Merchant of Death
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Blood from Stones

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A Noteworthy Conviction in the Criminal-Terrorist Nexus
Yesterday a New York jury convicted Bashir Noorzai, a Taliban-linked drug trafficker of being part of an international conspiracy to sell heroin around the world, including the United States.

The case is noteworthy because Noorzai had developed strong ties to the Taliban, and was a pioneer in forging the drug trafficking alliance that now funds the Taliban's rapid expansion.

Prosecutors said Mr. Noorzai developed a relationship with the Taliban, paying it 10 percent of his drug profits and turning over arms and fighters in return for being allowed to continue his drug operations even after the Taliban banned opium production in 2000.

Noorzai was close to the Taliban's Mullah Omar, the one-eyed leader of the Islamist movement that sheltered Osama bin Laden and then allied with him. It was this alliance between Omar and Noorzai that has helped the Taliban rearm, replenish its worn-out weapons stocks, upgrade it communications systems and greatly improve its logistical operations.

This is the type of merging of the organized criminal world and the world of terrorism, whether it is radical Islam, as in this case, corrupted Marxism (the FARC in Colombia) or independence movements and separatist movements, that I believe will be of growing concern in coming years.

The pipelines are the same, and honey pots that yield easy and large amounts of cash, whether they are natural resources such as diamonds or illicit substances like heroin or cocaine, will draw not only the criminal element, but other non-state actors seeking to profit, particularly if they lack state sponsorship.

Noorzai came to the United States thinking he was a guest of the government and would be used as an informant. In a crucial ruling in the case, the judge ruled that his arrest was "entirely lawful," and within the bounds of the permissible to bring a wanted criminal to justice.

As with other major, successful operations (Viktor Bout, whose hearing in ongoing in Thailand, Monzar al Kassar etc.) the group that got Noorsai was the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

It is important to note that the DEA has often run successful, creative human intelligence operations, gathered the information, and acted against individuals of interest. It also highlights my favorite theme, the overlap of these two groups.

In order to operate, Noorzai began paying the Taliban 10 percent of profits, helped them with weapons, and provided them with fighters. As a chief in the southern area of Afghanistan the borders Pakistan, he claimed to be the chief of 1 million people.

This conviction is important, both because it puts Noorzai out of operation, and because it clearly establishes the merging of the criminal and terrorist networks.
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