Mullah Omar, International Smuggler Extraordinaire
One of the last pieces written by murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is in the latest issue of WorldView, a consistently interesting quarterly put out by the nonprofit National Peace Corps Association (made up of returned volunteers).
In "Taliban Profits," Pearl explained how the Taliban made a killing moving merchandise it banned (e.g. televisions) through Afghanistan and into neighboring countries such as Iran and Pakistan. In 2000, more than $1 billion of smuggled goods made their way into those two countries from Afghanistan, with the Taliban probably skimmed somewhere between $36 million and $75 million.
It's a tour de force of reporting, but it also suggests that local warlords will fight to the last man to get and keep control over such a lucrative business. It's also a great job of explaining the economics of smuggling.