Kabul – While the U.S is supposed to be winding down its involvement in the Afghan war, the war on drugs continues, led by a private contractor named “Academi” a reincarnation of the better known “Blackwater”.
In the Afghan capital Kabul, within a compound, with a name the military no doubt loves, Camp Integrity. there are a small number of officers whose job is to oversee all the operations involved in the Afghan version of the war on drugs. These operations are meant to curb Afghan production of heroin and marijuana.
The Taliban is partly financed by cash from these operations. Actually the base is not really a U.S. military base but the headquarters of the private contractor called Academi a second re-branding of the firm originally called Blackwater. In February 2011, the U.S. Corps of Engineers awarded a no-bid contract to the U.S.Training Center, a Blackwater subsidiary to house its personnel at the Camp. The officers at the camp compound work for the Counter Narco-Terrorism Program Office (CNTPO) This agency is one of the largest dispensers of cash to private contractors in the entire U.S.government. Just one group of contracts from CNTPO last year added up to more than $3 billion The U.S. government is now asking to hire a security firm to help out the operations of CNTPO in Afghanistan. The contract will extend through Sept 29, 2015.
The government also prefers CNTPO to be based in Camp Integrity, the headquarters of Academi. Even after most combat troops have gone home, the war on drugs will continue. The CNTPO staff would actually be quite small, two to four people, but then the number of private contractors associated with their program could be considerably larger. CNTPO has in the past hired Blackwater. In 2009 Blackwater was given a contract to train Afghan police. The company requisitioned guns from the military for their own use.
The contract was ultimately taken from the company, CNTPO has maintained relations with the successor company Academi. Last year Academi was reported to have a contract with CNTPO for “all-source intelligence analyst support and material procurement” in Afghanistan.
The Academi deal is but a small part of CNTPO’s numerous contracts with other private contractors. Some of the contracts are for tasks that have little or no obvious connection to fighting terrorism or the drug trade such as “media analysis and web-site development consultation to officials of the Government of Pakistan.” The anti-narcotic programs seem to have little effect. According to UN statistics, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has risen by 20 per cent in the last two years. Not only the Taliban profit from the crops but local politicians as well. The failed fight against the drug trade is also profitable for private contractors.