Billions of Dollars in Cash Leave Afghanistan 21

Plainly our occupation of Afghanistan is so succesful in promoting the country’s economy that there is too much money around. As the Washington Post reports, in a two month period 180 million dollars in cash was declared as it was carried out through Kabul airport, mostly to Dubai.

What is strange is the Washington Post’s estimate of the outflow as “Over 1 billion dollars per year”. 180 milion dollars in two months is already a rate of over 2 billion dollars per year. As the Washington Post report does acknowledge, that is the tip of the iceberg. Much exported cash is undeclared or under-declared, and the regime insiders send out their cash unchecked and undeclared through the VIP lounge. The real figure is certainly much higher than 2 billion dollars.

That is not including money sent out through swiss banks or by wire transfer.

Nice to know that our soldiers are dying, and our taxes being spent, to protect such a thriving and active government.


A sensible comment from Strategist leads me to explain something. Very little of this money will be drug money. The idea that Afghanistan is awash in drugs money is a myth. The large drugs warlords – mostly Karzai government members or affiliates – export the heroin and are paid OFFSHORE.

Very little of the narcotics money ever enters Afghanistan – only the cash which is needed to pay local farmers and meet costs of conversion to heroin. I would estimate that only some 2 billion dollars per year from the heroin trade actually enters the Afghan economy, and that is widely dispersed.

If, as the American official quoted comments, they don’t really know what is going on, it is because they don’t want to know what is going on.

That is true in two senses – The USA is more than ever sheltering behind the figleaf of the puppet Karzai regime, so the extent of that regime’s looting must be kept quiet. Karzai won’t wait for the last US helicopter before leaving to spend more time with his money. But also the absence of any exchange controls is part of the neo-liberal economic policies inappropriately imposed on Afghanistan by the invading West.

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21 thoughts on “Billions of Dollars in Cash Leave Afghanistan

  • Strategist

    If the declared money is $2bn, then the real amount must indeed be much greater.

    “But, the American official said, ‘we don’t really know what is going on.'”

    Is that plausible?

    Craig, what’s your informed guess on what this money is?

    How much is 80% (or whatever it is) of the world heroin crop worth?

  • Rob


    “The United Nations reported in 2008 that the retail price of heroin in the United States has fluctuated between about $100 and $200 per gram in recent years, while retail prices in Europe have fluctated between $70 and $100 per gram in recent years. Wholesale prices are generally about half of retail prices. Over the past two decades, total global opium producation has consistently averaged about 5,000 metric tons each year, or about 500 tons of heroin. Of this, about 20% is consistently seized by law enforcement, leaving about 400 tons available to consumers [that is, about 400,000,000 grams, which at European street prices would be worth between $30 billion and $40 billion, while at US street prices it would be between $40 billion and $80 billion.

    The United Nations reports that the total farmgate value of opium production in Afghanistan rose 32% to US$1 billion dollars in 2007 on the strength of the enormous increase in production. Total export value of opiates to neighboring countries is thought to be around US$4 billion.

    $ 1 B farmers

    $ 4 B exporters

    $25 B importers

    $50 B retail”


  • Rob

    … sorry, too quick with the ‘Post’ button there. Meant to go on to say:

    The Wikipedia article:

    tells a lot including links with informal money transfer practices.

    However, on the strength of these figures it is doubtful that £2B per year of declared money transfers could be supported by opium/heroin alone. My guess is that shedloads of aid/reconstruction money goes AWOL. As far as I can find from a cursory search there are no other big moeny industries in Afghanistan, such as oil, minerals or gems.

  • Strategist

    Thanks, Rob, that’s fantastic.

    Maybe, like me, American officials need to check Wikipedia more often!

    I question why you say the $2bil can’t be from heroin if the Afghan exporters of the crop are making $4bil/year from it. Unlike the local farmers, I’m guessing the exporters will prefer to keep all their profits safe in Dubai..?

    It us also implied that the money being ripped off by government high-ups is going through the VIP lounge and not being counted…

    What a mess. What understanding of this is there on the streets of Wootton Bassett?

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    “If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan.

    Ahmed Wali Karzai is paid by the CIA as:

    1. A recruitment advisor

    For the Kandahar Strike Force.

    2. A ‘go-between’ for the CIA & Taliban

    To persuade some senior Taliban to change sides (offers of ‘remuneration’)

    3. A Land-Lord

    American Special Ops rent the former home of Mullah Mohammed Omar as a comfortable base.


    Paul Gimigliano, the ass’ole who declined to comment on the drone strikes when pressed that collateral civilian deaths are too high and these myoptic, hyperthreading heuristic deaths machines are illegally crossing sovereign borders and murdering women and children in their own homes. You fucking bastards with your killer PlayStations will be jammed when I fathom out the comms links. NOT IMPOSSIBLE!!


    Brookings Institution

  • dreoilin

    You may have seen this, folks:

    “Blair warned in 2000 Iraq war was illegal”

    ‘Secret papers withheld by Chilcot inquiry reveal Foreign Office fears over invasion’


  • dreoilin

    “My guess is that shedloads of aid/reconstruction money goes AWOL”–Rob

    Some of it goes “AWOL” purely in protection money to the Taliban, or none of this aid or reconstruction would ever be started. They’re also paying protection money (to the Taliban) just to keep their supply roads open. I read that from CLG recently.


    You probably know that it was reported sometime in the last couple of months that the Iraqis had found how to intercept the video output from the drones, with a bit of software available for a few $$ anywhere. It didn’t help them to stop the hits, but they had advance warning of where they were going.

  • Richard Robinson

    dreoilin – “They’re also paying protection money (to the Taliban) just to keep their supply roads open.”

    Yes. There was some coverage of that a year+ ago (“Moon of Alabama” had stuff on it, but I think that’s defunct now). Said, they were paying something like a 30% “tribute” on each load, to get it through the Khyber pass, and occasionally they couldn’t even keep that open. I think it was in January of last year, there was an announcement that they’d brought a first load in via container-ship to one of the Baltic states, followed by the Russian railway system and, I think, Uzbekistan.

    Armies use an awful bulk of stuff. But expecting them to live off the land has a ugly history, too.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    In a linked point, Craig, do you (or indeed anyone) know anything about the current US massive infiltration of civil society in Pakistan? I’ve heard of this through friends there. It’s a real ‘invasion’, apparently, often mediated through Pakistani American neocons. Are big banking coporations involved in some way? Does anyone know more about this?

  • anno

    Mark, consider yourself kissed on both cheeks for these fighting words.

    Suhayl, it is obvious that no country can ever be invaded by an outside power unless it has pimps on the inside.

    Rob, shed-loads of construction money. The Nigerians were said to be disappointed that the record-breaking biggest scam world-wide ever had been done by the US like this in Iraq.

    The De-sovietisation of USSR was maybe bigger, in our times.

    I met a civil servant from the Inland Revenue who was returning from helping in Afghanistan. He didn’t seem to know anything about illegal drugs, or how many Afghans live here in the UK, or why Bush and Blair attacked Afghanistan.

    He was just teaching people how to use implement computerised UTR systems.

    Before I dropped him off at his home I accidentally murdered a swan. All I saw in my mirror was a snow of white feathers. Hopefully something ate the poor thing. It seems like a good metaphor for Afghanistan. Bush and Blair look in the mirror and see the chaos they have caused, but who came along afterwards and stripped the carcase to the bone – nobody knows.

    It is a final and unforgettable message to the bastard politicians who signed up for the original invasions in the last decade, that nobody knows who is going to take advantage of these high-principled western decisions. They are cranking up corruption which will threaten us in the UK far more than any Muslim, worshipping his God has ever done.

  • anno

    Just suppose the cash from Afghanistan is ending up with the Taliban. Would it not have been easier if, at the beginning, when the Taliban demanded that the West open up its system to Islam and stopped trying to steal or despoil the assets of Muslim countries, the west had capitulated to those demands?

    What is so terrible about the ten commandments of Moses pbuh transposed into Islam? I came into Islam because I couldn’t find anyone left in the UK who believed in these commandments. We have totally deviated from them. The reality is that the UK has defeated itself, long before it will ever be defeated by Islam.

    But don’t worry, the cash from Afghanistan is not going to the Taliban, because they know that this dirty money, borrowed at interest from China, is only fit for charity or the dustbin. The cash is going to the enemies of Islam, and maybe that is the zionist controllers of the west’s real intention.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    Paying bribes to Afghan militias and tribes (including Taliban) not to attack supply convoys is just common sense if we’re going to have troops there – the volumes required could never be supplied by air and the only land routes are very vulnerable to IEDs and ambushes.

    The question is whether we should have troops there at all – and given that 90% of the people NATO are fighting aren’t Taliabn at all and the entire war does nothing to prevent terrorism but gets a lot of troops and a lot of civilians killed my guess is that we should bring our troops home.

    The only real justification would be to secure a route (not controlled by the Russian government) for the export of former-Soviet oil and gas. Is it morally right to send troops to kill and be killed for that though? It’s certainly not right to lie to them and the public and tell them they’re killing and dying purely for noble ideals like ‘democracy’ and ‘womens’ rights’ which really don’t figure that much in US or EU foriegn policy except as rhetoric.

  • anno

    Duncan McFarlane, thank you.

    The question is why our political leaders , especially Gordon Brown, do not possess the common sense of your comment. Brown had a realistic chance of withdrawing gracefully from Afghanistan. The cash which Craig is referring to is being paid for contracts in a country which does not have a legal system to enforce the contracts.

    A bit like the Pistakanis in Alum Rock Post Office in Birmingham. My wife took in a ‘check and send’ passport application, costs £8.00 and they took £20.00 for sending it by another system. The passport office will notice the difference between the fee sent and the passport requested and reject the application. Maybe Gordon Brown was right after all.

  • dreoilin


    “Paying bribes to Afghan militias and tribes (including Taliban) not to attack supply convoys is just common sense”

    It may be ‘pragmatic’. But the American public is unaware of it. They have learned that the Taliban and ‘Al Quaeda’ (they equate the two) are their sworn ‘mortal enemies’, out to kill them in their beds. They do not know where their tax dollars are going and they are unlikely to be much in favour of it if they did.

    “The question is whether we should have troops there at all”

    But of course. And for me the answer is no. I find the whole thing disgusting.

  • Richard Robinson

    “I find the whole thing disgusting.”

    It always seemed to me that the only viable, achievable purpose was reached in the brief period when the headlines blared that more civilians had been killed there than in the September attacks on the US. So the reason we’re there now is because it’s just not possible to acknowledge that that was all it was about.

    It would have taken one hell of a leader to divert the people of the US from wanting that, I guess, but, if ever there was a time when people would have benefited from such a one … (strong, even. And I don’t say that often). Tragic.

    If there’s another coherent purpose … has there ever been a clear definitive statement of War Aims ?

  • Neil Craig

    Am I wrong in thinking it is believed, but never spoken, that the money funding the Taliban & Al Quaeda is believed to largely come from Gulf arabs?

    I doubt if their funding comes to anything like $2 billion a month.

  • Walter

    You say “180 mil[l]ion dollars in two months is already a rate of over 2 billion dollars per year.”

    Is that European math?

    Anyway, the interests that are buoyed by heroin sales are the same who profit from invading heroin producing countries.

    Same for oil, etc etc.

    Americans are starting to sense what is going on, and the “war on terror” will be fizzling out soon.

    Stay tuned for the “war on dark people” or whatever is up next…

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