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Australian police compiled ‘hit lists’ of Afghan drug runners, cable reportedly shows

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, December 28, 2010 11:03 EDT
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The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are banned from contributing to military operations, yet they helped to compile “hit lists” of drug traffickers in the Afghan capital of Kabul, a leaked US diplomatic cable reportedly revealed.

The document was provided exclusively to The Sydney Morning Herald by secrets outlet WikiLeaks. They noted that the US Defense Department had confirmed the assignment of AFP officers to a joint task force in Kabul.

“There has been a rise in capture-or-kill missions aimed at insurgents, with as many as 17 raids a night in Afghanistan by special forces teams from Australia, the US, Britain and other countries,” the paper reported. “The soldiers work off a secret hit list, a centralised military database that includes information from police intelligence.”

Officers worked for the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, commanded by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Afghan government. The cable specifically asked for translators to work on intercepting wire data and financial information.

The Canberra Times noted that while the AFP hasn’t worked with the finance cell since April, officers are still involved in efforts with the US-run Counter Narcotics Joint Interagency Task Force, which helps feed information into drug war operations around the world.

Similarly, a recently released diplomatic cable revealed the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has evolved from domestic enforcement to a global intelligence operation with tentacles in more arenas than just narcotics.

Tactics similar to those adopted in Kabul — where an international police force supplies information for capture-or-kill operations — are also being applied by the DEA in Mexico’s increasingly violent drug war. Information sharing and forces training have become increasingly common, according to The Washington Post, with the DEA providing “intelligence packages” to Mexican marines, who stage audacious raids on the alleged locations of high-profile drug cartel bosses.

Another recently released diplomatic cable, from August 2009, showed that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has intervened in the country’s legal system to free scores of drug traffickers, who were seen as being politically connected. Included in those released without trial since 2007 were 29 former Guantanamo Bay prisoners, the cable claimed.

Following an investigation ordered by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the AFP concluded earlier this month that WikiLeaks had committed no criminal offense within their jurisdiction.

“Where additional cables are published and criminal offences are suspected, these matters should be referred to the AFP for evaluation,” they said.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said he was expecting to be charged with either conspiracy or espionage by the US government, but no formal accusations had been levied. Released on bail in London, Assange still faced a legal battle over a Swedish extradition request, where he was wanted in connection to an unrelated investigation into a possible sexual assault.

Australia has fewer than 2,000 troops deployed to support the US occupation of Afghanistan.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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