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Program 0215
April 9, 2002

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

AHMAD: [via a translator]: The US also wanted to stop
drugs. It has badly failed because everyone has just gone back to cultivating

This week on Common Ground,
Afghanistan’s renewed drug trade. Plus, rebuilding Afghanistan’s historic
Buddha statues.

This stereo photo, it is
possible to make a model of the Buddha statue.

Common Ground is a
program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the
Stanley Foundation. I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. During the last years of their
rule in Afghanistan, the Taliban wiped out opium poppy production. But since
the start of the US-led war, Afghan farmers are again planting poppies. And
heroin smuggling has increased dramatically.

MCHUGH: In the 1980s the United States allied with drug
smuggling mujahadeen warlords to fight against the Soviet Union. As Common
Special Correspondent Reese Ehrlich reports from Afghanistan and
Pakistan, those warlords are back in business.

crowd of people talking, a chicken cackling]

Obeidullah Shanawaz proudly
shows off his farm on the outskirts of Kabul. He raises dairy cattle, wheat,
and vegetables. He doesn’t grow opium poppies but he knows farmers in other
parts of Afghanistan who do.

[via a translator] Farmers
need to earn more money and this is one way to do it. The demand for heroin is
very high in other countries. They want it. So people here [who] grow it get
more income. When the mujahadeen came to power the US helped. Then the
US forgot Afghanistan. Now the US feels the pain of forgetting our country.

chants a sad-sounding, dirge-like song, and someone else responds with a
similar song.]

EHRLICH: These Afghans are singing a traditional tapa,
a style of music with sad, extemporaneous lyrics. They are refugees living in
Peshawar, Pakistan—and they’re heroin addicts. Some became addicted in
Afghanistan; others picked up the habit of smoking heroin here in Pakistan.

chants a sad-sounding, dirge-like song, and someone else responds with a
similar song.]

EHRLICH: As part of his job with a nongovernmental
organization, Ahmad checks the price of heroin every week so his group can
better predict trends among addicts. The economics of the heroin trade reveal a
lot about the impact of the US war in Afghanistan. Ahmad explains that drug
smugglers in Afghanistan after the US war began sought to liquidate their
inventory and get cash. Heroin flooded into Peshawar and prices dropped from
$800 to $600 per kilo.

crowd of people talking]

EHRLICH: We’re holding the interview outdoors, a short
distance from Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas, where regular police don’t
patrol and the drug trade flourishes.

AHMAD: [via a translator] It went up to 38,000 at once. Even
to 40,000.

of gunfire]

AHMAD: [via a translator] They are testing, just testing.

EHRLICH: What are they testing? Rifles?

AHMAD: [via a translator] Arms. Arms. Yes.

EHRLICH: My hosts say, “Don’t worry.” When foreigners come to
the area, the local drug lords like to have target practice with their AK-47’s.

of gunfire]

EHRLICH: What was that? What caliber was that?

ACHMED: [via a translator] I think, I think, this, this, I
think this is AK-47.


ACHMED: [via a translator] In this area especially we, we are
becoming so tired of these firings. Because especially if foreigners are
coming, they are testing very soon.


EHRLICH: [talking to the crowd] Oh, I see. They literally saw
me coming. All right.

returns to narration] Just in case someone decides to point the AK-47 in the
wrong direction we go inside.

crowd of people talking]

EHRLICH: Ahmad gives me a short history of the Taliban and
drugs. When the Taliban leaders first came to power in 1996 they ordered the
burning of poppy fields. A year later, in an effort to boost falling government
revenues, they encouraged poppy planting and taxed heroin smuggling. Then,
under international pressure in 2000, Taliban banned poppy growing once again.
There was a dramatic 95 percent reduction in the crop. But the US bombing
campaign changed all that. With the lack of any central government in
Afghanistan farmers are planting poppy in large amounts and heroin smuggling
has resumed big time—according to Achmed.

ACHMED: [via a translator] The US goal in Afghanistan was to
defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But the US also wanted to stop drugs. It has
badly failed because everyone has just gone back to cultivating poppies.

EHRLICH: Opium poppies were grown in Afghanistan for centuries
but it wasn’t processed into heroin. That all changed after the Soviet Union
invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and the Muslim fundamentalists mujahadeen
started armed resistance with US backing. This man, who used to be a heroin
smuggler, says the CIA instructed the mujahadeen how to make heroin; in
part to hook Soviet soldiers on drugs. The CIA, in turn, worked with the
Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence, or ISI.

CIA and the
local intelligence, ISI, they helped train a few Afghans and told them how to
make the heroin out of opium. You have land—they convinced them that you have
land and this is how we fought them and this is how you finance your war. The
Afghans didn’t know about it. If they had they would have done this much
before. But somebody has to train somebody because you know, they, for them to
do something, you know. They were not trained for this before.

EHRLICH: The former smuggler got this information from
conversations with others in the drug trade rather than from first-hand
experience. But others confirm the US role in initiating the heroin trade from
Afghanistan. Shaukat Qadir is a retired Pakistani brigadier general with many
friends in the ISI.

I think this decision was
taken somewhere in ‘83, ‘84. I think that they needed more money than they
could provide to the Afghans for their war. And just like the US had done
elsewhere—in Nicaragua, when they were backing the contras, and
Colombia, and wherever else they felt the need—as a matter of policy they said,
“Okay. Go right ahead.”

EHRLICH: General Qadir says the CIA justified drug dealing on
the grounds that greater issues were at stake.

QADIR: That’s always been the, the, the idea behind it. If
it’s, this is the greater interest of the US—we need to get the Soviets out; we
need the contras to win—so, if this is what they need, this is their way
of getting money. That’s the way to do it.

EHRLICH: Tariq Zafar, who heads a Pakistani drug rehab program
says US support for drug smuggling had a devastating impact on Pakistan. The
CIA provided arms; the mujahadeen smuggled out heroin. Every city along
the smuggling route from Afghanistan to the port city of Karachi saw an
explosion in drug addiction.

When heroin was being carried
from Peshawar or from, from the far border to Karachi, where the weapons were
coming in, the same trucks which would bring the weapons in would take the
heroin out. And probably the same ships that brought the weapons in were taking
the heroin out. So that’s why you had first, epidemics in the major cities,
along the grand trunk road.

of a saw]

EHRLICH: Dr. Sikandar Azim Khan works with the victims of that
heroin epidemic. He directs the Dosed Drug Rehabilitation Center in Peshawar,
which provides therapy and vocational training to addicts.

This is a table for
computer. He makes himself.

EHRLICH: He’s making the table, the computer table by hand.

By hand.

EHRLICH: With only hand tools.

Without any machine. Yes. We’ve
got a number of patients who are working with him. Learning the skills so when
they go out they have some skills.

and Dr. Khan walk through the clinic]

It’s an open group going on. In
which they share their feelings and…

EHRLICH: It’s a therapy group.

…life experiences. Yeah.
open—it’s a group.

EHRLICH: Dr. Khan says Pakistan suffered immensely, suffered
from the US and Pakistani government policies of promoting the drug trade in
the 1980s.

Before 1979 that was when the
one war started—Russia, against Russia, supported by the US and the Western
nations—there were hardly any drug users in Pakistan. It was almost zero.
Nobody even knew what heroin was. And after ‘79—look at it. Today, there,
according to some estimates, there are 4.8 million drug users in Pakistan. And
Pakistan is the highest heroin consumer country in the world—per capita. So
it’s not just a route for smuggling. We are a victim ourselves.

EHRLICH: Dr. Khan and others worry that the instability and
lack of central government in Afghanistan will return that country to its
status as the number one heroin exporting country in the world. But it’s more
than just chaos. Some political leaders are profiting handsomely from the drug
trade. Either through direct control or by taxing the heroin smugglers. Hamid
Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI, says high level officials in the new
US-backed government in Afghanistan use drug money to bolster their power.

I’m afraid now, once again, the
warlord-ism has returned. Those people who were involved in this trafficking,
who made lots of money. Some of them I know. I won’t name them. But some of
them become—I know they are drug traffickers. And now they are
ministers. I have firsthand knowledge. They are ministers now in the new
cabinet. So, obviously the business will restart and warlord-ism is supported
by finances. And finances come through drug trafficking and weapon—gun running.
So, this, this is going to register a great increase in my opinion. And that is
the American choice.

chants a sad-sounding, dirge-like song.]

EHRLICH: Back in Peshawar, NGO worker Ahmad confirms that some
members of the new Afghan government have been involved in the drug trade. He
says General Abdul Rashid Dostom, now Deputy Defense Minister, has historic
ties to the drug trade.

AHMAD: [via a translator] Those Northern Alliance leaders
never eliminated heroin smuggling when they were in power. Dostom was there. He
was not just taxing the production. He was helping direct it. Poppy is the only
worthwhile source of foreign exchange for them.

EHRLICH: Ahmad says, however, that the new government of Hamid
Karzai is facing a lot of international pressure not to resume massive opium
and heroin production. But, he says, that’s temporary.

AHMAD: [via a translator] For the time being the Northern
Alliance must make the UN happy. They won’t smuggle lots of heroin for now.
Once things have calmed down a bit they’ll resort to their old ways.

EHRLICH: With the Afghan government split among fractious
warlords, what could be done to stop or at least slow the heroin trade? One man
has an intriguing suggestion.

of a rooster crowing]

EHRLICH: Tariq Zafar heads a drug rehab group called “Nai
Zindagi,” or “New Life,” located on the outskirts of Islamabad. Zafar shows how
ex-drug addicts rebuild jeeps to learn a viable skill.

of power tools]

ZAFAR: Until somebody came here from the Fox News and they
said, “Oh, bloody hell. This looks like an Al Qaeda camp Number Two.”[laughs]

EHRLICH: Zafar says even if the Afghan government had a strong
commitment to fighting drugs, armed force alone can’t stop the poppy production
and heroin smuggling. He suggests that the US buy up the entire poppy crop and
sell it for legitimate pharmaceutical uses. The danger here, of course, is that
such a policy would encourage others to plant poppy and thus actually stimulate
production. Zafar says there’s a way to limit that problem.

ZAFAR: We look at what Afghanistan is producing at the
moment; we take satellite photographs of the acreages; we have an agreement
that it will be limited to these number of acres or acreages; and we will
purchase the crop and keep on purchasing it until, unless, we train the farmers
or we build enough technology for them to shift into alternate cropping.

EHRLICH: Buying up the entire poppy crop isn’t a long-term
solution, of course. Afghanistan needs lots of foreign aid to rebuild its
shattered economy. Farmers need alternative sources of income. So it won’t be
easy stopping the drug trade.

chicken cackles]

EHRLICH: Farmer Obedalah Shanawaz knows that poor farmers are
very tempted to plant opium poppy. They can earn perhaps ten times their normal
income planting a crop that’s easy to grow. But he also knows the consequences.
I asked Shanawaz what he would say if another farmer asked if he should grow

[via a translator] No, no.
Heroin is not good for humans. It’s a big problem all over the world,
especially for the young generation. Now we have a new government in
Afghanistan. I hope for our people that we won’t produce heroin again.

chants a sad-sounding, dirge-like song.]

EHRLICH: Ordinary people in Afghanistan know about the scourge
of heroin. But some of their leaders can’t resist the money and power that
comes from drug sales. Many people here say if the US doesn’t take action,
Afghanistan is on the road to becoming a major world supplier of heroin once
again. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Ehrlich in Kabul.

chants a sad-sounding, dirge-like song.]

PORTER: Poppies aren’t all the Taliban eliminated in
Afghanistan. During their rule the Taliban also destroyed some of the country’s
heritage. Last year they tore down Afghanistan’s famous Buddha statues.

MCHUGH: But photos stored in a basement at an Austrian
university may lead to the restoration of those statues. Common Ground’s
Karen Engle reports from Austria.

As a specialist in mountain
cartography, Professor Robert Kostka of the Graz University of Technology
visited Afghanistan 30 years ago. When he took 3-D photographs of the largest
of the two famous Buddha statues in the Bamiyan Valley.

In 1970 I took stereo photo
from this Buddha statue; two images from the two different places. And with
this stereo photo it is possible to make a model of this side. The wall, the
cliff, of the rocks, and all of the Buddha statue.

ENGLE: It turns out that these photographs are the only
professional high-definition photogrammetric measurements in existence of the
Buddha. A company in Graz will now scan these photographs into a computer and
construct a 3-D model of the Buddha, which everyone will be able to see at the
Web site of a global heritage Internet society called The
New Seven Wonders Society and the Afghanistan Museum in Switzerland are trying
to raise the money to rebuild the Buddha based on the computer model. There
were two Buddhas in the Bamiyan Valley, but photographs only exist for the
largest one. Even now, Professor Kostka remembers with awe his first encounters
with the Buddha—the largest as high as a ten-story building.

KOSTKA: It was really a huge statue. It’s about 55 meters.
And there’s also the possibility to climb up to the top of the head of the,
this statue. There are many caves with holes inside the rock. One can go up to
the, could go up to the head and have a wonderful view of the whole valley.

ENGLE: Bamiyan is situated on the Silk Route, linking Europe
and Central Asia. Greeks who settled in the area following Alexander the Great
were the first to create images of the Buddha. The Bamiyan statues were made by
local artisans influenced by Hellenistic art. For 2,000 years the two giant
Buddhas had survived earthquakes, the sweeping army of Ghengis Khan, Russian
bombings, and 20 years of civil war, only to be blasted into dust last year.
Professor Robert Kostka says the Afghani people would like to see the Buddhas

KOSTKA: They are very interested. For it was destroyed by
Taliban as Afghan people said, not Afghan people but, but some groups coming
from, from elsewhere. From other places. So the Afghan people would be very
interested in getting this rebuilt.

ENGLE: For Common Ground, this is Karen Engle in
Graz, Austria.

MCHUGH: Building an alliance against terrorism in Southeast
Asia, next on Common Ground.

I think many
Singaporeans were shocked, very surprised that indeed we have a small group of
Singaporeans trying to perpetuate this terrorism in Singapore.

MCHUGH: As President Bush threatens to expand the war on
terrorism, analysts speculate on where and when the US military could be
engaged next. President Bush says he won’t hesitate to act if he feels foreign
governments are timid about terrorism.

PORTER: In Southeast Asia the US faces a conundrum: some
governments are cooperating with the White House, but others aren’t. Common
’s Simon Marx begins his report in Singapore.

of a rushing subway train]

Rush hour at the Ushung(?)
subway station in Singapore. Trains come and go every few minutes with the
crisp efficiency for which this city-state is known. Commuters eager to help
Singapore bounce back from recession head to work. But the very fact that
they’re still able to use their local station may be due to some skillful
police work on the part of the Singaporean authorities.

You will notice that some
of the boxes that place on the motorcycles. These are the same type of boxes
which we intend to use.

MARX: You’re listening to the soundtrack off a videotape
found in Afghanistan. It shows the Ushung(?) subway station and those same
scenes of commuters scurrying to work. The government of Singapore claims it
was presented to leaders of Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda organization by members
of a Southeast Asian militant group called Jamal Islamia(?). It is, says the
government, effectively an offer to attack US interests in Singapore on Al
Qaeda’s behalf. The plan: to plant explosives in a bicycle and park it at the
station. The bomb would be detonated when busloads of US military personnel
were passing by. A separate attack was also planned against US naval vessels
heading into port here.

No country in the world
can really be insulated from terrorism.

MARX: Yuan Kan Sing(?) is Singapore’s Home Affairs

I think many
Singaporeans were shocked, very surprised that indeed we have a small group of
Singaporeans trying to perpetuate this terrorism in Singapore. Fortunately the
plan was not proceeded with.

MARX: And do you have a sense of why the Al Qaeda leaders
did not authorize the plan to be carried out?

We don’t know. Perhaps
they could have other priorities at the time.

MARX: Thirteen leaders of Jamal Islamia(?) are now in
detention in Singapore in connection with the plot. The hunt is on for other
members of the group who remain on the run. Singapore’s Muslim community has
unreservedly condemned the plot to attack Americans here. In this Asian melting
pot of diverse races and cultures there was enormous surprise when the plot was
revealed, and it’s prompted a wide public debate about how Singapore can best
strengthen its integrated society. Home Affairs Minister Juan Kan Singh(?) says
it’s also led the government to exercise continued vigilance in case other
plots are being hatched.

We don’t see the
existence of any other group in Singapore for now.

MARX: The Singaporean government says it’s proud of foiling
the apparent plot to attack US targets here. But elsewhere in Southeast Asia
the US cannot count on similar support in identifying and eradicating Al
Qaeda’s Asian proxies.

sound of the Moslem call to prayer]

MARX: Just 75 minutes by air from Singapore, in the
sprawling Indonesian capital, Jakarta, the Muslim call to prayer echoes out
across the city. In this, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, the United
States faces a considerable challenge as it tries to win support for its war on
terror. In Indonesia that war hasn’t been making many headlines.

of rushing water]

MARX: This has. A wall of water tearing through the city.
The worst flooding in a generation to inundate Jakarta left more than 150
people dead, communities destroyed, and the government under pressure literally
to dig citizens out of the mud. But the monsoon isn’t the only storm cloud
gathering over Indonesia, home to 200 million people across an archipelago of
13,000 remote islands. The United States argues that Indonesia is a base for a
growing number of Al Qaeda cells and supporters. That’s a contention vigorously
denied by government ministers and Muslim leaders like Dim Sam Sudan(?), who
heads an umbrella organization of Indonesian Muslim groups that advises the
country’s president.

We don’t have any
information about that. The American and Indonesian government have to prove it
with hard evidence.

MARX: US officials say there’s plenty of evidence
available. Al Qaeda, they say, had obtained detailed plans of the US embassy in
Jakarta, with a view to attacking it. They say Osama bin Laden’s organization
operated at least one terrorist training camp on Indonesian soil.

We condemn terrorism and we
understand that a international terrorism is nonconventional threat to security
and threat against humanity.

MARX: Kuznato Ngoro(?) is an analyst with Jakarta’s Center
for Strategic and International Studies.

At the policy level then it
would be very difficult to expect that between the US and the Indonesian
government would have some common response.

MARX: Difficult because the Indonesian president Megawati
Sukarnoputri, is under intense pressure from the domestic Muslim constituency
not to cooperate with President Bush. At the White House last September she
spoke in only the most general terms about her reaction to the attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

[via a translator]
After I heard and witnessed and saw what happened the tragic events in New York
and Washington I immediately issued a statement which strongly condemned these
attacks, which were very inhumane. And afterwards I sent a letter to President
Bush expressing my condolences. So this is the position of my government on
this issue. So it’s very clear.

MARX: But what is not very clear is whether the president
intends to accept $18 million in US aid that she’s been offered to help combat
terrorism; or whether she intends to take action against those Indonesians
accused of supporting Osama bin Laden.

speaks in a crowded setting]

MARX: Abu Baka Bashir(?) is an influential Muslim cleric in
Indonesia. The 63-year-old was taken in for questioning by local police after
saying that he rejoiced when he heard of the attacks on the Pentagon and the
World Trade Center. After threatening to sue the governments of Indonesia and
the USA. for slander, he was released without charge. Political analyst Kuznato
Ngoro(?) says that’s no surprise.

Oh, no, I don’t think so. I
think there are very complicated issues, especially dealing with the people
like Abu Baka Bashir(?).

MARX: And in a further indication that those complicated
issues are limiting the Bush administration’s options here, Muslim leaders like
Dim Sam Sudan(?) also reject any notion that the joint military exercises
recently staged by the US in Thailand, or the ongoing US military presence in
the Philippines, would ever be acceptable in Indonesia.

They’d have to be
careful. This is the largest Muslim country. Cannot be taken for granted. Okay.
Not only the radical, the fundamentalists, but the moderate will feel that this
is kind of demeaning of the Muslims here in the country, in Indonesia.

MARX: So Indonesian analysts like Kuznato Ngoro(?), say
there’s not much the US can do to prevent the country becoming a secure haven
for Al Qaeda sympathizers. He says any attempt by Washington to impose a
solution without Jakarta’s consent would be doomed.

Do you think that would be
possible? I don’t think so. I mean, from international relations point of view.
That would likely create some problems. Especially because many people here in
Indonesia still believe in noninterference in domestic affairs, for example. So
I think the US, it would like to do so then need an approval from Indonesian

of ethnic Indonesia movement]

MARX: Nine thousand miles and 13 time zones away from the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon, governments across Asia are facing their
own dilemmas confronting the threat of terrorism. In places like Singapore the
US can count on cooperation and support; but in other parts of this region the
associates of Al Qaeda may still find places to hide and places to plan—far
from the reach of US military might. For Common Ground, I’m Simon Marx
in Jakarta..

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