why the Taliban visited Texas in 1997 when George Bush was governor, and that’s why US oil companies continued to meet with the Taliban to negotiate this pipeline deal through the late ‘90s.

Then, on February 5, 2001, there was a headline in the London Times: "Taleban offers US deal to deport bin Laden." The article began:

The Taleban authorities will consider exiling Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born terrorist believed to be behind the World Trade Centre bombing, to a third country if they receive assurances that the West will recognise them as Afghanistan's legitimate government.

Senior Taleban leaders said their main fear was that the US and other Western countries would continue to ostracise their administration even if bin Laden left Afghanistan. "We hope the new American Administration will be more flexible and engage with us," Abdul Wakil Muttawakil, the Foreign Minister, told The Times. He has written to President Bush. The rigid Islamic rulers are being squeezed hard by United Nations sanctions.

The announcement came six days after the Bush Administration announced the formation of the energy task force headed by Dick Cheney to determine the administration’s energy policy. Three months later, the United States pledges $43 million in humanitarian aid. Almost two years later, we still have no idea what Cheney and Ken Lay and their oil industry buddies discussed in their task force meetings.

Meanwhile, the opium has never really stopped. Yes, the Taliban stopped poppy cultivation, but that didn’t affect them because they maintained huge stockpiles which they continued to sell until the US chased them out of the country-or really, out of power. Now, under Hamid Karzai, the poppy production is booming again, and hundreds of kilos are being produced each week.

But there is a bright side to all this: There’s a deal to build a pipeline through Afghanistan!

UPDATE: Afghanistan is again the world's leading heroin supplier.


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