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Afghan Farmer's Undercover Work Helps Convict Taliban Member in U.S. Court
The case against Mohammed began when the illiterate Afghan farmer appeared in 2006 at an air base in Jalalabad -- where Drug Enforcement Administration agents helping to fight the country's illegal drug trade were stationed -- with a tip that the Taliban planned to launch a rocket attack on the base.
The farmer, who later testified in Washington under the pseudonym Jaweed, told jurors he decided to help because he was tired of the violence. "I didn't want our country to be destroyed and our foreign friends to be harassed or bothered," he said.
Jaweed, the father of six children, lived in a compound of mud houses in the village of Garatek in eastern Afghanistan, not far from the U.S. air base at Jalalabad. He and his relatives grew cotton, wheat and corn. When a major drought struck a few years ago, they moved to Peshawar, Pakistan, where Jaweed took a job at a vegetable market.
In early 2006, he said, he was summoned to the home of a Taliban leader in Peshawar who had fled Afghanistan in late 2001 during the war with the United States and anti-Taliban Afghan forces.
The leader, who knew Jaweed from their village and that he was poor and needed cash, gave the farmer a risky assignment: return to Afghanistan and find Mohammed, another Taliban member and village elder. Together, the leader said, Jaweed and Mohammed would obtain rockets and attack the U.S. air base.
Fearing for his life, Jaweed returned to Garatek. But rather than join the insurgency, he approached a trusted Afghan police chief. After hearing Jaweed's story, the chief took him to the air base to meet DEA agent Jeffrey Higgins, who persuaded Jaweed to wear a recorder and meet with Mohammed to learn more about the pending attack.
"He was working under extremely dangerous circumstances," Higgins testified.
Complicating matters, Jaweed, whose compound has electricity for only two hours a day, had never seen a tape-recorder before and had trouble using it.
In one of their first encounters that August, Jaweed and Mohammed discussed the Taliban's rocket attack. The farmer promised to buy the rockets, but investigators soon decided that was a bad idea because the weapons might slip out of their hands during a sting.
So they switched to drugs because they knew Mohammed was a former opium farmer with connections to the drug trade. Within days, Jaweed brokered a deal with Mohammed to obtain opium for a "friend." Like an experienced informant trying to penetrate a D.C. drug gang, Jaweed laid the trap by offering Mohammed cash.
"There will be a commission in it for you, if you can find the opium for him," he told Mohammed one August morning, according to the transcripts.
"God willing, I will give you the opium," Mohammed replied. "I have the source and will find good stuff for him."