He Who Wins Afghanistan’s Opium Wars…

Afghan Opium Wars Pit Taliban Against ISIS




In a “worrying reversal” for global anti-drug efforts, the latest annual report from the United Nations Office for Drug and Crime (UNODC) found that opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 43 percent over the past year—with a total estimated yeild of 4,800 tons compared to 3,300 tons in 2015.

The area of poppy cultivation grew by 10 percent according to the report—clocking in at 201,000 hectares (496,681 acres), up from 183,000 hectares (452,200 acres). Simultaneously, there was a 91 percent decrease in eradication across the country—with no eradication reported at all in the top producing provinces.

“It is very disturbing to see a considerable increase in poppy cultivation in the north which may be linked with a deteriorating security situation in the region,” said Andrey Avetisyan, UNODC’s chief in Afghanistan, at an Oct. 23 Kabul press conference.

The report found that there was one less poppy-free province this year—Jowzjan in the north. This brings the total number of poppy-free provinces down to 13 of the country’s 34 provinces. Helmand in the south remained the top poppy cultivating province, accounting for half the national yeild. It was followed by Badghis, Kandahar, Urozgan, Nangarhar and Farah. All of these provinces are facing active, often growing insurgencies.

The Taliban have now taken over nearly all of Helmand. And if Helmand were a country, it would be the one with the world’s highest opium production. So control of this province means more opium proceeds to fuel their insurgency elsewhere in the country. The Taliban now control territory populated by about 10 percent of the Afghan population—some 3 million people. The Afghan government controls only two-thirds of the populace. The remainder—about 6 million—are in areas where the Taliban and government are contending for control, with neither having a firm hand.

ISIS has meanwhile raised its black flags in areas of eastern Afghanistan, declaring itself “Islamic State Khorasan” (an ancient name for Afghanistan). ISIS seeks to seize Jalalabad, the capital of the opium-producing Nangarhar province, as the seat of government for its “Khorosan Province,” U.S. commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson told CNN.

Nicholson boasted that Afghan commandos backed by U.S. Special Forces recently attacked ISIS strongholds in Nangarhar, killing 15 percent of their fighters. About 1,000 ISIS fighters today remain on the battlefield in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.

Optimistic statements from U.S. generals in Afghanistan should be taken with a grain of salt. ISIS has actually lured fighters away from the Taliban by burning opium fields and portraying their jihadist rivals as corrupted by drugs. But with opium profits the ticket to military and political power, it is not surprising that Afghanistan’s booming opium zones are also its bloodiest war-zones.


Russia, Turkey disagree on separating terrorists from opposition in Syria

(TASS) Turkey and Russia have different views in regards to the process of separating Syria’s moderate opposition from terrorist organizations, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told Rossiya 24 TV channel on Wednesday.

“We also demand separating supporters of the Jabhat al-Nusra (group, outlawed in Russia – TASS) from the opposition, because we cannot consider terrorists together with the moderate opposition,” he said.

“We have dissenting views on how, on what basis they should be separated. First of all, it is necessary to stop the bombing raids, ensure the ceasefire and end the hostilities. After that, it is necessary to provide a reasonable period of time. As long as the war is going on, as long as the regime continues its bombing raids, it will be very difficult to separate them.”

According to Cavusoglu, Ankara and Moscow agree that “the political, non-military solution is the most appropriate for Syria.

“On the other hand, Ankara “does not believe that a political settlement involving the Assad regime is possible.”

“If we have disagreements on Assad and other issues, we have set up special groups made up of diplomats, military experts and representatives of special services. All Syrian, regional and military issues are considered by these groups with the participation of both Turkey and Russia,” the foreign minister said, adding that “dialogue between Russia and Turkey is very important for stability in the region.”

Taliban Quick To Take Afghan Education Back To Soviet-Era “CIA Textbook” Standards

[“A” is for Allah, “J” is for jihad]

The Schools of the Taliban

the diplomat

Two years ago, the Taliban paid a visit to 13-year-old Jamal’s* school in the northern province of Kunduz in Afghanistan. His village had been taken over by the insurgents. “They spoke with the school’s principal and a few teachers about the curriculum,” Jamal recounts. As a result, three subjects – English, sports, and social studies – were dropped and replaced with religious studies. Today, the village remains under Taliban control and Jamal only rarely goes to school.

The city of Kunduz, capital of the province of the same name, came under heavy assault from the Taliban on October 3, only a year after it had been briefly captured by the group. Although the Afghan security forces managed to regain control of the city, the situation outside the provincial capital has been worrying for years, with some areas completely under Taliban control.

The security situation in all of Afghanistan has been growing more dire in recent years, and the Taliban now control the highest amount of districts in the country since 2001. In these areas, the Taliban have long been implementing their own interpretation of Sharia law, but lately reports have surfaced that the group is also making changes in the school curriculum.

During Taliban rule in 1990s, secular education was banned and replaced by religious education. Girls were not allowed to go to school. Today, much of the same can be witnessed in schools that are under Taliban control.

The teachers, students, and residents who were interviewed in these areas in Kunduz confirmed that the Taliban have replaced English, culture, history, and physical education classes with Islamic subjects. Boys are also not allowed to wear Western clothes.

Hamidullah, 29, from Chardara district, says that the Taliban do not allow teachers to use books that have pictures of humans or animals in them. “They only allow pictures of inanimate things,” he says. Abdullah*, a teacher from Chardara district, says the Taliban have also removed pages from schoolbooks that have a picture of the Afghan flag.

Zabiullah Mujahid, spokesperson for the Taliban, claims that overall there have been no significant changes made into the curriculum, aside from two topics:

“There are two subjects taught in Kabul government schools that we don’t accept. One is culture – musical instruments are taught and it is shown as if this is the true culture of Afghan people. But our culture is Islamic and these things that are forbidden in Islam are not part of our culture, and our people are ashamed of using them. The second subject is terrorism. Our fighters are labeled as terrorists, which is a definition favored by Americans. The subject defames our jihad and draws a horrific picture of our fighters for students… We have the right to stop those things that bring confusion to our children’s minds and defame Islamic values.”

No one was willing to discuss the issue of jihad in the school curriculum because of security concerns.

badakhshan - july 2015

A Taliban propaganda image shows students and teachers in Badakhshan Province.

Girls’ Education

In some areas, the Taliban have barred girls from going to school. In other districts, girls only have access to education up to a certain age. In Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz, for example, girls above the age of eight are not allowed to study.

Maryam*, 17, is from Kunduz and had to drop out of school because of the Taliban. Instead of completing her studies, she married and is now a housewife. “What is the importance of school and education in this district? A few years ago we were going to school and thought we had a bright future. Those dreams failed and died forever,” she said.

“[The Taliban] do not let us continue our education. Our future is not known. Maybe we will remain illiterate,” Rohina*, 14, from Kunduz said. She was forced to drop out after sixth grade.

The Taliban, however, claim they are not against educating girls. “We have schools and high schools for girls in areas under our control, but the difference is that we teach girls and boys in separate classes. In some areas where we have enough budget we have separate schools for them,” says Mujahid. “For older girls we don’t have any schools or teachers. But we have plans that if any time the situation allowed for enrolling older girls in our schools, we would hire them female teachers.”

Teachers and residents in areas under Taliban control say that the government is aware of the situation but there is nothing that can be done. “Even if girls want to study, we cannot do anything for them here. They have to go to the city. The government cannot do anything about this situation,” Abdullah, a teacher in Chardara, said.

Government Denials

Karim Wahdat, a deputy of the education department of Kunduz, denies that the Taliban is making changes in the school curriculum in his province. He answered his phone from the Kunduz airport, where he had briefly fled the Taliban’s assault. “I have heard that it is happening in other provinces, but not in Kunduz. They have only rearranged the periods so that Islamic Studies would always come first,” Wahdat said.

Meanwhile, a high-ranking employee of the Kunduz education department – who requested not to be named – confirmed that the Taliban are enforcing their own curriculum, even in Kunduz. “It is 100 percent correct that they are running a number of schools in places under their control,” the employee said. “Whether local people want it or not, they are imposing their own curriculum in those places. We witnessed this issue for a long time and even today we can’t deny the existence of such schools under their control.”

The spokesperson of the Ministry of Education in Kabul, Kabir Haqmal, claimed the ministry has not received any information from the provinces regarding this. He also evaded questions on whether the ministry is looking into the matter.

Kunduz is indeed not the only province where the Taliban have started enforcing their own curriculum. According to residents interviewed in other provinces that have areas under Taliban control, such as Paktia and Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, this phenomenon is much more widely spread.

Taliban spokesperson Mujahid said that the Taliban “have schools and [are] actively implementing our curriculum” in all areas that are under their control.

Ahmet Yar, an Afghan journalist with close ties to the Taliban, confirms this. “Beside Kunduz, [the] Taliban have an educational system and schools in Nangarhar and Paktia, especially in Zurmat district of Paktia, where children are encouraged to read by Taliban authorities.”

Ahmad Naveed Frotan, spokesperson for the governor of Badakhshan, a province in northern Afghanistan that famously never fell to the Taliban in the 1990s, also confirmed that this is taking place in his province: “They [the Taliban] control schools and the teachers.”

The Taliban’s Teachers

According to Frotan, in some areas of Badakhshan, such as Raghistan district, “schools are closely supervised by the Taliban and the teachers are not allowed to teach or provoke the students… against the group. The teachers are under the influence of the Taliban.”

Perhaps the most worrying aspect is the presence of Taliban fighters in schools.

According to Yar, Taliban fighters sometimes double as teachers. “[The] majority of the teachers in Taliban schools are madrassa graduates along with Taliban fighters. But there are also a significant number of educated Afghans who are paid monthly by Taliban authorities,” says Yar.

Mujahid, however, denies this: “The teachers are not Taliban fighters, but local teachers that teach in other schools and we have also hired them to teach students.”

In Paktia’s Batoor Qala Surkh district, which has been under Taliban control for the past three years according to residents, the Taliban fighters themselves do not teach in the schools, but they regularly come to monitor what is being taught to the children, a headmaster who requested not to be named said.

A number of propaganda photos distributed by the Taliban include fighters holding assault rifles and standing beside young school children. This seems to support the fact that even if the Taliban fighters do not themselves teach, they at least pay regular visits to schools.

As more and more districts fall to the Taliban there will be an increasing number of children in Afghanistan who grow up studying the Taliban curriculum. What the long term impacts of this will be remains to be seen. Worryingly, the government seems unwilling to recognize the problem.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Additional reporting by Humayoon Babur.

Maija Liuhto is a freelance journalist based in Kabul, Afghanistan. She has previously written for Al Jazeera English, the Christian Science Monitor and The Diplomat


Iraq Govt. Threatens War w/Turkey Over Erdogan’s Intentions After Mosul

Iraq Threatens War Over Turkey’s Troop Presence, Buildup

military dot com

Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes on Wednesday entered Jarablus, one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border, in a US-backed offensive. (AP Photo)
Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes on Wednesday entered Jarablus, one of Islamic State’s last strongholds on the Turkish-Syrian border, in a US-backed offensive. (AP Photo)

Iraq warned Wednesday that Turkey risks war over its threats to intervene militarily in northern Iraq even as Iraqi forces worked to secure a first foothold within Mosul against the Islamic State.

“We do not want war with Turkey, and we do not want a confrontation with Turkey,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Iraqi state TV. “But if a confrontation happens, we are ready for it. We will consider [Turkey] an enemy, and we will deal with it as an enemy.”

Turkey has repeatedly rejected Abadi’s demands to withdraw a contingent of about 500 troops near the town of Bashiqa, about 10 miles north of Mosul. The Turkish troops have been training local tribes that Turkey wants to participate in the occupation of Mosul.

Abadi also expressed concerns over Turkey’s buildup of tanks, artillery and troops on the border and threats to intervene if Shia Popular Mobilization Units, which are part of the Iraqi Security Forces, move to take Tal Afar to the west of Mosul.

Turkey scoffed at Abadi’s warning. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, “If you have the strength, why did you surrender Mosul to terror organizations? If you are so strong, why has the PKK occupied your lands for years?” Cavusoglu referred to the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, which has bases in northern Iraq and has been labeled a terrorist organization by Turkey and the U.S.

“You cannot even fight against a terror organization. You are weak,” Cavusoglu said of Abadi, according to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.

The Iraq-Turkey friction was the latest evidence of regional, sectarian and ethnic divides in northern Iraq that U.S. officials have warned could imperil the Mosul offensive and make governing in its aftermath a daunting task. The local population is a mix of Sunni, Shia, Turkmen, Kurds, Yazidis, Shabaks and Assyrians.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi Security Forces reported that the Counter Terror Services units, or Iraqi special forces, were consolidating a foothold inside the city limits of eastern Mosul while preparing for a drive on the city’s center.

Other Iraqi units were arrayed on Mosul’s outskirts to the south for possible moves against ISIS defenders on other axes.

Outside Mosul to the north and east, Kurdish Peshmerga forces reached their objectives in the offensive that began Oct. 17 and were consolidating their positions in support of the Iraqi advance into the city itself, the Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported.

“The Peshmerga have stopped now and carried out their plans. We are completing the rest of the plan from our fronts,” Abdul Ghani Assadi, a commander of Iraq’s counter terror units, was quoted by Rudaw as saying.

Under the plan approved by Abadi, Kurdish forces are not to enter the city to avoid exacerbating sectarian tensions.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Pentagon Planning For Megacity Combat–a war that it cannot win



Published on Oct 14, 2016

According to a startling Pentagon video obtained by The Intercept, the future of global cities will be an amalgam of the settings of “Escape from New York” and “Robocop” — with dashes of the “Warriors” and “Divergent” thrown in. It will be a world of Robert Kaplan-esque urban hellscapes — brutal and anarchic supercities filled with gangs of youth-gone-wild, a restive underclass, criminal syndicates, and bands of malicious hackers.

At least that’s the scenario outlined in “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” a five-minute video that has been used at the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations University. All that stands between the coming chaos and the good people of Lagos and Dhaka (or maybe even New York City) is the U.S. Army, according to the video, which The Intercept obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.