Biden White House Frees Taliban Heroin Kingpin Serving Life In Federal Prison In Prisoner Exchange

The Taliban confirmed on Monday that Bashir Noorzai, a heroin kingpin convicted in U.S. federal court, had arrived in Afghanistan after being released by the Biden White House as part of prisoner exchange. The Taliban reportedly released American engineer Mark Frerichs in exchange for Noorzai.

Taliban warlord Noorzai was convicted in 2009 of attempting to smuggle heroin with a street value of more than $50 million into the U.S. He was sentenced to life in federal prison.

As he was being prosecuted, the Department of Justice alleged that Noorzai was a very high-ranking tribal leader who funded the Taliban’s war against the U.S. by overseeing opium fields and heroin processing facilities.

Since the immediate aftermath of Joe Biden’s disastrous withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan last year, the Taliban has been the unchallenged political force controlling the war-torn nation. The United Nations does not recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan, but has approved negotiations and cooperation with their regime.

Frerichs was confirmed to be free from Taliban custody by his family on Monday. He is a Navy veteran and worked in Afghanistan as a private contractor for a decade before he was kidnapped by terrorists affiliated with the Taliban in 2020.

Taliban spokesman Amir Khan Muttaqi said on Monday that the exchange marks what “can be a new chapter between Afghanistan and the United States, this can open a new door for talks between both countries.”

Media outlets controlled by the Taliban celebrated Noorzai’s return to Afghanistan, referring to him as a “patriot” without mentioning his heroin manufacturing and distribution network. Taliban propaganda describes Noorzia as being arrested “groundlessly” when he traveled to New York in 2005 for “peace talks.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) prosecuted Noorzai under the federal Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, alleging that he raised “tens of millions” in heroin revenue that was used to assist the Taliban in making war against the U.S. and killing Americans.

The DEA specifically alleged that Noorzai provided weapons, explosives, and manpower to the Taliban in return for protection of his opium crops, heroin labs, and transportation networks.

In 2009, U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin said that the life sentence imposed by the federal court “definitively puts an end to Noorzai’s long criminal career.”

Noorzai told reporters at a Monday press conference when he arrived back in Afghanistan, “I pray for more success of the Taliban.”

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