What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Kill Bill

Do not call your Key Informant List "Kill." I don't know what else could sum up this story better. After a long time, again we are hearing about Haji Bashir Noorzai, and his trial coming up in the U.S. I'm interested, since I once tried to put together a bio of mullah Omar, to which I have added a take on Haji Bashir Noorzai as well.
The Noorzai tribe has over a million members in the south of Afghanistan, and it has traditionally been involved in all sorts of trade in southern Afghanistan, plus in a fierce, old rivalry over this with, among others, Achekzai clans (source: p.7.). The allegation facing Haji Bashir Noorzai, who of course has to enjoy the presumption of innocence just like anyone else should, in court, is that he was running much of the heroin trade in the south after 1990.
Well. Haji Bashir Noorzai was above mullah Omar back in the times of the Hizb-i-Islami (Younis Khalis faction), and he may have been one of the first significant backers of the Taliban when the latter emerged in Kandahar. After the fall of the Taliban effectively he chose the first post-intervention governor of Kandahar, and, following a couple of tension-packed days, when the U.S. military and this experienced Kandahari powerbroker sized each other up, he seems to have cooperated much with U.S. forces. Until the State Department decided to put an Afghan on the list of the World's top ten most wanted drug-dealers, and had him come to the United States for questioning over terrorism financing issues, to then have him arrested on arrival, that is. The Noorzai clans, that spread out over a large area in the south, plus depend on being well-informed as traders, all along their routes, had to be quite useful to the U.S. - one feels. So the State Department's (and the Drug Enforcement Administration's, the DEA's) intervention must have been quite painful to the Pentagon. (While at the DEA they seemed to have thought they had un-devastated Afghanistan with the arrest, at the time.)
Well, with the arrest, Haji Bashir's use, mentioned earlier, may have decreased somewhat.
Now more details are emerging. To explain the title, the Key Informant List, or Kill, is alleged to have been assembled by a contractor firm that once questioned Haji Bashir in Dubai over a number of terrorism-related issues. The firm may have been working for the Pentagon, or for one of their more private clients back then. Kill is not a funny name, for sure. What can one add to this? Well, maybe this quote from the NY Times article:
"[Haji Bashir] said he continued to work with American military commanders, who wanted to capture Taliban leaders. He said that after he persuaded one former Taliban official to meet with the Americans, the man “then disappeared into one of their confinement centers for two years.”
After he persuaded another tribal leader, who was hiding in Pakistan, to return home to Kandahar, he said, American forces attacked the man’s home and killed him."
Now, one should of course stop to wonder at times. The defence is likely to have thought this through carefully. While I can't know if Key Informant Lists are really called Kill in the world we live in, the defence at a trial like this will usually have a carefully devised strategy. That they are likely to be emphasising the part of the story according to which Haji Bashir was an invaluable ally in the War on Terror, who was betrayed by those he directly helped a lot, is quite a safe bet. It stems from the nature of the story. To what extent do they just play this? To what extent do they play this up?

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