A former Afghan tribal leader accused of smuggling $50 million worth of heroin into the United States was so influential in his homeland that he formed his own army and teamed up with the Taliban, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Bashir Noorzai was one of Afghanistan''s most powerful men before the U.S. invasion in October 2001, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anirudh Bansal said.

But defense attorney Ivan Fisher said Noorzai was a friend of the United States who offered to use his power in Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism and the drug trade.

"He put it all on the table and said, `It''s yours,''" Fisher said.

In June 2004, President Bush identified Noorzai as one of the world''s most wanted drug kingpins.

He was charged with conspiring to import more than $50 million worth of heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan into the United States and other countries. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.