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Before 9/11

Warning Signs (228)
Foreign Intelligence Warnings (27)
Insider Trading (36)
Counterterrorism Before 9/11 (181)
Able Danger (39)
Military Exercises (38)
Hunt for bin Laden (73)
Pipeline Politics (54)

Al-Qaeda Members

Al-Qaeda in Germany (42)
Alhazmi and Almihdhar (74)
Other 9/11 Hijackers (48)
Marwan Alshehhi (21)
Mohamed Atta (37)
Ziad Jarrah (9)
Hani Hanjour (15)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (33)
Zacarias Moussaoui (40)
Nabil al-Marabh (10)

Geopolitics and 9/11

Pakistani ISI (126)
Randy Glass (7)
Sibel Edmonds (6)
Saeed Sheikh (3)
Mahmood Ahmed (3)
Drugs
Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden Family (110)
Bin Laden Family (33)
Israel (33)
Iraq (49)
US Dominance (34)

Day of 9/11

All day of 9/11 events (401)
Flight AA 11 (62)
Flight UA 175 (49)
Flight AA 77 (70)
Flight UA 93 (105)
George Bush (66)
Dick Cheney (24)
Donald Rumsfeld (24)
Richard Clarke (22)

The Post-9/11 World

Afghanistan (49)
Investigations (166)
9/11 Congressional Inquiry (0)
9/11 Commission (0)
Other 9/11 Investigations (0)
Other events (79)
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Complete 911 Timeline: Afghan/Pakistani Drug Connections

 
  

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1982-1991: Afghan Opium Production Skyrockets

      
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar still controls part of Afghanistan.
Afghan opium production rises from 250 tons in 1982 to 2,000 tons in 1991, coinciding with CIA support and funding of the mujahedeen. Alfred McCoy, a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Wisconsin, says US and Pakistani intelligence officials sanctioned the rebels' drug trafficking because of their fierce opposition to the Soviets: “If their local allies were involved in narcotics trafficking, it didn't trouble [the] CIA. They were willing to keep working with people who were heavily involved in narcotics.” For instance, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a rebel leader who received about half of all the CIA's covert weapons, was known to be a major heroin trafficker. Charles Cogan, who directs the CIA's operation in Afghanistan, later claims he was unaware of the drug trade: “We found out about it later on.” [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/30/01; Atlantic Monthly, 5/96]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Alfred McCoy, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Charles Cogan
          

1984: Bin Laden Develops Ties with Pakistani ISI and Afghan Warlord

       Bin Laden moves to Peshawar, a Pakistani town bordering Afghanistan, and helps run a front organization for the mujahedeen known as Maktab al-Khidamar (MAK), which funnels money, arms, and fighters from the outside world into the Afghan war. [New Yorker, 1/24/00] “MAK [is] nurtured by Pakistan's state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA's primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow's occupation.” [MSNBC, 8/24/98] Bin Laden becomes closely tied to the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and greatly strengthens Hekmatyar's opium smuggling operations. [Le Monde, 9/14/01] Hekmatyar, who also has ties with bin Laden, the CIA, and drug running, has been called “an ISI stooge and creation.” [Asia Times, 11/15/01]
People and organizations involved: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Maktab al-Khidamar, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence
          

Mid-1980s: Pakistani ISI and CIA Gain from Drug Production

       The Pakistani ISI starts a special cell of agents who use profits from heroin production for covert actions “at the insistence of the CIA.” “This cell promotes the cultivation of opium, the extraction of heroin in Pakistani and Afghan territories under mujahedeen control. The heroin is then smuggled into the Soviet controlled areas, in an attempt to turn the Soviet troops into heroin addicts. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the ISI's heroin cell started using its network of refineries and smugglers for smuggling heroin to the Western countries and using the money as a supplement to its legitimate economy. But for these heroin dollars, Pakistan's legitimate economy must have collapsed many years ago.” [Financial Times (Asian edition), 8/10/01] The ISI grows so powerful on this money, that “even by the shadowy standards of spy agencies, the ISI is notorious. It is commonly branded ‘a state within the state,’ or Pakistan's ‘invisible government.’” [Time, 5/6/02]
People and organizations involved: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency
          

Mid 1980s: ISI Head Regularly Meets with bin Laden

       According to controversial author Gerald Posner, ex-CIA officials claim that General Akhtar Abdul Rahman, Pakistani ISI's head from 1980 to 1987, regularly meets bin Laden in Peshawar, Pakistan. The ISI and bin Laden form a partnership that forces Afghan tribal warlords to pay a “tax” on the opium trade. By 1985, bin Laden and the ISI are splitting annual profits of up to $100 million a year. [Posner, 2003, pp 29]
People and organizations involved: Akhtar Abdul Rahman, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence
          

July 5, 1991: Outlaw BCCI Bank Is Shut Down

      
The BCCI logo on the front of one of their banks.
The Bank of England shuts down Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the largest Islamic bank in the world. Based in Pakistan, this bank financed numerous militant organizations and laundered money generated by illicit drug trafficking and other illegal activities, including arms trafficking. Bin Laden and many other militants had accounts there. [Detroit News, 9/30/01] One money-laundering expert claims, “BCCI did dirty work for every major terrorist service in the world.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02] American and British governments were aware of its activities yet allowed the bank to operate for years. The Pakistani ISI had major connections to the bank. However, as later State Department reports indicate, Pakistan remains a major drug trafficking and money-laundering center despite the bank's closing. [Detroit News, 9/30/01] “The CIA used BCCI to funnel millions of dollars to the fighters battling the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan” according to the Washington Post. A French intelligence report in 2001 suggests the BCCI network has been largely rebuilt by bin Laden (see October 2001). [Washington Post, 2/17/02] The ruling family of Abu Dhabi, the dominant emirate in the United Arab Emirates, owned 77 percent of the bank. [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02]
People and organizations involved: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Bank of England
          

Mid-1996-October 2001: Ariana Airlines Becomes Transport Arm of al-Qaeda

      
Victor Bout.
In 1996, al-Qaeda assumes control of Ariana Airlines, Afghanistan's national airline, for use in its illegal trade network. Passenger flights become few and erratic, as planes are used to fly drugs, weapons, gold, and personnel, primarily between Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Pakistan. The Emirate of Sharjah, in the UAE, becomes a hub for al-Qaeda drug and arms smuggling. Typically, “large quantities of drugs” are flown from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Sharjah, and large quantities of weapons are flown back to Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] About three to four flights run the route each day. Many weapons come from Victor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer based in Sharjah. [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02] Afghan taxes on opium production are paid in gold, and then the gold bullion is flown to Dubai, UAE, and laundered into cash. [Washington Post, 2/17/02] Taliban officials regularly provide militants with false papers identifying them as Ariana Airlines employees so they can move freely around the world. A former National Security Council official later claims the US is well aware at the time that al-Qaeda agents regularly fly on Ariana Airlines, but the US fails to act for several years. The US does press the UAE for tighter banking controls, but moves “delicately, not wanting to offend an ally in an already complicated relationship,” and little changes by 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] Much of the money for the 9/11 hijackers flows though these Sharjah, UAE, channels. There also are reports suggesting that Ariana Airlines might have been used to train Islamic militants as pilots. The illegal use of Ariana Airlines helps convince the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in 1999, but the sanctions lack teeth and do not stop the airline. A second round of sanctions finally stops foreign Ariana Airlines flights, but its charter flights and other charter services keep the illegal network running. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Ariana Airlines, Victor Bout, United Nations, United Arab Emirates, Taliban
          

Late 1996: Bin Laden Becomes Active in Opium Trade

       Bin Laden establishes and maintains a major role in opium drug trade, soon after moving the base of his operations to Afghanistan. Opium money is vital to keeping the Taliban in power and funding bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. Yossef Bodansky, Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and author of a 1999 biography on bin Laden, says bin Laden takes a 15 percent cut of the drug trade money in exchange for protecting smugglers and laundering their profits. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/30/01] Another report estimates that bin Laden takes up to 10 percent of Afghanistan's drug trade by early 1999. This would give him a yearly income of up to $1 billion out of $6.5 to $10 billion in annual drug profits from within Afghanistan. [Financial Times, 11/28/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Taliban, al-Qaeda
          

October 1998: Military Analyst Goes Where Spies Fail to Go, but Her Efforts Are Rejected

      
Julie Sirrs.
Julie Sirrs, a military analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), travels to Afghanistan. Fluent in local languages and knowledgeable about the culture, she had made a previous undercover trip there in October 1997. She is surprised that the CIA was not interested in sending in agents after the failed missile attack on bin Laden in August 1998, so she returns at this time. Traveling undercover, she meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. She sees a terrorist training center in Taliban-controlled territory. Sirrs claims, “The Taliban's brutal regime was being kept in power significantly by bin Laden's money, plus the narcotics trade, while [Massoud's] resistance was surviving on a shoestring. With even a little aid to the Afghan resistance, we could have pushed the Taliban out of power. But there was great reluctance by the State Department and the CIA to undertake that.” She partly blames the interest of the US government and the oil company Unocal to see the Taliban achieve political stability to enable a trans-Afghanistan pipeline (see May 1996) (see September 27, 1996). She claims, “Massoud told me he had proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul.” She also states, “The State Department didn't want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban.” After two weeks, she returns with a treasure trove of maps, photographs, and interviews. [ABC News, 2/18/02; New York Observer, 3/11/04] By interviewing captured al-Qaeda operatives, she learns that the official Afghanistan airline, Ariana Airlines, is being used to ferry weapons and drugs, and learns that bin Laden goes hunting with “rich Saudis and top Taliban officials” (see Mid-1996-October 2001) (see 1995-2001). [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01 (B)] When she returns from Afghanistan, her material is confiscated and she is accused of being a spy. Says one senior colleague, “She had gotten the proper clearances to go, and she came back with valuable information,” but high level officials “were so intent on getting rid of her, the last thing they wanted to pay attention to was any information she had.” She is cleared of wrongdoing, but her security clearance is pulled. She eventually quits the DIA in frustration. [New York Observer, 3/11/04; ABC News, 2/18/02] She claims that US intelligence on bin Laden and the Taliban relied too heavily on the ISI for its information. [ABC News, 2/18/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Defense Intelligence Agency, Julie Sirrs, Osama bin Laden, Northern Alliance, Ariana Airlines, Unocal, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of State, Taliban, al-Qaeda, Ahmed Shah Massoud
          

November 29, 1999: UN Says ISI Makes Billions from Drugs

       The United Nations Drug Control Program determines that the ISI makes around $2.5 billion annually from the sale of illegal drugs. [Times of India, 11/29/99]
People and organizations involved: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, United Nations
          

July 2000: Taliban Bans Poppy Growing

       In response to Western pressure, the Taliban bans poppy growing in Afghanistan. As a result, the opium yield drops dramatically in 2001, from 3,656 tons to 185 tons. Of that, 83 percent is from Northern Alliance-controlled lands. However, the effect isn't that great because there is a surplus in the West, and it is believed the Taliban have a large stockpile as well. [Observer, 11/25/01; Reuters, 3/3/02; Guardian, 2/21/02]
People and organizations involved: Northern Alliance, Taliban
          

May 2001: US Gives Taliban Millions

       Secretary of State Powell announces that the US is granting $43 million in aid to the Taliban government, purportedly to assist hungry farmers who are starving since the destruction of their opium crop occurred in January on orders of the Taliban. [Los Angeles Times, 5/22/01] This follows $113 million given by the US in 2000 for humanitarian aid. [State Department Fact Sheet, 12/11/01] A Newsday editorial notes that the Taliban “are a decidedly odd choice for an outright gift ... Why are we sending these people money—so much that Washington is, in effect, the biggest donor of aid to the Taliban regime?” [Newsday, 5/29/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Colin Powell
          

June 12, 2001: Sting Operation Exposes al-Qaeda, ISI, and Drug Connections; Investigators Face Obstacles to Learn More

      
Kevin Ingram, Randy Glass, and Diaa Mohsen in August 1999.
Operation Diamondback, a sting operation uncovering an attempt to buy weapons illegally for the Taliban, bin Laden, and others, ends with a number of arrests. An Egyptian named Diaa Mohsen and a Pakistani named Mohammed Malik are arrested and accused of attempting to buy Stinger missiles, nuclear weapon components, and other sophisticated military weaponry for the Pakistani ISI. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/23/01; Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B)] Malik appears to have had links to important Pakistani officials and Kashmiri militants, and Mohsen claims a connection to a man “who is very connected to the Taliban” and funded by bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B); MSNBC, 8/2/02] Some other ISI agents came to Florida on several occasions to negotiate, but they escaped being arrested. They wanted to pay partially in heroin. One mentioned that the WTC would be destroyed. These ISI agents said some of their purchases would go to the Taliban in Afghanistan and/or militants associated with bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B); MSNBC, 8/2/02] Both Malik and Mohsen lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/01] Mohsen pleads guilty after 9/11, “but remarkably, even though [he was] apparently willing to supply America's enemies with sophisticated weapons, even nuclear weapons technology, Mohsen was sentenced to just 30 months in prison.” [MSNBC, 8/2/02] Malik's case appears to have been dropped, and reporters find him working in a store in Florida less than a year after the trial ended. [MSNBC, 8/2/02] Malik's court files remain completely sealed, and in Mohsen's court case, prosecutors “removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns.” [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B)] Also arrested are Kevin Ingram and Walter Kapij. Ingram pleads guilty to laundering $350,000 and he is sentenced to 18 months in prison. [Associated Press, 12/1/01] Ingram was a former senior investment banker with Deutsche Bank, but resigned in January 1999 after his division suffered costly losses. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/01] Walter Kapij, a pilot with a minor role in the plot, is given the longest sentence, 33 months in prison. [Palm Beach Post, 1/12/02] Informant Randy Glass plays a key role in the sting, and has thirteen felony fraud charges against him reduced as a result, serving only seven months in prison. Federal agents involved in the case later express puzzlement that Washington higher-ups did not make the case a higher priority, pointing out that bin Laden could have gotten a nuclear bomb if the deal was for real. Agents on the case complain that the FBI did not make the case a counterterrorism matter, which would have improved bureaucratic backing and opened access to FBI information and US intelligence from around the world. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B); MSNBC, 8/2/02] Federal agents frequently couldn't get prosecutors to approve wiretaps. [Cox News Service, 8/2/02] Glass says, “Wouldn't you think that there should have been a wire tap on Diaa [Mohsen]'s phone and Malik's phone?” [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02] An FBI supervisor in Miami refused to front money for the sting, forcing agents to use money from US Customs and even Glass's own money to help keep the sting going. [Cox News Service, 8/2/02]
People and organizations involved: Mohammed Malik, Kevin Ingram, Diaa Mohsen, Walter Kapij, Operation Diamondback, Randy Glass, Osama bin Laden, World Trade Center, Taliban, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, US Customs Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

September 27, 2001: ISI Has Connections to Taliban, Drug Trade, CIA

       The Sydney Morning Herald discusses the connections between the CIA and Pakistan's ISI, and the ISI's long-standing control over the Taliban. Drugs are a big part of their operation: “opium cultivation and heroin production in Pakistan's northern tribal belt and adjoining Afghanistan were a vital offshoot of the ISI-CIA cooperation. It succeeded in turning some of the Soviet troops into addicts. Heroin sales in Europe and the US, carried out through an elaborate web of deception, transport networks, couriers, and payoffs, offset the cost of the decade-long war in Afghanistan.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/27/01]
People and organizations involved: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Taliban, Central Intelligence Agency
          

November 21, 2001: Opium Boom in Afghanistan

       The Independent runs a story with the title: “Opium Farmers Rejoice at the Defeat of the Taliban.” Massive opium planting is underway all across Afghanistan. [Independent, 11/21/01] Four days later, the Observer runs a story headlined, “Victorious Warlords Set to Open the Opium Floodgates.” It states that farmers are being encouraged by warlords allied with the US to plant “as much opium as possible.” [Observer, 11/25/01]
          

March 1, 2002: ISI Maintains Huge Drug Economy

       Vanity Fair suggests the ISI is still deeply involved in the drug trade in Central Asia. It estimates that Pakistan has a parallel drug economy worth $15 billion a year. Pakistan's official economy is worth about $60 billion. The article notes that the US has not tied its billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan to assurances that Pakistan will stop its involvement in drugs. [Vanity Fair, 3/1/02]
People and organizations involved: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, United States
          

April 1, 2002: Afghan Opium Crackdown Fails

      
An Afghani farmer stands in his opium poppy fields.
“American officials have quietly abandoned their hopes to reduce Afghanistan's opium production substantially this year and are now bracing for a harvest large enough to inundate the world's heroin and opium markets with cheap drugs.” They want to see the new Afghan government make at least a token effort to destroy some opium, but it appears that the new government is not doing even that. Afghan leader Hamid Karzai had announced a total ban on opium cultivation, processing, and trafficking, but it appears to be a total sham. The new harvest is so large that it could be “enough opium to stockpile for two or two and a half more years.” [New York Times, 4/1/02] Starting this month, Karzai's government offers farmers $500 for every acre of poppies they destroy, but farmers can earn as much as $6,400 per acre for the crop. The program is eventually cancelled when it runs out of money to pay farmers. [Associated Press, 3/27/03]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, Hamid Karzai
          

July 6, 2002: Afghan Vice President Assassinated

       Afghan Vice President Hajji Abdul Qadir is assassinated by Afghan warlords. Some believe that Qadir was assassinated by opium warlords upset by Qadir's efforts to reduce the rampant opium farming and processing that has taken place since the US occupation. Qadir had been overseeing a Western-backed eradication program, and had recently complained that the money meant to be given to reward farmers for not planting opium was in fact not reaching the farmers. Additionally, Qadir “had long been suspected of enriching himself through involvement in the opium trade.” [Chicago Tribune, 7/8/02; New York Times, 7/8/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Hajji Abdul Qadir
          

August 11, 2002: Afghans Directly Producing and Exporting Heroin in Broad Daylight

      
An Afghan refines opium into heroin.
In the past, Afghanistan had mostly exported raw opium, but now many new refineries are converting the opium into heroin. The British government has spent £20 million to eradicate opium, but the program is marred by corruption and largely seen as a failure. The new heroin factories are said to be “working in broad daylight.” There has been a rash of bombings and assassinations in Afghanistan as various factions fight over drug profits. Reporters for a British newspaper are able to determine the precise location of some of these factories, but the US-led forces in Afghanistan are doing nothing to stop them. [Observer, 8/11/02]
People and organizations involved: Britain
          

March 14, 2003: Afghanistan Becomes Number One Heroin Producer

       The Afghan government warns that unless the international community hands over the aid it promised, Afghanistan will slip back into its role as the world's premier heroin producer. The country's foreign minister warns Afghanistan could become a “narco-mafia state.” [BBC, 3/17/03] A United Nations study later in the month notes that Afghanistan is once again the world's number one heroin producer, producing 3,750 tons in 2002. Farmers are growing more opium poppies than ever throughout the country, including areas previously free of the crop. [Associated Press, 3/27/03]
People and organizations involved: United Nations, Afghanistan
          

2004: Afghan poppy farmers harvest a record 4,600 tons of opium

       Roughly 4,600 tons of opium are harvested in Afghanistan during 2004, according to a December 2004 statement by Russian Federal Drug Control Service Oleg Kharichkin. By the end of the year, more than 206,000 hectares in Afghanistan are reportedly planted with the crop. The Russians believe that 2005 production will approach 5,000 tons. [Paknews Tribune, 12/22/04]
People and organizations involved: Russia
          

Spring 2004: Conditions In Afghanistan Deteriorate

       It is reported that conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated significantly in nearly every respect. According to Lakhdar Brahima, UN special envoy to Afghanistan, the situation “is reminiscent to what was witnessed after the establishment of the mujahedeen government in 1992.” Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a member of the Wahhabi sect of Islam who opposed the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia, along with several other warlords accused of atrocities in the mid-1990s, have returned to power and are effectively ruling the country. Several hold key positions within the government. They “continue to maintain their own private armies and ... are reaping vast amounts of money from Afghanistan's illegal opium trade...” The US, while claming to support Afghan President Karzai, is relying on these warlords to “help” hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda factions, although the success rate is abysmal, and much of the intelligence provided by the warlords is faulty. The Taliban has begun to regroup, and now essentially controls much of the southern and eastern regions of the country. [Foreign Affairs, May/June 2004]
People and organizations involved: Lakhdar Brahima, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, al-Qaeda, Taliban, Hamid Karzai, Bush administration
          


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