Wikileaks: British aid budget funded key aide to al-Qaeda
An Afghan politician identified as a key aide to al-Qaeda terrorists was funded by the British aid budget, according to documents released by WikiLeaks.
Mullan Haji Rohullah, who was subsequently transported to Guantánamo, was paid more than £300,000 of British taxpayers’ money to eradicate his poppy crops. But he instead allegedly supported al-Qaeda and helped terrorists escape allied forces — while continuing to act as a major drugs trafficker.
The revelation raises new questions over the payment and monitoring of international aid in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the invasion in 2001.
The international development budget, which has recently been embroiled in controversy over the appropriateness of some expenditure, is one of the only areas of the British public sector which is not facing cuts under the Coalition.
Farming poppies for opium was a major source of income to the Taliban, with heroin being trafficked around the world. Rohullah, who was based in Konar province, met the British ambassador in Afghanistan to discuss the eradication scheme and agreed that farmers in the area would receive $250 (£152) an acre to stop growing poppies.
Rohullah is also linked to British intelligence services in the Guantánamo files.
However, according to the documents, “it appears detainee [Rohullah] was not only receiving money from selling poppies when he claimed he was prohibiting them from being grown in Konar province, but he was also receiving financial aid from the British”.
Using development funding, the British apparently gave $6 million (£3.6 million) to a close associate of Rohullah, of which $3.5 million was distributed to tribal leaders.
Rohullah, who was arrested in 2002 but has since been released, was also allegedly “linked to plots to kill leaders within the interim Afghanistan government”.
The files alleged that the “detainee had a tremendous negative impact on the people of the Kunar province”.
The “important politician” had previously travelled to Britain and met Abu Qatada, the radical cleric.
After Rohullah, 49, was arrested, his supporters held meetings to plan attacks on Americans.
The supporters discussed either suicide attacks against the US or capturing Americans “to hold as hostages for use in bartering” for Rohullah’s release.
According to the US WikiLeaks documents, Rohullah “had dealings with the United Kingdom and the Pakistani ISID [Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate].”
“He supposedly was in support of the Afghan Interim Administration,” state the files, but allegedly he was “really conducting operations that undermined the transition process.”
The payments to Afghan farmers to stop growing poppies for the production of heroin have been a controversial part of the overseas development funding since 2001.
The British supported payments to farmers to destroy the crops, whereas the US preferred to encourage them to grow other crops.
The British Government spent more than £290 million on a three-year-programme of eradication, support for farmers and pursuit of drug barons and traffickers.
The United Nations recently predicted a strong increase in poppy cultivation in north and north-eastern parts of Afghanistan where insurgents have stepped up attacks after being heavily pressured in their southern strongholds by Afghan and coalition forces.
Overall, however, a report released earlier this month by the UN said it expected poppy cultivation across Afghanistan to drop slightly this year because less of the crop is being planted in the south.