A report in New York Times can literally brew up storm in the U.S. political cup. While the U.S. forces keep losing life daily fighting Taliban in Afghanistan and the U.S. authorities fight Mexican drug cartels to wipe out drug from streets the report questions the whole vision and action:
NY Times Headline: Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll
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.
This report published in the New York Times can fan the fire to debate around the US strategy in Afghanistan. While Afghan President Karzai is struggling to maintain his popularity and fight the image of being a US puppet which his detractors including Taliban has always tried to portray, this revealation may cause some embarrassment to both Karzai and the US. The US war strategy which is currently under review at the White House may also get questioned due to this nexus.
The involvement of the C.I.A also suggests that Uncle Sam is not doing everything in its power to lock down the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban. Some US Officials also feel that dependence on Karzai’s brother undermines the strategy to establish a strong central rule. Ahmed Wali Karzai meanwhile in an interview rubbished charges of running drug cartel or receiving payments from the C.I.A while accepting that he helps US agencies.
“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.
He is reported to help C.I.A run an armed force called the Kandahar Strike Force (KSF) which is used to attack suspected infiltrators and militants. KSF is also alleged to have at least once, mounted an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government. He is also paid for allowing the C.I.A. and American Special Operations troops to rent a large compound outside the city.
C.I.A has meanwhile declined any comments to the report “No intelligence organization worth the name would ever entertain these kind of allegations,” said Paul Gimigliano, the (C.I.A) spokesman.
An US official meanwhile was quoted as saying:
“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.”
While the Obama administration has spoken many a times about rooting out the drug business from Afghanistan, which is the largest in world, the reports coming from Afghanistan don’t suggest so. It is said that the US administration has tried to impress upon President Karzai to move his brother out of South Afghanistan but till now has not been able to persuade him. He is also alleged to have created hundreds of fake polling booths and phony ballots for President Karzai during the elections.
“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 article, 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.”
Senior Afghan investigators claim that they know plenty about Karzai’s involvement in the drug business. A top former Afghan Interior Ministry official familiar with Afghan counternarcotics operations in an interview earlier this year, said that a major source of his influence over the drug trade was his control over key bridges across the Helmand River on the route between the opium growing regions of Helmand Province and Kandahar. He is said to charge a huge fee for drug laden trucks to cross these strategic bridges. The former official added that it is impossible for Afghan officials to investigate him. He said, “This government has become a factory for the production of Talibs because of corruption and injustice,”.