Mullah Naim Barich.
The US added the Afghan Taliban’s shadow governor for Helmand province to its list of Foreign Narcotics Kingpins today. The Taliban leader is the second person in the region added to the list this year. In March, the US added an Iranian Qods Force general to the list of narcotics traffickers, for supporting heroin and opium smuggling in Iran and Afghanistan “as part of a broader scheme to support terrorism.”
Mullah Naim Barich, the Taliban’s leader for the southern Afghan province of Helmand, was added to the US government’s list of drug kingpins “for the significant role he plays in international narcotics trafficking, particularly in Helmand province, Afghanistan,” the Treasury Department said in a statement that announced his designation.
According to Treasury, Barich “issued a written decree to subordinate Taliban commanders, detailing procedures to be adopted by Taliban in Helmand province to combat planned government-led eradication operations. This decree stated that all measures, including planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs), engaging in combat with coalition forces, or bribing GIRoA [Afghan government] officials, were to be taken to protect the poppy harvest.” He ordered the vigorous defense of opium production and distribution networks as the operation is used to finance Taliban operations.
Barich “is involved in many levels of the heroin and opium drug trade, including leading meetings with drug traffickers, controlling opium production, and owning his own drug loads,” Treasury stated. His activities in the narcotics trade also have international dimensions. He has organized meetings in Gerdi Jangal, just across the border in Pakistan. He is involved in “narcotics production and delivery to Pakistan and Iran.” One of his own shipments of white heroin was moved from a compound in Gerdi Jangal, “to Salawan, Iran, and then on to the Turkish border for further distribution.”
Gerdi Jangal, a sprawling village just across the border from Afghanistan’s Helmand province, is a known operational base for the Taliban. The Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura, one of four regional Taliban commands, is based in the Gerdi Jangal refugee camp in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province. This regional military shura focuses exclusively on Helmand province and perhaps also Nimroz province. The Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura is thought to be led by Mullah Adbul Zakir, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who now leads the Taliban’s military branch.
The Taliban are thought to derive a significant portion of their funding from opium production, but accurate estimates on Taliban income generated by the opium trade are not available. The Taliban are known to profit from the drug trade by running their own drug refineries, smuggling, taxing farmers, and running protection schemes.
Iranian Qods Force General designated in May as narcotics kingpin supports the Taliban
Barich is the second person involved in the Taliban’s drug trade to have been added to the US’s list of narcotics kingpins this year. In May, Treasury added General Gholamreza Baghbani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force’s branch in the Iranian city of Zahedan, to its list.
According to Treasury, General Baghbani “allowed Afghan narcotics traffickers to smuggle opiates through Iran in return for assistance” to the Taliban.
“For example, Afghan narcotics traffickers moved weapons to the Taliban on behalf of Baghbani,” Treasury said. “In return, General Baghbani has helped facilitate the smuggling of heroin precursor chemicals through the Iranian border. He also helped facilitate shipments of opium into Iran.”
Although Treasury does not state it, given Barich’s prominent role in both the Taliban and the drug trade, he is likely involved with Baghbani.
General Baghbani is not the first Qods Force general to be designated by the US for supporting terrorist activities in Afghanistan, but he is, as Treasury noted, the first to be designated under the Kingpin Act. The US has designated other Iranian Qods Force officers, including General Hossein Musavi, the head of the Qods Force’s Ansar Corps, and Colonel Hasan Mortezavi, a senior Qods Force officer who provides financial and material support to the Taliban.
Qods Forces’ Ansar Corps is the command that is assigned to direct operations in Afghanistan. The Ansar Corps is based in Mashhad in northeastern Iran. Ansar Corps operates much like the Ramazan Corps, which supports and directs Shia terror groups in Iraq. [See LWJ reports, Iranian Qods Force commanders linked to Taliban: US Treasury, and Iran’s Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq.]