Treasury Department sanctions Taliban ‘kingpin’

The US Treasury Department sanctioned a senior Taliban official on Nov. 15 for his alleged role in the Afghan opium trade, saying the traffic is used to finance insurgent activities. Mullah Naim Barich, who operates as Taliban "shadow governor" in Helmand province, is named in the action, which freezes any of Barich's assets held under US jurisdiction and bars anyone in the United States from conducting any financial or commercial transactions with him. "Today's action exposes the direct involvement of senior Taliban leadership in the production, manufacturing, and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan and underlines the Taliban's reliance on the drug trade to finance their acts of terror and violence," David Cohen, Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

The Treasury Department has previously sanctioned Taliban leaders and affiliates for support of terrorism, as well as money-exchange houses supporting the Taliban, but the new designation marks the first time the department has designated a senior Taliban official a narcotics "kingpin." According to the Treasury Department, Barich issued a decree in early January to his Taliban confederates to do what they could to subvert the poppy eradication campaign in Helmand. The decree reportedly called for planting improvised explosive devices, harassing NATO forces, and bribing Afghan officials as means to protect the poppy harvest.

In June, Treasury targeted two money exchange houses that operated in Afghanistan and Pakistan through which the Taliban allegedly moved opium proceeds. (WSJ, CNN's Security Clearance blog, Nov. 15)