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U.S. Investigates Afghan Air Force

Erin Dwyer

U.S. authorities announced Thursday that the U.S. Military Coalition and Drug Enforcement Administration will be investigating claims that Afghan Air Force (AAF) officials are transporting narcotics and illegal weapons via aircraft through the country. Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger, the commander of NATO’s Training Mission-Afghanistan, which invested $1.9 billion in AAF over 2011 and 2012, explains that allegations indicate “that [AAF officials] were transporting drugs on aircraft and transported weapons not owned by the government of Afghanistan for the use of private groups.” AAF Major General Abdul Wahab Wardak has denied the accusations.

The investigation, which is still in its preliminary stage, is believed to be linked to the incident last April when AAF Colonel Ahmed Gul, who coordinated cargo movement, killed eight U.S. Air Force officials at Kabul Airport. It is now being reported that the targeted officers may have been conducting an early investigation into the misuse of planes. In addition, the U.S. Air Force’s 436-page report on the incident suggests senior officials in the AAF and Afghan government were aware of the illicit activity — some even directly involved.

Afghan farmers work on a poppy field in Helmand province, the world’s single largest source of opium.

As producer of 90% of the world’s opium, Afghanistan houses smuggling routes that supply consumers in Russia — the world’s largest per capita consumer of heroin — and Western Europe. Investigators believe commanders of the Northern Alliance are rearming militias in Northern Afghanistan with revenues gained from the illegal drug trade.

While suspicions regarding AAF’s transportation of weapons and drugs have yet to be confirmed, the investigation will likely further public doubt concerning a successful transition of power to Afghan security forces following foreign combat withdrawal in 2014.