The New York Times reports the opium-profiteering brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai is on the C.I.A. payroll.
28 Oct 09 | InfoShop News
Ahmed Wali Karzai, provincial council chairman of Kandahar and brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. “gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency [C.I.A.], and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials”, Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen report at The New York Times late Tuesday evening.
Mr. Karzai is paid “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… where the Taliban insurgency is strongest”, the NYT reports.
“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”, it adds.
The NYT notes—and Mr. Risen has reported, extensively—Mr. Karzai is a ”suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade” which, according to a recent U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report, account for 92% of the global market—$65bn feeding 15.4 million users.
“Less than 2 percent of that opium and heroin is seized by authorities before it leaves Afghanistan, with 40% of the heroin trafficked out of the country through Pakistan, 30% into Iran and about 25% through Central Asia,” according to Reuters‘ report on the study.
It begs the question: Cui bono?
Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UNODC, said the druglords of Afghanistan are financing the militant resistance to the U.S.-led occupation by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)—which has escalated in the Kandahar province as it claims to battle the drug war. The financing includes about $160m in taxes collected by so-called Taliban and a share in Pakistan’s $1bn per year market.
“The Taliban’s direct involvement in the opium trade allows them to fund a war machine that is becoming technologically more complex and increasingly widespread,” said Mr. Costa. “Some profiteers in the heroin trade wear suits and white collars, others wear black turbans.”
“If it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck,” a senior U.S. military official in Kabul told the NYT of Mr. Karzai. “Our assumption is that he’s benefiting from the drug trade.”
The NYT adds: “The Obama administration has repeatedly vowed to crack down on the drug lords who are believed to permeate the highest levels of President Karzai’s administration. They have pressed him to move his brother out of southern Afghanistan, but he has so far refused to do so.”
Tom Lasseter reported at McClatchy in May, from his trip to Afghanistan, that “until last year, the United States and other NATO countries did little to address the problem, according to a Western counter-narcotics official in Afghanistan”:
Islam forbids the use of opium and heroin—the Taliban outlawed poppy growing in 2000—but the militants now justify the drug production by saying it’s not for domestic consumption but rather to sell abroad as part of a holy war against the West. Under the Taliban regime, the biggest Afghan opium crop was roughly 4,500 tons in 1999, far below the record 8,200 tons in 2007.
The State Department released a report finding: “”Many Afghan government officials are believed to profit from the drug trade”—adding later—“Regrettably, no major drug trafficker has been arrested or convicted in Afghanistan since 2006.”
The opium trade out of Afghanistan is “would be impossible without government officials and the Taliban on the payroll”, Mr. Lasster learned from a local dealer. Agha Saqeb, the police chief of Kandahar–“the heart of Afghanistan’s opium belt”—in 2007-08, told him: “Naming Afghan officials who profit from drugs, he said, would get him killed.” Other former Afghan officials said Mr. Karzai “routinely manipulates judicial and police officials to facilitate shipments of opium and heroin”.
”Ahmed Wali Karzai has very close links with the drug smugglers,” said Brig. Gen. Khan Mohammed, who pulled over a truck full of heroin in 2004. “The house that he’s living in in Kandahar right now is owned by a very big drug smuggler.”
Habibullah Jan, the defence ministry brigade leader, received calls from Mr. Karzai and a member of his staff ordering the truck be released. When Mr. Jan became a member of parliament, he accused Mr. Karzai of criminal behavior and was soon murdered “in a sophisticated ambush in Kandahar under circumstances that remain unclear”, according to Mr. Lasseter’s report. Militants have not claimed responsibility, as they usually enjoy boasting of targeted assassinations.
Dad Mohammed Khan, the national intelligence directorate chief of Helmand province—which ISAF has most escalated the Afghan Surge this year—for about three years before he became a member of the national parliament, told Mr. Lasseter a Taliban drug-runner between Helmand and Pakistan was picked up and told by a local prosecutor to be released, at the order of Mr. Karzai. Pakistan has seen the greatest militant surge in decades this year.
Stories like this were abundant from Mr. Lasseter’s conversations with former officials, cultivators and dealers—except Mr. Khan was killed by a roadside bomb the day after their interview.
Abdullah Kandahari, a former intelligence official during the regime of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, a political opponent of the Karzais, was out of politics but forced into Pakistan by the government.
Mr. Lasseter decided to bring the allegation to Mr. Karzai in an interview. When asked about Mr. Khan, he only confirmed the death and of other officials who accused Mr. Karzai of corruption that they were alive. After a while, Mr. Lasseter reports, he “yelled a litany of obscenities and said he was about to beat me”.
Martin Smith, producer of PBS’ Frontline which just had a program—titled, “Obama’s War”—on Afghanistan, told The Washington Post (WaPo), “There’s no conclusive evidence that President Karzai himself is corrupt. There are allegations about his family, notably his brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, a politician in Kandahar who has been accused of involvement in the drug trade,” later adding: “the Americans are trusting the election process to sort things out, but it’s not going well.”
Pamela Constable, days before the 2004 elections in Afghanistan, reported at WaPo that “critics of the government, including campaign aides for several other candidates and the local representative of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, complained that regional officials had been actively working for President Karzai’s election and pressuring people to vote for him”.
She added a story of a rally organized by Ahmed Wali Karzai in Kandahar for students was a “decidedly anemic affair, attended by about 200 young people who listened politely to a series of speeches but rarely bothered to applaud”.
The most recent election has been mired in scandal—the government initially stating Pres. Karzai won with over 54% of the vote, only to have a recount force a coming runoff against Abdullah Abdullah which carry high expectations to also be highly fraudulent. In December 2008, the president appointed Tooryalai Wesa, a Canadian childhood friend of the Karzais, governor of Kandahar in December 2008 after the last only lasted four months. Ahmed Wali is the president’s ‘Jeb Bush’.
“Western officials pointed to evidence that Ahmed Wali Karzai orchestrated the manufacture of hundreds of thousands of phony ballots for his brother’s re-election effort in August,” the NYT reports. “He is also believed to have been responsible for setting up dozens of so-called ghost polling stations—existing only on paper—that were used to manufacture tens of thousands of phony ballots.”
After the 2009 election, Mirwais Yasini, the lower Parliament deputy speaker and one of the presidential candidates, “turned up at the hotel where the observer missions were staying with two plastic bags containing torn ballots marked in his name and embossed with the Independent Election Commission verification stamp,” Jonathan Landay reported at McClatchy, days after the election. “He said the ballots were among some 25,000 cast for him in his home district of Spin Boldak, in Kandahar Province, that Border Police officers emptied from ballot boxes and replaced with fake ballots for Karzai.
Ahmed Wali Karzai is “neck-deep in the drug trade and responsible for handpicking provincial officials who will ensure that opium is trafficked without hindrance” and “also believed responsible for the widespread vote-rigging in Kandahar” where “insurgents are retaking control”, Turdy Rubin wrote at The Philadelphia Inquirer (via McClatchy). She suggests U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “politely but firmly say it’s time for Ahmed Wali Karzai to depart for a much-deserved retirement to Britain or Dubai, and for the appointment of officials in Kandahar who aren’t beholden to the drug mafia”.
Of course, why Ms. Clinton won’t do that is obvious: you can substitute “C.I.A.” for Mr. Karzai’s name throughout this piece, as the NYT implies—though the relationship is “wide ranging, several American officials said”.
“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,” Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan, told the NYT.
On the relationship, the NYT reports:
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 the 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 now regarded as valuable by those who support working with Mr. Karzai, as the Obama administration is placing a greater focus on encouraging Taliban leaders to change sides.
“Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade,” a C.I.A. officer with Afghanistan experience told the NYT, saying Mr. Karzai was—basically—a vital asset. But, seeing as the ‘Taliban resurgence’ has delivered a blow risking “mission failure”—according to the top U.S. commander on the ground—his actions counter the “counterterrorism missions” toward which this officer says Mr. Karzai’s valued.
The C.I.A. was not negligent, but deliberate, one can only conclude. It isn’t the ‘Central Craps Table Agency’. Every move is highly calculated. Financing Mr. Karzai was, is and will always be known to finance the militant rebellion—by proxy—the Pentagon wants to send more kids to die, fighting. This rebellion is against the Karzai elite whose power grows from the U.S. with a high degree of rebellion that doesn’t imminently threaten the ruling power. This relationship manufactures the cycle of violence in Afghanistan, as the NYT adds:
Now, with more American lives on the line, the relationship with Mr. Karzai is setting off 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 mafialike way that he lords over southern Afghanistan, makes him a malevolent force….
The debate over Ahmed Wali Karzai, which began when President Obama took office in January, intensified in June, when the C.I.A.’s local paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, shot and killed Kandahar’s provincial police chief, Matiullah Qati, in a still-unexplained shootout at the office of a local prosecutor….
“Matiullah was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mr. Karzai said in the interview.
Mr. Karzai denies drug-running or playing a role in cultivation. This is actually very consistent with many reports. The 500 lb. gorilla in the room is how Mr. Karzai is playing a role in Afghan drug trafficking. He simply uses his government-granted monopoly power to steal at literal gunpoint via taxation, the NYT reports:
Senior Afghan investigators say they know plenty about Mr. Karzai’s involvement in the drug business. In an interview in Kabul this year, a top former Afghan Interior Ministry official familiar with Afghan counternarcotics operations said that a major source of Mr. Karzai’s influence over the drug trade was his control over key bridges crossing the Helmand River on the route between the opium growing regions of Helmand Province and Kandahar.
The former Interior Ministry official said that Mr. Karzai was able to charge huge fees to drug traffickers to allow their drug-laden trucks to cross the bridges.
The targets chosen by Mr. Karzai to ‘supply information’ to the C.I.A. are obviously the people not paying the taxman. Sure, there have been targeted assassinations of whistleblowers, not by U.S. forces. But, one has to ask about the ones who have been assassinated by U.S. forces from leads out of the C.I.A. The poppy fields selected to be incinerated. The traveling factions hunted down.
The UNODC reported the Taliban is also collecting taxes. Of course, the Karzais want a surge of foreign forces. They want to knock out the tax-collecting competition like any mafia called a “government”. And as the Karzais receive more beef, the resistance polarizes: it significantly fights back which begs for more C.I.A.; or goes away and the Karzais get their opium monopoly.
The C.I.A. has played this double game in Latin America for decades—prop up the faction to best enrich drug cultivation as the U.S. occupies under the guise of a “War on Drugs”. The rise of Bolivarian Socialism is knocking the Agency out of the business there, so the names have changed to some a little harder to pronounce. They wear funnier clothing and are less Western in their superstitious customs, so all the easier to manufacture support for a drug war ‘all the way over there’.
The only question is: When does the Afghan Surge become the quest to ouster ‘Hamid Wali Noriega’? Along the way, the Obama Administration will continue to slaughter men and women across Afghanistan and Pakistan. And children like this one who Mr. Obama murdered at the province of Farah May 4: