Who Is Haji Bashaar Noorzai And Why Should We Care?
Haji Bashaar Noorzai is an ally the USA double crossed after making empty promises then arrested. Haji Bashar Noorzai, the burly, bearded leader of one of Afghanistan’s largest and most troublesome tribes, was not on a mission to case New York City for a terrorist attack. On the contrary, Noorzai, a confidant of the fugitive Taliban overlord, who is a well-known ally of Osama bin Laden’s, says he had been invited to Manhattan to prove that he could be of value in America’s war on terrorism. “I did not want to be considered an enemy of the United States,” Noorzai told TIME. “I wanted to help the Americans and to help the new government in Afghanistan.”
Then they arrested him for drug trafficking.
Noorzai has been cooperating with counterterrorism officers in Afghanistan, leading them to large caches of dangerous weapons, including Stinger missiles. Two contractors employed by the United States government promised him safe passage to the United States to be debriefed, and told him he would not be arrested and could return home at his leisure. They brought him here and introduced him to federal agents, who proceeded to welcome him and put him up in a fancy New York hotel for ten days.
A shadowy figure with ties to the Taliban, Noorzai is heavily involved in international heroin trafficking, according to a federal indictment that is pending against him in New York. But he is a tribal rogue whom U.S. terrorism fighters have relied on, while looking away from his darker side as a dope dealer. For years, the relationship was mutually beneficial—Noorzai helped U.S. authorities uncover huge numbers of terrorist weapons, including Stinger missiles, and in return he got to ply his drug trade with impunity.
When an Ally Is Also an Enemy
The clashing impulses of America’s war on terror and the war on drugs were brought home by the arrest of a man who was a U.S. ally in one war and an adversary in the other, Bill Powell writes in Time.
Like the Afghan government, drug traffickers are exerting influence over farmers through carrot and stick programs, and the drug traffickers appear to be better funded. Many farmers receive payments in advance for the coming poppy crop, a fact that, in practice, obligates them to grow poppy even if it is against the law. And with police corruption so rampant in drug-growing areas, farmers often find that police are the people encouraging – or forcing – them to grow poppies.
“The counternarcotics law is out of date,” says a UN official. “If you are arrested in Helmand, you have to be tried in Helmand, and there is no guarantee of a fair trial. There are no secure prisons to detain people.
Haji Bashar Noorzai is one of the leaders who surrendered along with Taliban vehicles and around 1200 weapons of all types in return for assurances of amnesty. Noorzai recently hosted a lunch for Governor Sherzai and a senior US military official at Maywand, 40 kilometres west of Kandahar city. Bashar, one of the biggest opium tycoons of Afghanistan, was one of two tribal leaders of Kandahar who were to be handed over control of the province by Mullah Omar before his departure. Americans are said to have rewarded Bashar in cash for changing sides and expect him to help in the hunt for Osama, Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s interim government has adopted a live and let live policy towards old Taliban foes, the movement’s warlord allies and drug barons who bankrolled the hardliners’ six-year rule, a senior official said on Tuesday.
“If these people hand over their weapons, agree to cooperate, and to live quietly, then we will tolerate them,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
One has been the contentious issue of Haji Bashar, widely regarded as immensely wealthy, an alleged opium smuggler on a vast scale and a financial supporter of Taliban rule with his own private army.
The officials say he has since handed over thousands of arms, and has pledged to give up opium production and trafficking, and to live quietly in Maiwand district northwest of Kandahar.
“Haji Bashar is immensely rich,” said the first official. “I don’t think he needs the opium. And I can tell you he hasn’t planted a single opium seed this season, and he has forcefully warned farmers in his area not to do so.”
It was rumoured in Kandahar that Haji Bashar was sitting on a huge opium stockpile — the raw material for heroin.
“He tells us it isn’t so. He says if we find anything, we’re welcome to it.”
Haji Bashar had also helped recover 10 U.S.-made Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and handed them over to U.S. officials in 1991. This too had to be taken into account.
The missiles had been distributed to anti-Soviet guerrillas in the 1980s and there has been concern in Washington that they might find their way to guerrillas elsewhere.
“He’s a very prominent member of the Noorzai tribe, one of the biggest Pashtun tribes in the country. We don’t want to start a long and destructive feud with the Noorzais,” the official said.
Tribe, clan and family were all issues that required delicate handling.
“Haji Bashar has been interrogated by the Americans and we have questioned him,” the first official said.
“We’re happy, the Americans are happy. Everbody’s happy,” he said.
Today, Noorzai, 43, sits in a small cell in the high-security section of Manhattan’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, awaiting a trial that may still be months away. But whatever his fate, the Case of the Cooperative Kingpin raises larger questions about America’s needs, goals and instincts in fighting its two shadow wars: the war on terrorism and the war on drugs.
US has a history of ‘double crossing’ it allies. CIA has expounded on Britain’s MI5 policy during WWII that was initially used for counter-espionage against NAZI agents. From WWII through Korea and VietNam and now the Middle East Wars, the US has employed the ‘Double Cross’ strategy in the form of ‘disinformation’ and deception. US plays opponents as suckers with promises and attractive deals to enlist their help. Double Cross is not a Foreign Policy.