Taliban back in narco trade, dealing with US for release of Qaeda man

| | New Delhi
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Taliban back in narco trade, dealing with US for release of Qaeda man

Saturday, 18 September 2021 | Rakesh K Singh | New Delhi

The Taliban are back in the business of narcotics ‘trade’ and has created a new route for global supply by shipping the contraband to Turkey through Pakistani military and commercial aircraft for onward distribution to Europe and elsewhere.

The Taliban are also negotiating with the US for release of notorious drug lord Haji Bashir Noorjai, lodged in the US prisons since 2009 in exchange for releasing the Americans and Afghans stranded in Afghanistan. For this, the Taliban is willing to exchange abducted American civil engineer and military contractor Mark Randall Frerichs who had disappeared in Afghanistan in January 2020 from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, sources tracking the developments in Afghanistan said.

Noorjai is also well connected to Al Qaeda and its affiliates in South Africa like Al Shabab who could also be exploited for the arms trade in the continent besides expanding the spread of the contraband in the region.

While both the Taliban and the Pakistan Army-ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) combine are on the same page for reinvigorating the drugs trafficking, the current regime in Kabul is also claiming seizure of drugs consignment at Kabul airport with the twin agenda of an image makeover and checking any trafficking of the contraband by individuals and entities who bypass the regular channels for such illicit business. Such fake seizures will also help Taliban build a new image in line with international laws and help it gain international recognition of its governance structure, they said.

The new modus operandi has been activated as Pakistan is using its leverage with Turkey for transshipment of the contraband through regular civilian airways as well as military planes, they further said.

Amid the ongoing bargain for release of Noorjai, the Taliban is aiming to revive the traditional drug routes via the Middle East to South Africa and scale up the entire illicit drugs business chain to augment the funds crunch that Kabul is facing post-takeover of Afghanistan on August 15.

The development comes as the Taliban is facing dire financial crisis and the Afghan foreign minister had recently visited Islamabad to seek aid but Pakistan could not commit grants due to its bankrupt economy.

However, Islamabad agreed for active facilitation of the drugs trade.

Senior counter-terrorism expert of Afghan origin Ajmal Sohail said, “Drug trafficking has remained the mainstay of revenue generation for Taliban and the militia is back to its old tactic.

However, to keep the international community in good humour, Taliban is projecting itself as the good guy by showcasing the seizure of the contraband at Kabul airport as a measure of revamped Taliban.”

The Taliban also has begun taking payments for the supplies of drugs to Europe and countries in North as well as South America through African conduits in diamonds and generating revenue through white channels, added Sohail who is also founder of Afghanistan Republic Salvation Front.

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