"Proceeds from Haji Juma Khan's global drug trafficking organization funded the terrorist activities of the Taliban," acting administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Michele Leonhart, said in a statement.
"His arrest disrupts a significant line of credit to the Taliban and will shake the foundation of his drug network that has moved massive quantities of heroin to worldwide drug markets."
Beginning in 1999, Khan led a criminal organization that processed and distributed more than 40 tons of opium, morphine and heroin through a network of illicit drug labs in southern Afghanistan, says U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia. Mr. Garcia said Khan was closely aligned with Taliban extremists, offering a share of the drug profits in exchange for protection of opium poppy fields, smuggling routes, production labs and other facilities.
"Afghanistan needs peace, a flourishing economy and the rule of law to succeed as a democracy. Each of these conditions is undone by narcotics production," said John Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He says the latest report on Afghan opium production is encouraging.
Opium production declined from 8,800 tons in 2007 to 6,100 tons for 2008. New opium poppy cultivation also decreased by 22 percent to 157,000 hectares, down from 202,000 hectares in 2007, and nearly 10 percent below the 2006 level of 172,000 hectares.
Opium production has been nearly eliminated in most of Afghanistan's north and east, where 18 of the country's 34 provinces are now certified to be "poppy-free." That is up from 15 poppy-free provinces in 2007 and 12 in 2006. Eleven other Afghan provinces were found to have low levels of opium cultivation.
The country's 5 southern provinces – where extremists remain most active – are now the central front in Afghanistan's drug war. "Afghanistan has been victimized for too long by the violence, misery and addiction caused by the illegal drug trade," said Mr. Walters. The U.S. will work with the government of Afghanistan to defeat drug traffickers and the terrorists they support.