There is something terribly wrong with the story of Haji Bashir Noorzai. U.S. Attorney, David Kelley, held a press conference today, where he announced Noorzai’s indictment:
Federal agents arrested Haji Bashir Noorzai, an Afghan drug lord with close ties to the Taliban, the country’s former religious rulers, U.S. Attorney David Kelley announced today.
Noorzai was indicted by a grand jury in New York on charges of conspiring to import $50 million worth of heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan into the U.S. and other countries. Noorzai was arrested in the U.S. by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration as he was traveling to New York.
Noorzai was arrested while attempting to enter the United States, presumably at JFK airport. But as the following article by Colin Freeman, of the Chronicle Foreign Service (11/19/2004), makes clear, Mr. Noorzai was placed, in June 2004, on a government most-wanted list for international drug kingpins.
In the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, where his $100 million empire is based, inquiries about Haji Bashir Noorzai
elicit an anxious frown, a shrug or the vague explanation that he left years ago.
On a U.S. government most-wanted list established under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, however, he was named in June as an international kingpin. The list names him as the top heroin dealer in Afghanistan — and one of the biggest in the world.
He also is among the key beneficiaries of a massive rise in drug cultivation in Afghanistan described Thursday in a report by the United Nations, which says production of opium and its derivative, heroin, has rocketed to near record levels…
…Opium poppy cultivation, the U.N. report says, has risen by two-thirds, compared with last year, to more than 320,000 acres — more than 10 times the area of San Francisco. The harvest in 2004 was estimated at 4,200 metric tons, an increase of 17 percent from last year. A metric ton equals about 2, 205 pounds.
The report shows that the drug trade has been rising steadily for decades — except for an abrupt one-year decline in opium poppy cultivation in 2001 that followed a ban imposed by the Taliban regime…
…Until now, “narco-sheikhs” such as Noorzai have been virtually unknown outside their war-torn fiefdoms. But their days of peaceful criminal obscurity may be at an end.
In a move that signals a new front in its worldwide drug war, the Bush administration hopes to extradite Noorzai and up to a dozen other drug lords as part of an “urgent” strike against Afghanistan’s spiraling $2.8 billion-a- year heroin trade.
“We are interested in getting people like these indicted and then extradited to the U.S.,” said one senior Kabul-based U.S. official. “It sends out a very strong message to the others that no matter how rich and powerful they are, there is a risk attached to what they do.”
Yet the extradition move, which requires the permission of newly elected President Hamid Karzai, is sensitive.
Want to Know
It appears that Noorzai solved the ‘sensitive’ issue of extradition by travelling to the United States of his own free will. Do this make any sense to you?
After all, as the following makes clear, Noorzai had been publicly identified as a chief supplier of Usama bin Laden’s operational budget. Noorzai allegedly gave al-Qaeda money in exchange for trained smuggling operatives. Did he think he would be welcomed by our custom’s agents?
Osama bin Laden is using cash from the Afghanistan heroin market to finance his life on the run, paying bodyguards and buying off warlords in Pakistan, says a congressman who has visited the region.
Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican, said in an interview that bin Laden’s al Qaeda terror organization is reaping $28 million a year in illicit heroin sales. Some of the money is funding bin Laden’s fugitive status as he pops back and forth between Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal areas and Afghanistan’s eastern mountain regions.
Mr. Kirk, who won passage of legislation in November to overhaul the U.S. terrorist rewards program, said post-September 11 initiatives have cut off the terror leader’s traditional sources of money — a family fortune and Islamic charities.
“We now know al Qaeda’s dominant source of funding is the illegal sale of narcotics,” said Mr. Kirk, a member of the House Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee.
The congressman made an extensive fact-finding trip to Afghanistan last January, where he met with military-intelligence officials…
Bin Laden’s major supplier, U.S. authorities say, is Haji Bashir Noorzai, a former Taliban financier who smuggles heroin from the Kandahar area to al Qaeda in Pakistan.
The Pentagon adviser said Noorzai helped finance al Qaeda when it operated with the Taliban. The alliance continues to this day. In return for money, Noorzai gets al Qaeda operatives who move his drugs offshore.
Once again, you cannot take anything this administration says at face value. This story just reeks of bullshit.