IN OCTOBER 2008, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration heralded the arrest of Haji Juma Khan on narcotics and terror charges. His capture, they said, dealt a punishing blow to the Taliban and the symbiotic relationship between the insurgent group and Afghan drug traffickers.
Yet, unbeknownst to all but the closest observers of the largely forgotten Afghanistan War, Khan was quietly released from Federal Bureau of Prisons custody last month. After nearly 10 years at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan, the terms of his release – like nearly everything else about his case – remain shrouded in secrecy.
The secrecy reflects the U.S. government’s conflicted relationship with Khan. Before his arrest, the alleged drug trafficker worked with the CIA and the DEA, received payments from the government, and, at one point, visited Washington and New York on the DEA’s dime. After his arrest, federal prosecutors sought to link Khan’s support for the Taliban to a suicide bombing, as well as a separate attack on a Kabul hotel that killed one American. A trap set by the top DEA official in Kabul ultimately led to his arrest.