A U.S. federal court reportedly sentenced an Afghan national to a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison this week in connection to a multi-million-dollar conspiracy to smuggle heroin used to fund the Taliban’s terrorist activities from Afghanistan into the United States.
In 2016, U.S. authorities arrested 23-year-old Shamsuddin Dost after he told an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent that he would import 220 pounds of Taliban-linked heroin from Afghanistan into the United States.
This year, a federal court convicted Dost and his co-defendant, Jawd Ahmadi, of conspiracy to traffic heroin from Afghanistan, the world’s top producer of the illicit drug, the Mercury News reported on April 2.
After pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin, Ahmadi received an even lighter sentence of about six years (70 months).
Referring to Dost’s sentence, the Mercury News reported on Wednesday:
A Livermore [California] man convicted of charges related to trafficking heroin into the United States from Afghanistan was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Wednesday, the minimum allowable sentence.
In wiretap calls with the informant, Dost claimed to have ties to the Taliban. He said he had money laundering operations in the Bay Area, and that he could have someone sliced “like ground beef” if they went against him. His attorney called those claims false boasting, and Dost testified during trial he hadn’t been to Afghanistan since he was a young child.
The defense asked Dost to be sentenced to 10 years. Prosecutors asked for a prison term of 17 and a half years, and alleged that Dost had perjured himself when he took the stand.
Citing the DEA, the Mercury News noted in April the investigation into Dost prompted the seizure of an estimated 13 pounds of pure heroin that traffickers can dilute to about 150 pounds, valued at “between $3.5 and $8.33 million.”
The case involving Dost and Ahmadi came in the midst of an ongoing fatal drug overdose epidemic in the U.S. driven by heroin.
Although Afghanistan is the world’s top supplier of opium and its heroin derivative, the DEA insists that only one percent of the seized heroin in the U.S. originates in the South Asian country.
However, high potency heroin coming out of Afghanistan could have already contributed to some of the tens of thousands of fatal drug overdoses in the U.S. in the last few years.
U.S. President Donald Trump has granted the American military in Afghanistan the authority to target heroin labs used by the Taliban to fund their terrorist activities.
Although the U.S. military argues that the air campaign against the Taliban’s heroin activities is playing a role in bringing the terrorist group to the peace negotiation table, an American watchdog agency has questioned the operations’ effectiveness, citing the high cost.
According to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), American taxpayer funds have funded irrigation and other agricultural projects that contribute to the current unprecedented production of opium, the chief ingredient in heroin.
Opium cultivation and production have skyrocketed since the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan. Even as production reached historic proportions, former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration ended U.S.-led eradication programs targeting the deadly drug.