Federal authorities have arrested four men in a sting operation that uncovered new evidence of the growing cooperation between the drug trade and terrorist groups, or “narco-terrorism,” prosecutors announced Tuesday. While three of the men were arrested for conspiring to sell heroin and buy weapons for Hezbollah, the fourth was accused of trying to sell drugs and weapons to make a profit to send to the Taliban.
According to the indictment, undercover U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents pretending to represent Hezbollah agreed to purchase heroin from three men, now arrested. The agents also struck a $9.5 million deal in February to sell “military-grade weaponry” to the men. Those weapons, destined for Hezbollah, included surface-to-air missiles, assault rifles, sniper rifles and ammunition, and a down payment of $100,000 was received.
“Today’s indictment relate to two different and dangerous narcotics networks, but their aspirations did not end with the sale of heroin,” said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara yesterday. “Both allegedly were also prepared to traffic in terror, not just drugs. One was ready and willing to aid the Taliban and the other took substantial steps to support Hezbollah,” he added.
Narco-terrorism is likely one of the least discussed national security threats facing the United States today. Since the early 1990s, Hezbollah has maintained a presence in South America and, later, near the U.S. border, where they train drug cartels in military tactics in return for cash and protection. According to one U.S. agent, the organization sees the U.S. as their “cash cow,” with the money that funds Mexico’s drug cartels also lining their pockets.
Indeed, stopping or even slowing the flow of cash to such terrorist organizations as Hezbollah and the Taliban through the drug trade is a crucial step for the U.S. to take if it wants to win its war against terrorist operatives. The question remains: What is Washington doing about it?