Washington: The US government has added a top Taliban commander in Afghanistan to its list of drug trafficking "Kingpins", in the first such designation to a senior leader of the outfit.
Mullah Naim Barich, the "Shadow Governor" of Helmand province, has slapped with tough US sanctions pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.
This is the first time Treasury has designated a senior Taliban leader for narcotics trafficking.
The US Treasury said Barich helps coordinate and protect local drug production and shipments to Pakistan and Iran.
The Treasury said he also operates as a drug trader himself, owning opium and heroin for sale outside Afghanistan.
"Today's action exposes the direct involvement of senior Taliban leadership in the production, manufacturing, and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan and underlines the Taliban's reliance on the drug trade to finance their acts of terror and violence," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.
Helmand is the largest opium producing province in Afghanistan.
Barich also appears on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1988 Sanctions List due to his support for Taliban.
As a result of the sanctions, US persons are prohibited from conducting financial or commercial transactions with Barich and also freezes any assets he may have under US jurisdiction.