Sunday, June 22, 2014
Buttigieg Tells Newspaper His Work In Afghanistan Involves Drugs, Finance And Terrorism
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has provided his first on-record interview for a reporter since arriving for his military intelligence assignment in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve in March. Although he told the South Bend Tribune's Erin Blasko he was limited in what he could say because his work involved intelligence, he gave her as specific of a response as you could expect: "I can tell you that I'm working on the intersection of drugs, finance and terrorism," Buttigieg said, commenting for the first time in any detail on his work in the country. "I'm assigned to a counterterrorism organization called the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, he continued. "My missiion is to protect the homeland and target the most dangerous drug trafficking organizations in Afghanistan."
Blasko's story doesn't elaborate a whole lot on what the Afghan Threat Finance Cell does. It's a multi-intelligence organization that is the brainchild of Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded the Afghan War. The ATFC is comprised of about 30 specialists on loan from the Department of Drug Enforcement, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense’s CENTCOM, the CIA, and the FBI, who try to identify and disrupt sources of Taliban funding according to Time magazine. Buttigieg is likely working there in a role as a CIA asset. His mother graciously reminds us in Blasko's story of her son's prior work in Afghanistan for a CIA front company. "[Anne] Montgomery, a Notre Dame graduate and retired professor at the university, noted that her son has been to Afghanistan before," Blasko writes. "He traveled there as a consultant with McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm based in the U.S., before becoming mayor." "His work is classified, so we know absolutely nothing about it," Montgomery added. He mother said he's "very interested" in the work he does there, but when she asks what he's doing "there's dead air."
According to Douglas Wissing, author of "Funding the Enemy: How the U.S. Taxpayers Bankroll The Taliaban," U.S. efforts in Afghanistan are flagging largely because we're funding the enemy. Wissing spoke to officials working for ATFC in preparing his book. "The official confirmed the U.S. and civilian reports that the insurgents used extortion of U.S. development and logistics contracts for their funding," Wissing said. "He cited logistics-convoy security shakedowns, construction-protection rackets, Taliban 'taxes' on corrupt officials, payoffs from international NGOs and major Afghan businesses—such as cell phones, utilities, and banks—as well as skims from poorly overseen Afghan government projects of the National Solidarity Program." Wissing says that much of the money flowing into Afghanistan makes its way into the hands of the Taliban, who are waging war against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Wissing says U.S. soldiers compare it to the mafia with everyone on the take.
As to the heroin drug trade in the country, reporter Dean Henderson, author of "Big Oil and Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families and Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics and Terror Network," attributes its explosion to the CIA-led activities in the country. "They've been running it from the get-go, all the way back to when the Mujahideen were formed," Henderson said. "It's been the same game starting with Jimmy Carter's people through Reagan, the Bushes, Clinton and now Obama." According to Henderson, the drug warlords in Afghanistan were tied to CIA asset Osama bin Laden from the moment the U.S. began funding the resistance to Soviet occupation of the country.
Buttigieg described the living and working quarters where he is based in Afghanistan as "utilitarian." He sleeps in a modified shipping container, showers in an adjacent shipping container and his office is in a shipper container. "They're kind of like the Legos of Afghanistan," he said. He tells Blasko that it has only recently gotten warm in the country, noting that the mountainous climate of Afghanistan makes temperatures cooler than one might think. He stays connected with the latest news back home through the Internet, and talks weekly to Deputy Mayor Mike Neal, who is acting as mayor in his absence, and other city staff members using Skype.
Buttigieg tells Blasko that most people with whom he works know little about his background as mayor of South Bend until they Google his name and catch on pretty quickly. He said reactions to him being a mayor vary. "Obviously it's a curiosity," he said. "On a broader level, it doesn't really matter. Here it's, 'Can the person get the job done, and can I trust this person with my life?'" He said his experience of running into people on his base from South Bend has been "a little bit disorienting."It's always unexpected ... but it's always nice to feel that connection to home," he said. "It's also a reminder how, even a little city like ours has people all around the world."
Afghanistan recently conducted elections in Afghanistan for president. "We're just pretty excited that Election Day went well," he says, referring to the recent runoff for Afghan president, on June 14," Buttigieg said. "One of the things that's been pretty inspiring around here, all the Afghans I met in the last few days had their fingers inked to mark that they voted," he said. Blasko notes that insurgents cut off the fingers of 11 voters and killed at least 20 more because they participated in the election. Buttigieg acknowledged ongoing safety concerns in the "war zone." "Part of my routine, of course, is I don't leave the room without a gun." Buttigieg expects to leave Afghanistan in September to return home.