Karzai's drug dealing brother on CIA payroll?

By chillinwill · Oct 28, 2009 · ·
  1. chillinwill
    Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.

    The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.

    The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raise significant questions about America’s war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.

    The ties to Mr. Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration. The critics say the ties complicate America’s increasingly tense relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.’s practices also suggest that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban.

    More broadly, some American officials argue that the reliance on Ahmed Wali Karzai, the most powerful figure in a large swath of southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgency is strongest, undermines the American push to develop an effective central government that can maintain law and order and eventually allow the United States to withdraw.

    “If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan.

    Ahmed Wali Karzai said in an interview that he cooperates with American civilian and military officials, but does not engage in the drug trade and does not receive payments from the C.I.A.

    The relationship between Mr. Karzai and the C.I.A. is wide ranging, several American officials said. He helps the C.I.A. operate a paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, that is used for raids against suspected insurgents and terrorists. On at least one occasion, the strike force has been accused of mounting an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government, the officials said.

    Mr. Karzai is also paid for allowing the C.I.A. and American Special Operations troops to rent a large compound outside the city — the former home of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban’s founder. The same compound is also the base of the Kandahar Strike Force. “He’s our landlord,” a senior American official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    Mr. Karzai also helps the C.I.A. communicate with and sometimes meet with Afghans loyal to the Taliban. Mr. Karzai’s role as a go-between between the Americans and the Taliban is regarded by supporters of working with Mr. Karzai as valuable now, as the Obama administration is placing a greater focus on encouraging Taliban leaders to change sides.

    A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment for the story.

    “No intelligence organization worth the name would ever entertain these kind of allegations,” said Paul Gimigliano, the spokesman.

    Some American officials said that the allegations of Mr. Karzai’s role in the drug trade were not conclusive.

    “There’s no proof of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s involvement in drug trafficking, certainly nothing that would stand up in court,” said one American official familiar with the intelligence. “And you can’t ignore what the Afghan government has done for American counterterrorism efforts.”

    At the start of the Afghan war, just after the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States, American officials paid warlords with questionable backgrounds to help topple the Taliban and maintain order with relatively few American troops committed to fight in the country. But as the Taliban has become resurgent and the war has intensified, Americans have increasingly viewed a strong and credible central government as crucial to turning back the Taliban’s advances.

    Now, with more American lives on the line, the relationship with Mr. Karzai is sparking anger and frustration among American military officers and other officials in the Obama administration. They say that Mr. Karzai’s suspected role in the drug trade, as well as what they describe as the mafia-like way that he lords over southern Afghanistan, makes him a malevolent force.

    These military and political officials say the evidence, though largely circumstantial, suggests strongly that Mr. Karzai has enriched himself by helping the illegal trade in poppy and opium to flourish. The assessment of these military and senior officials in the Obama administration dovetails with that of senior officials in the Bush administration.

    “Hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money are flowing through the southern region, and nothing happens in southern Afghanistan without the regional leadership knowing about it,” a senior American military officer in Kabul said. Like most of the officials in this story, he spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of the information.

    “If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” the American officer said of Mr. Karzai. “Our assumption is that he’s benefiting from the drug trade.”

    Bill Dalton
    October 28, 2009
    Kansas City Star

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  1. enquirewithin
    A key member of the House Intelligence Committee says the controversial brother of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai regularly helps U.S. intelligence -- but should not be considered an American spy.

    Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, ranking Republican on the subcommittee overseeing Terrorism/Human Intelligence, Analysis and Counterintelligence, regularly visits Afghanistan, where his brother, an Army general, has also served.

    Rogers said in an interview that Ahmed Wali Karzai, widely reported to be protecting the heroin trade in southern Afghanistan, "cooperates" with U.S. intelligence, but is not a controlled agent.

    "There's a difference between being an intelligence asset and somebody who cooperates," said Rogers, a former FBI agent. "'Asset is an overstatement ... He is a public official who cooperates ... He cooperates when he's talked to -- that's different than an asset."
    Wali Karzai, a major power in Kandahar, where he heads the provincial council, is cagey about what he tells the Americans, Rogers and other U.S. officials say.
    But a former top NATO official in Afghanistan said that the president's brother wasn't omniscient.
    "He had his finger on a lot of things, but not everything," he said, on condition of anonymity.

    "If I wanted to get information on Kandahar, I'd go into the presidential palace and talk to a couple of [President] Karzai's boys from that area, and then I might take that to Wali and ask him about it," the former official said.

    The depiction of Karzai as a valuable U.S. intelligence asset was aired in a Sept. 14 story about the Taliban's threat to in Kandahar by the Washington Post's prize-winning Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

    "Several U.S. lawmakers, including Vice President Biden when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have urged the president to dismiss his brother from the [Kandahar Province] council," Chandrasekaran wrote.

    "But U.S. and Canadian diplomats have not pressed the matter, in part because Ahmed Wali Karzai has given valuable intelligence to the U.S. military, and he also routinely provides assistance to Canadian forces, according to several officials familiar with the issue."

    According to The New York Times, "Several American investigators said senior officials at the DEA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence complained to them that the White House favored a hands-off approach toward Ahmed Wali Karzai because of the political delicacy of the matter."
    But the former top NATO official said hard evidence linking Wali Karzai to the drug trade was lacking.

    "I was always told Karzai was the biggest problem because he was involved with of drugs," he said, "but I couldn't prove it."

    Nevertheless Kandahar's citizens have repeatedly blamed Wali Karzai as the center of corruption in the region, where the Taliban are resurgent.

    President Karzai could make life difficult for the U.S. in Afghanistan if his brother were forced from power or arrested, Rogers said.

    The congressman ticked off a number of responses the Afghan leader could take: postponement of a status-of-forces agreement that the U.S. has been pursuing; releasing people from prison; demanding NATO troop withdrawals from particular areas; and even threats to make regional power-sharing deals with the Taliban.

    U.S. anti-corruption advocates will have more leverage to deal with Wali Karzai after the presidential election results are settled, Rogers maintained.

    But for now, "We certainly need the president to be with us," he said. "That would be hard if we're hauling off his brother to a detention center."

    Drug-Linked Karzai Brother Helps U.S. Intelligence

    Jeff Stein, SpyTalk columnist, Posted: October 15, 2009 03:49 PM

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