NEW YORK, May 14 (UPI) -- U.S. prosecutors say an alleged drug kingpin nabbed in Afghanistan is an example of the growing link between the heroin trade and the Taliban.
Mohammad Essa Khan, who was extradited to the United States in late April, was a ranking member of the Baz Mohammad Organization, a trafficking ring U.S. authorities contend has a working relationship with the Taliban.
"As part of the Baz Mohammad trafficking group he supported the insurgency in Afghanistan with drug profits, and helped carry out Baz Mohammad's 'jihad' against the U.S. by supplying tens of millions of dollars of heroin to our country." Karen Tandy, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a statement.
Heroin is derived from Afghanistan's plentiful poppies. The nation's output dropped significantly when the Taliban was in power and has rebounded since the U.S.-led invasion -- a fact sometimes pointed out by critics of U.S. policy in Afghanistan.
Other analysts say the fundamentalist Muslims have taken a more pragmatic approach to drugs and joined up with traffickers. In exchange for revenue and political support in the countryside, the Taliban allegedly supplies gunmen to protect the poppy fields and opium shipments.
Essa was ordered held without bail at his initial hearing before a New York magistrate pending trial on charges he conspired to import $25 million worth of heroin into the United States.
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