U.S. Funded, Trained and Equipped Afghan Air Force Running Guns and Drugs

March 10th, 2012

Here are a few related posts to consider:

Afghan Opium Production Rises by 61% Compared with 2010

Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on CIA Payroll

U.S.-Built Bridge is Windfall for Illegal Afghan Drug Trade

The Invisible Hand of the Market: British Troops Seize £50 Million of Afghan Opium

Officials Puzzle Over Millions of Dollars Leaving Afghanistan by Plane for Dubai

Afghans Believe U.S. is Funding Taliban

NATO Forces Supplied Food, Water and Arms to Taliban Forces in Southern Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Planned British Covert Operation Included Training in “Farming and Irrigation Techniques” for Taliban Fighters

Blackwater Worldwide Changes Its Name to Xe; Same Mercenaries, but Now with More “Aviation Support”

Afghanistan: Special Forces Under CIA Control Would be Considered Spies, Allowing White House to Claim U.S. Troops Have Been Withdrawn

And now…

Via: Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. is investigating allegations that some officials in the Afghan Air Force, which was established largely with American funds, have been using aircraft to ferry narcotics and illegal weapons around the country, American officials told The Wall Street Journal.

Two probes of the Afghan Air Force, or AAF, are under way—one led by the U.S. military coalition and another by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, officials said.

“The nature of the allegations is fairly dramatic and indicated that [AAF officials] were transporting drugs on aircraft and transported weapons not owned by the government of Afghanistan for the use of private groups,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission-Afghanistan, the command that is establishing and financing Afghan security forces, including the AAF.

Gen. Bolger cautioned that the investigation was still preliminary and the allegations couldn’t be proved at this stage.

As part of the inquiry, the military also is looking into whether the alleged transporting of illegal drugs and weapons was linked to an April incident in which an AAF colonel gunned down eight U.S. Air Force officers at Kabul Airport. In a 436-page report released by the U.S. Air Force in January about the killings, several American officials are quoted as mentioning that the shooter, Col. Ahmed Gul, was likely involved in the transportation of illicit cargo and wanted to shut down a probe into it.

The April shooting, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility, was the deadliest attack by Afghan troops on coalition personnel in the 10 years of war. The majority of the victims were involved in an early inquiry into the misuse of AAF aircraft. Col. Gul, the Afghan officer who killed them, coordinated AAF’s cargo movement.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Frank Bryant, a coalition adviser at AAF, spearheaded an initial, informal, investigation after months of watching Afghan “helicopters just disappearing without flight plans,” said an American military officer who worked closely with him.

Early last year, Col. Bryant decided to impose U.S. control over the scheduling of Afghan military flights and suggested cutting off fuel to the AAF until it improved transparency about flight destinations and cargo, according to interviews with officials and the U.S. Air Force report on the shooting in April at Kabul International Airport.

Of particular concern was cargo ramp No. 5 at the airport, where unscheduled aircraft were landing late at night and cargo was being unloaded in a hurry, several Western officials with knowledge of Col. Bryant’s probe said.

The airport is a joint civilian-military facility. Unlike in most of the airport, the U.S.-led coalition has no oversight role at ramp No. 5. A Western official called that cargo-loading area the “Grand Central station of illicit activities” in Afghanistan.

That initial probe was cut short on April 27, when Col. Gul burst into a meeting room at the military side of Kabul airport and shot Col. Bryant, seven other U.S. service members and a U.S. contractor. Col. Gul killed himself later that day.

A U.S. Air Force investigation into the shooting, released in January, didn’t establish a conclusive motive for the attack, but said Col. Gul, had “self-radicalized,” possibly during a stay in Pakistan.

Now, senior American military officers in Kabul are pushing for that probe into the April killings to be reopened, saying Col. Gul may have been trying to derail the inquiry into a high-powered network of organized crime.

“These guys didn’t die because of some nut job that radicalized overnight. They died because they took a stand to not let a criminality expand,” one of the officials said. “It’s not just Afghans profiting from Afghans but includes international mafias. In a landlocked country, moving goods by air is everything.”

Another witness, a U.S. lieutenant colonel, was cited in the report as saying some senior Afghan officials see the AAF aircraft as a source of income.

They “want to continue these nefarious and profitable activities with the billions of dollars worth of aircraft we’re buying them and the hundreds of millions we spend every year on maintenance and fuel,” he told investigators.

The current probe into alleged drugs and weapons transport continues to look into ramp No. 5. Investigators are also looking into movements at other military airfields used by the AAF, especially those close to northern border areas.

Northern Afghanistan is a major route for the transport of opium and heroin to consumers in Russia and Western Europe. Opium is mostly grown in southern Afghanistan, and is smuggled to the north to be moved on to the rest of the world, Western officials say.

The AAF has 86 aircraft, including 16 C-27 cargo planes, 41 Russian-made Mi-17 transport helicopters and 11 Russian-made Mi-35 helicopter gunships.

Suspicions that some of these aircraft have been used to ferry money, weapons and drugs throughout the country first surfaced in late 2010, Western officials say. Deliveries by the U.S. and others are expected to bring the fleet to 145 aircraft by 2016.

One Response to “U.S. Funded, Trained and Equipped Afghan Air Force Running Guns and Drugs”

  1. Zuma Says:

    a ‘few’ related posts indeed. i bet you could doubled or tripled that list.

    the first thing that comes to mind is Gary Weber’s book, ‘Dark Alliance’,
    http://www.amazon.com/Dark-All.....merReviews

    over decades and all passing time, this old news just accrues an ever higher pile of related material; reports, statistics, anecdotes, etc., and all to no avail. if the citizenry is in danger of ‘cognitive dissonance’ (the schism between what is held to be true being continually contrary to consistently contravening evidence), what of our officeholders? what venal capacities are required by them to remain mentally functioning in any public capacity? i gotta wonder.

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