Is Afghanistan's New Top Cop A Heroin Kingpin?

By Kirk Maltais and Walter Armstrong 06/01/11

New chief of police in Taliban stronghold is rumored to be region's opium-smuggling enforcer.

Kandahar's top lawman, warlord Abdul Razik.
Photo outlookafghanistan

 There’s a new sheriff in town in Kandahar, Afghanistan, the Taliban homeland that has long been a center of traffic for the nation’s no. 1 export: the precious opium from which heroin is made. Brig. Gen. Abdul Razik, a 30-year-old former border cop, took over as chief of police for Kandahar on Sunday, after his predecessor was killed in a suicide attack six weeks ago.

The elevation of Razik was applauded by many U.S. officials, who cite his record for effectively battling the Taliban and improving security in the Afghan/Pakistan border region that he oversaw. However, critics raise concerns about another aspect of Radick’s record—his reputation for amassing huge wealth in exchange for abetting the smuggling of opium into Pakistan. Because the Taliban depend on the heroin trade’s cash flow to bankroll their insurgency, Radick is viewed as cunningly exploiting the system for his own maximum gain.

Razik is shrewd, nut no sweetheart. A 2009 profile in Harper's described him as “a ruthless, charismatic figure…who brook(s) no opposition to his will.” The story details how Razik's control on the flow of opium at important crossings, combined with his fruitful relationship with the region’s overstretched NATO commanders, has made him a rich and powerful warlord—a remarkable achievement for a child who was orphaned by the war with the Soviets.

It remains to be seen how Razick’s authority as chief of police will effect the heroin trade. But in a nation where the president is rumored to be a heroin addict whose family has made a fortune running the drug, the chances of weaning farmers off opium poppies to, say, soybeans seems remote.

Razik’s first statement after assuming office indicated how low expectations are. He promises to stay within the law and reform a fractured police system. “I will try to deal with the problem of grouping in the police force,” Razik told the Pajhwok Afghan News. “I give police a week to reform themselves and use only the resources allowed by the government. Everyone should know their limits.”

Of course, you have to give the dude his due, taking over the office whose previous occupant was blown to bit by a Taliban suicide bomber.



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