View Full Version : Reports Link Karzai’s Brother to Afghanistan Heroin Trade

Magda Hassan
12-29-2008, 01:05 AM
By JAMES RISEN (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/james_risen/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
Published: October 4, 2008
WASHINGTON — When Afghan security forces found an enormous cache of heroin hidden beneath concrete blocks in a tractor-trailer outside Kandahar in 2004, the local Afghan commander quickly impounded the truck and notified his boss.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/10/05/world/afghan.map.jpg The New York Times
Heroin caches were found near Kandahar and Kabul.

Before long, the commander, Habibullah Jan, received a telephone call from Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/hamid_karzai/index.html?inline=nyt-per), asking him to release the vehicle and the drugs, Mr. Jan later told American investigators, according to notes from the debriefing obtained by The New York Times. He said he complied after getting a phone call from an aide to President Karzai directing him to release the truck.
Two years later, American and Afghan counternarcotics forces stopped another truck, this time near Kabul, finding more than 110 pounds of heroin. Soon after the seizure, United States investigators told other American officials that they had discovered links between the drug shipment and a bodyguard believed to be an intermediary for Ahmed Wali Karzai, according to a participant in the briefing.
The assertions about the involvement of the president’s brother in the incidents were never investigated, according to American and Afghan officials, even though allegations that he has benefited from narcotics trafficking have circulated widely in Afghanistan (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/afghanistan/index.html?inline=nyt-geo).
Both President Karzai and Ahmed Wali Karzai, now the chief of the Kandahar Provincial Council, the governing body for the region that includes Afghanistan’s second largest city, dismiss the allegations as politically motivated attacks by longtime foes.
“I am not a drug dealer, I never was and I never will be,” the president’s brother said in a recent phone interview. “I am a victim of vicious politics.”
But the assertions about him have deeply worried top American officials in Kabul and in Washington. The United States officials fear that perceptions that the Afghan president might be protecting his brother are damaging his credibility and undermining efforts by the United States to buttress his government, which has been under siege from rivals and a Taliban (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/t/taliban/index.html?inline=nyt-org) insurgency fueled by drug money, several senior Bush administration officials said. Their concerns have intensified as American troops have been deployed to the country in growing numbers.
“What appears to be a fairly common Afghan public perception of corruption inside their government is a tremendously corrosive element working against establishing long-term confidence in that government — a very serious matter,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, who was commander of coalition military forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005 and is now retired. “That could be problematic strategically for the United States.”
The White House says it believes that Ahmed Wali Karzai is involved in drug trafficking, and American officials have repeatedly warned President Karzai that his brother is a political liability, two senior Bush administration officials said in interviews last week.
Numerous reports link Ahmed Wali Karzai to the drug trade, according to current and former officials from the White House, the State Department and the United States Embassy in Afghanistan, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity. In meetings with President Karzai, including a 2006 session with the United States ambassador, the Central Intelligence Agency (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/central_intelligence_agency/index.html?inline=nyt-org)’s station chief and their British counterparts, American officials have talked about the allegations in hopes that the president might move his brother out of the country, said several people who took part in or were briefed on the talks.
“We thought the concern expressed to Karzai might be enough to get him out of there,” one official said. But President Karzai has resisted, demanding clear-cut evidence of wrongdoing, several officials said. “We don’t have the kind of hard, direct evidence that you could take to get a criminal indictment,” a White House official said. “That allows Karzai to say, ‘where’s your proof?’ ”
Neither the Drug Enforcement Administration (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/d/drug_enforcement_administration/index.html?inline=nyt-org), which conducts counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan, nor the fledgling Afghan anti-drug agency has pursued investigations into the accusations against the president’s brother.
Several American investigators said senior officials at the D.E.A. 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 White House officials dispute that, instead citing limited D.E.A. resources in Kandahar and southern Afghanistan and the absence of political will in the Afghan government to go after major drug suspects as the reasons for the lack of an inquiry.
“We invested considerable resources into building Afghan capability to conduct such investigations and consistently encouraged Karzai to take on the big fish and address widespread Afghan suspicions about the link between his brother and narcotics,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, who was the coordinator for Afghanistan and Iraq at the National Security Council (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_security_council/index.html?inline=nyt-org) until last year.
It was not clear whether President Bush had been briefed on the matter.Humayun Hamidzada, press secretary for President Karzai, denied that the president’s brother was involved in drug trafficking or that the president had intervened to help him. “People have made allegations without proof,” Mr. Hamidzada said.
Spokesmen for the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
An Informant’s Tip
The concerns about Ahmed Wali Karzai have surfaced recently because of the imprisonment of an informant who tipped off American and Afghan investigators to the drug-filled truck outside Kabul in 2006.

The informant, Hajji Aman Kheri, was arrested a year later on charges of plotting to kill an Afghan vice president in 2002. The Afghan Supreme Court recently ordered him freed for lack of evidence, but he has not been released. Nearly 100 political leaders in his home region protested his continued incarceration last month.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/world/asia/05afghan.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=asia#secondParagraph) http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/10/05/world/afghan.2.190.jpg The New York Times
Hajji Aman Kheri

Mr. Kheri, in a phone interview from jail in Kabul, said he had been an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration and United States intelligence agencies, an assertion confirmed by American counternarcotics and intelligence officials. Several of those officials, frustrated that the Bush administration was not pressing for Mr. Kheri’s release, came forward to disclose his role in the drug seizure.

Ever since the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, critics have charged that the Bush administration has failed to take aggressive action against the Afghan narcotics trade, because of both opposition from the Karzai government and reluctance by the United States military to get bogged down by eradication and interdiction efforts that would antagonize local warlords and Afghan poppy farmers. Now, Afghanistan provides about 95 percent of the world’s supply of heroin.
Just as the Taliban have benefited from money produced by the drug trade, so have many officials in the Karzai government, according to American and Afghan officials. Thomas Schweich, a former senior State Department counternarcotics official, wrote in The New York Times Magazine in July that drug traffickers were buying off hundreds of police chiefs, judges and other officials. “Narco-corruption went to the top of the Afghan government,” he said.
Suspicions of Corruption
Of the suspicions about Ahmed Wali Karzai, Representative Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican who has focused on the Afghan drug problem in Congress, said, “I would ask people in the Bush administration and the D.E.A. about him, and they would say, ‘We think he’s dirty.’ ”
In the two drug seizures in 2004 and 2006, millions of dollars’ worth of heroin was found. In April 2006, Mr. Jan, by then a member of the Afghan Parliament, met with American investigators at a D.E.A. safe house in Kabul and was asked to describe the events surrounding the 2004 drug discovery, according to notes from the debriefing session. He told the Americans that after impounding the truck, he received calls from Ahmed Wali Karzai and Shaida Mohammad, an aide to President Karzai, according to the notes.
Mr. Jan later became a political opponent of President Karzai, and in a 2007 speech in Parliament he accused Ahmed Wali Karzai of involvement in the drug trade. Mr. Jan was shot to death in July as he drove from a guesthouse to his main residence in Kandahar Province. The Taliban were suspected in the assassination.
Mr. Mohammad, in a recent interview in Washington, dismissed Mr. Jan’s account, saying that Mr. Jan had fabricated the story about being pressured to release the drug shipment in order to damage President Karzai.
But Khan Mohammad, the former Afghan commander in Kandahar who was Mr. Jan’s superior in 2004, said in a recent interview that Mr. Jan reported at the time that he had received a call from the Karzai aide ordering him to release the drug cache. Khan Mohammad recalled that Mr. Jan believed that the call had been instigated by Ahmed Wali Karzai, not the president.
“This was a very heavy issue,” Mr. Mohammad said.
He provided the same account in an October 2004 interview with The Christian Science Monitor. Mr. Mohammad said that after a subordinate captured a large shipment of heroin about two months earlier, the official received repeated telephone calls from Ahmed Wali Karzai. “He was saying, ‘This heroin belongs to me, you should release it,’ ” the newspaper quoted Mr. Mohammad as saying.
Languishing in Detention
In 2006, Mr. Kheri, the Afghan informant, tipped off American counternarcotics agents to another drug shipment. Mr. Kheri, who had proved so valuable to the United States that his family had been resettled in Virginia in 2004, briefly returned to Afghanistan in 2006.
The heroin in the truck that was seized was to be delivered to Ahmed Wali Karzai’s bodyguard in the village of Maidan Shahr, and then transported to Kandahar, one of the Afghans involved in the deal later told American investigators, according to notes of his debriefing. Several Afghans — the drivers and the truck’s owner — were arrested by Afghan authorities, but no action was taken against Mr. Karzai or his bodyguard, who investigators believe serves as a middleman, the American officials said.
In 2007, Mr. Kheri visited Afghanistan again, once again serving as an American informant, the officials said. This time, however, he was arrested by the Karzai government and charged in the 2002 assassination of Hajji Abdul Qadir, an Afghan vice president, who had been a political rival of Mr. Kheri’s brother, Hajji Zaman, a former militia commander and a powerful figure in eastern Afghanistan.
Mr. Kheri, in the phone interview from Kabul, denied any involvement in the killing and said his arrest was politically motivated. He maintained that the president’s brother was involved in the heroin trade.
“It’s no secret about Wali Karzai and drugs,” said Mr. Kheri, who speaks English. “A lot of people in the Afghan government are involved in drug trafficking.”
Mr. Kheri’s continued detention, despite the Afghan court’s order to release him, has frustrated some of the American investigators who worked with him.
In recent months, they have met with officials at the State Department and the office of the Director of National Intelligence seeking to persuade the Bush administration to intervene with the Karzai government to release Mr. Kheri.
“We have just left a really valuable informant sitting in jail to rot,” one investigator said.

Peter Lemkin
12-29-2008, 07:15 AM
Magda, your missing the 'essence' of Karzai - his stylish clothes!...which I agree are refreshing :D [his past in Big Oil and his network of friends in Corporate Fascism and their usual crimes are not].

Magda Hassan
12-29-2008, 07:34 AM
You're right Peter! I'd love to know where they buy their clothes from all these despots, dictators and drug lords. Pinochet and his swishy cape lined in blood red. Karzai and his perky hats and stylish chapan. And the shiny patent leather of marching boots everywhere and brass baubles of the military uniforms. Ah, the smell of leather! Yes, the fascist and right wingers win in the fashion stakes. Everyone else is happy with a t-shirt and jeans. According to one of my friends they throw the best parties too but then he is in to S & M.

Magda Hassan
07-06-2009, 04:41 AM
Afghan drug trade thrives with help, and neglect, of officials

McClatchy's Tom Lasseter talks about his reporting on the drug trade in Afghanistan.


http://media.mcclatchydc.com/smedia/2009/05/07/17/930-7_AFGHAN-DRUGS_3_MCT.embedded.prod_affiliate.91.jpg (http://media.mcclatchydc.com/smedia/2009/05/07/17/193-7_AFGHAN-DRUGS_3_MCT.standalone.prod_affiliate.91.jpg)

Abdul Satar who raises poppies near Kandahar says his crop is taxed by both the Taliban and government forces. [/URL]


By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — When it's harvest time in the poppy fields of Kandahar, dust-covered Taliban fighters pull up on their motorbikes to collect a 10 percent tax on the crop. Afghan police arrive in Ford Ranger pickups — bought with U.S. aid money — and demand their cut of the cash in exchange for promises to skip the farms during annual eradication.
Then, usually late one afternoon, a drug trafficker will roll up in his Toyota Land Cruiser with black-tinted windows and send a footman to pay the farmers in cash. The farmers never see the boss, but they suspect that he's a local powerbroker who has ties to the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
Everyone wants a piece of the action, said farmer Abdul Satar, a thin man with rough hands who tends about half an acre of poppy just south of Kandahar. "There is no one to complain to," he said, sitting in the shade of an orange tree. "Most of the government officials are involved."
Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the world's opium, which was worth some $3.4 billion to Afghan exporters last year. For a cut of that, Afghan officials open their highways to opium and heroin trafficking, allow public land to be used for growing opium poppies and protect drug dealers.
The drug trade funnels hundreds of millions of dollars each year to drug barons and the resurgent Taliban, the militant Islamist group that's killed an estimated 450 American troops in Afghanistan since 2001 and seeks to overthrow the fledgling democracy here.
What's more, Afghan officials' involvement in the drug trade suggests that American tax dollars are supporting the corrupt officials who protect the Taliban's efforts to raise money from the drug trade, money the militants use to buy weapons that kill U.S. soldiers.
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 booming drug trade threatens the stability of the Afghan government, and with it America's efforts to defeat the Taliban and al Qaida in Afghanistan. The threat has grown not only because of the cozy relationships among drug lords, militants and corrupt officials, but also because of apathy by Western powers.
From the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan after the 9-11 attacks 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.
"We all realized that it will take a long time to win this war, but we can lose it in a couple years if we don't take this (drug) problem by the horns," said the official, who asked for anonymity so that he could speak more freely.
To unravel the ties among militants, opium and the government, McClatchy interviewed more than two dozen current and past Afghan officials, poppy farmers and others familiar with the drug trade. Seven former Afghan governors and security commanders said they had firsthand knowledge of local or national officials who were transporting or selling drugs or protecting those who did.
Most of the sources feared retribution. One man was killed a week after he spoke to McClatchy. Another called back a week after the interview and said he hadn't left his home in days, fearful that McClatchy's calls to verify his story would bring trouble. A third met on the condition that a reporter promised not to tell anyone that he still lives in Kabul.
"In this country, if someone really tells the truth he will have no place to live," said Agha Saqeb, who served as the provincial police chief in Kandahar, in the heart of Afghanistan's opium belt, from 2007 to 2008. Naming Afghan officials who profit from drugs, he said, would get him killed: "They are still in power and they could harm me."
The embassies of the U.S., Britain and Canada — the countries principally behind counter-narcotics in Afghanistan — declined to comment. A State Department report issued earlier this year flatly noted that: "Many Afghan government officials are believed to profit from the drug trade."
It also said: "Regrettably, no major drug trafficker has been arrested or convicted in Afghanistan since 2006."
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials in Kabul also refused to comment. Afghan and Western observers said the DEA had been hampered by inadequate staffing and by the difficulty of cracking down on drug trafficking in a country where local officials were implicated in it.
The corruption allegedly reaches the highest levels of Afghanistan's political elite. According to multiple Afghan former officials, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai and the head of the provincial council in Kandahar, routinely manipulates judicial and police officials to facilitate shipments of opium and heroin.
Ahmed Wali Karzai and his defenders retort that the U.S. government never has formally accused him of any wrongdoing.
In Kabul, President Karzai's office said no one could prove that his brother had anything to do with opium and heroin. The Afghan Attorney General's Office has received no complaints or evidence against Ahmed Wali Karzai, according to an official there who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the issue.
Neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations has officially charged him with involvement in drugs, and a former DEA chief of operations, Michael Braun, said the agency had "basically struck out" in trying to prove the allegations.
Ahmed Wali Karzai himself is defensive, saying that the accusations are part of a political conspiracy against his brother, the president. When he was asked recently about the allegations linking him to drugs and crime, he threatened to assault a visiting McClatchy reporter.
The narcotics trade in Afghanistan would be impossible without government officials and the Taliban on the payroll, said the man in the brown turban. "The link between them is a natural one."
The man should know. He's a drug dealer in Kandahar who provides money to purchase opium culled from poppy on local farms and arranges for it to be shipped to markets near the city.
The owner of several shoe and electronics shops in Kandahar, he sat in a plastic chair in a small office tucked away on the second floor of a bare concrete building. As he described the inner workings of the opium trade, he spat tobacco from under the fold of his cheek into a silken floral print handkerchief.
"The drug smuggler tells a police commander to transport a certain amount of drugs, for example, from the city to Maiwand District" — on the northwest edge of Kandahar province — "and pays him 100,000 Pakistani rupees," about $1,200, said the dealer, who asked that his name not be used for fear of running afoul of local warlords or officials. "And then from Maiwand, he pays the Taliban another 100,000 rupees to take it farther," to heroin labs in the southern province of Helmand and on to Pakistan or Iran.
The dealer offered introductions to the Taliban or to the provincial governor, but there was one man he didn't wish to discuss: Ahmed Wali Karzai.
According to several Afghan former officials in the region, however, the major drug traffickers in southern Afghanistan don't worry much about getting caught because they're working under the protection of Karzai and other powerful government officials.
For example, a former top Afghan intelligence official recounted an incident from about five years ago, when, he said, his men arrested a Taliban commander who was involved with drugs at a key narcotics-trafficking point between Helmand and the Pakistani border.
Late on the evening of the arrest, a local prosecutor dropped by and said that Ahmed Wali Karzai wanted the militant released, according to Dad Mohammed Khan, who was the national intelligence directorate chief of Helmand province for about three years before he became a member of the national parliament.
Khan said he released the Taliban commander, a man known as Haji Abdul Rahim, because he didn't want to tangle with the president's brother.
A week after his conversation with McClatchy, Khan — a large man with a bushy black beard who had a reputation for dealing with enemies ruthlessly — was killed by a roadside bomb that most attribute to the Taliban.
Khan, however, isn't the only one to accuse Ahmed Wali Karzai of ties to drug trafficking.
In 2004, an Afghan Defense Ministry brigade reportedly had a similar run-in with Karzai. The brigade pulled over a truck in Kandahar and found heroin hidden under sacks of concrete, according to the corps commander who oversaw the unit, Brig. Gen. Khan Mohammed.
Shortly afterward, the brigade leader, a man named Habibullah Jan, got a phone call from Ahmed Wali Karzai demanding that he release the truck, Mohammed said. That call was followed by one from a member of President Karzai's staff, Mohammed said.
Jan later became a parliament member and publicly accused Ahmed Wali Karzai of being a criminal. Jan was killed last year in a sophisticated ambush in Kandahar under circumstances that remain unclear. The Taliban haven't taken responsibility for the attack.
"Ahmed Wali Karzai has very close links with the drug smugglers," said Mohammed, who was sipping tea as he sat on a cushion at his home in Kabul. "The house that he's living in in Kandahar right now is owned by a very big drug smuggler."
People who accuse Ahmed Wali Karzai of ties to the drug trade often don't stay around very long. Many Afghans were shocked last year when a TV station that broadcasts to several cities around the country aired a roundtable discussion in which one of the guests said he knew that Karzai was involved with drugs.
Although he isn't a current government official — he had part ownership in an Internet technology institute — Abdullah Kandahari is from Karzai's Popalzai tribe and has known the president's family for years. He also was an intelligence official for two years during the regime of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, a political opponent of the Karzais.
Speaking by phone from Pakistan, Kandahari said he was forced to move his family out of the country and sell his business interests in the aftermath of the show; Ahmed Wali Karzai sent gunmen looking for him four times in two locations, Kandahari said.
Another guest on the show, a parliament member from Kandahar named Shakiba Hashimi, said that Karzai called her husband the morning after it aired.
"Ahmed Wali said that after appearing on that program, I would not have the courage to return to Kandahar," Hashimi said. It was a gloating sort of threat, and Hashimi took it seriously: She said she hadn't been back to the province since.
Asked for comment about Dad Mohammed Khan's allegation and others during an interview at his palatial Kandahar home, which is protected by guard shacks, perimeter walls and sand-filled roadblocks, Ahmed Wali Karzai said he had nothing to do with drugs.
A few minutes later, he yelled, "Get the (expletive) out before I kick your (expletive)" at a reporter.
Asked about Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president's spokesman said there was no proof that the president's brother was involved with the drug trade.
President Karzai has told the U.S. and British governments that "if they have any evidence against his brothers or close associates, they should come forward," said Humayun Hamidzada, the spokesman. To date, he said, there's been no response.
President Karzai hasn't been accused of any connection to drug trafficking, but he appears to be powerless to halt some of his own officials' ties to it. The issue allegedly extends far beyond his brother.
A man named Syed Jan traveled through Afghanistan in 2005 with documents saying that he worked for a drug task force in Helmand province. The deputy interior minister for counter-narcotics, Col. Gen. Mohammed Daoud, had signed the paperwork. When Jan's car was stopped at a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, it was carrying about 425 pounds of heroin. That amount was worth about $580,000 on the Afghan wholesale market in 2005 and more than $5.4 million wholesale in Britain — which gets most of its heroin from Afghanistan — during 2006, according to figures from the United Nations.
Daoud told McClatchy the documents were genuine, but that Jan "was introduced to my office by President Karzai's office."
Appearing before a special narcotics court in Kabul, Jan was sentenced to 16 years. An appeals court then declared him innocent and released him.
Sareer Ahmad Barmak, a spokesman for a central narcotics-prosecution task force in Kabul, said that Jan had confessed to being a drug trafficker. "I don't know what he did, how much money he offered to the judges to get acquitted," Barmak said.
At the urging of Afghanistan's attorney general, President Karzai directed the appeals court to reconsider. While the case was pending, however, the Justice Ministry ordered that Jan be transferred from Kabul to a jail in his home province of Helmand, a move that Barmak said was illegal.
On the drive from the Helmand airport to the jail, gunmen ambushed the police convoy and Jan escaped.
It was obvious from the details that Barmak gave that the gunmen knew about the transfer in advance. A Justice Ministry official told McClatchy that Jan had simply slipped out of custody. The last anyone heard, he was living in Dubai or Pakistan.
Asked for comment, Hamidzada, President Karzai's spokesman, said, "I'm not aware of these little details, of one particular person carrying letters, (of) these little people doing little things."
Several former security officers in southern Afghanistan said that the story of Syed Jan was nothing unusual.
Mohammed Hussein Andewal, a former police chief of Helmand province, said that in 2007 his men caught an opium dealer red-handed with a large stash of drugs on his way to the bordering province of Farah.
Andewal said he was called first by a regional Interior Ministry commander and then by a senior official from the ministry in Kabul telling him to let the man go.
"I know very high government officials who have heroin storerooms in their own houses," he said.
Andewal said that if he had a map in front of him, he could sketch the bases and the movements of a drug-dealing ring of Afghan leaders in five provinces who pushed heroin through Nimruz province into Iran.
"If anyone could guarantee my security, I could give the names and draw the map," he said with a grin and then a shrug. "But I would get killed."
A former senior Afghan official who's worked in high positions in southern Afghanistan and the national government said he could list the bases and movements of Ahmed Wali Karzai's drug network as well as the names, home districts and jobs of the dealers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the former official said he wouldn't want those facts or his identity made public, because he had the same worries as Andewal: a bullet to the head or a bomb on the road.
(Warren P. Strobel contributed to this article from Washington.)

Magda Hassan
07-06-2009, 04:44 AM
Karzai's brother threatened McClatchy writer reporting Afghan drug story

McClatchy's Tom Lasseter talks about his reporting on the drug trade in Afghanistan.

http://media.mcclatchydc.com/smedia/2007/06/11/12/399-LASSETER_TOM.embedded.prod_affiliate.91.jpg (http://media.mcclatchydc.com/smedia/2007/06/11/12/272-LASSETER_TOM.standalone.prod_affiliate.91.jpg) Tom Lasseter


By Tom Lasseter | McClatchy Newspapers

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The ride to Kandahar airport was tense. The Afghan president's brother had just yelled a litany of obscenities and said he was about to beat me.
Ahmed Wali Karzai is feared by many in southern Afghanistan, and being threatened by him, in his home, isn't something to be taken lightly.
In a place like Kandahar, I try to take precautions — letting my beard grow and wearing the traditional Afghan outfit of baggy pants and a long tunic — but at the end of the day, there's no protection when the most powerful official in the region orders you to leave.
So after a quick consultation with locals, I decided to do just that.
I was in my third week of tracking down former Afghan officials and asking them about drugs and corruption. Several had mentioned Karzai, President Hamid Karzai's brother and the head of Kandahar's provincial council.
After talking with poppy farmers, a drug dealer and former officials in Kandahar, it was time to see Ahmed Wali Karzai.
Sitting in his home, Karzai said up front that he had nothing to do with drugs. The political enemies of his brother, the president, were spreading rumors: "I am just the victim of their politics, that's all," he said.
I flipped from one page to the next of my notebook, and started with specifics.
Dad Mohammed Khan, a former national intelligence directorate chief of Helmand province, told me that Karzai had sent an intermediary to force him to release a Taliban commander who'd been arrested in a major drug-trafficking area. Khan was killed by a roadside bomb after our interview.
"He died, so I don't know if he told you that," Karzai said, looking unhappy with the question.
He added: "He's dead, so let's leave it there."
I moved on to a second former security official from the region — I had jotted a long list of names — who'd also made allegations about Karzai.
Karzai said that the official "is alive, I can find him and talk to him." He called for one of his men to bring a cell phone.
He began to glare at me and questioned whether I was really a reporter.
"It seems like someone sent you to write these things," he said, scowling.
Karzai glared some more.
"You should leave right now," he said.
I stuck my hand out to shake his; if I learned anything from three years of reporting in Iraq and then trips to Afghanistan during the past couple of years, it's that when things turn bad, you should cling to any remaining shred of hospitality.
Karzai grabbed my hand and used it to give me a bit of a push into the next room. He followed me, and his voice rose until it was a scream of curse words and threats.
I managed to record just one full sentence: "Get the (expletive) out before I kick your (expletive)."
I won't describe the rest, because it involves the Afghans I was working with, none of whom wants to risk revenge in a country where feuds often end in blood.
Once I was at the airport, there were still several hours until the flight and I had only fuzzy ideas of what to do if the plane to Kabul were canceled, a common occurrence.
I was with my Afghan colleague, and neither of us talked much. It's a routine that we've worked out, the silence in which we collect ourselves and let the fear settle.
After several hours of delay — there was speculation about whether there was no fuel, or a government minister was running late — the plane finally took off.
I looked out the window, and there was Kandahar below. A few minutes later, I looked again, and it was gone, leaving only the darkness of the Afghan night. The trip back to Kabul was a quiet one.

Danny Jarman
10-01-2009, 04:01 AM

Peter Lemkin
10-01-2009, 05:09 AM

Great graph! Shows how those who wanted the war are 'winning' in Afghanistan...as they people on all sides die. Wars are usually for profit anyway. This one seems to be for opium and oil pipelines. :party:

Peter Lemkin
10-01-2009, 05:14 AM

Great graph! Shows how those who wanted the war are 'winning' in Afghanistan...as they people on all sides die. Wars are usually for profit anyway. This one seems to be for opium and oil pipelines. :party: 2008 was a bumper crop! Hooray! The War 'on Terror' meets the War 'on Drugs'.

Magda Hassan
10-28-2009, 01:49 AM
Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll
October 2This article is by Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen.

KABUL, Afghanistan (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/afghanistan/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) — Ahmed Wali Karzai (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/ahmed_wali_karzai/index.html?inline=nyt-per), the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/o/opium/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier) trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/c/central_intelligence_agency/index.html?inline=nyt-org), 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 (http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/obama-defends-afghanistan-timetable/?scp=1&sq=caucus%20afghanistan%20obama%20strategy&st=cse).
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 (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/hamid_karzai/index.html?inline=nyt-per), who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the Taliban (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/t/taliban/index.html?inline=nyt-org) 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. :rofl::rofl::rofl:
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 (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/o/muhammad_omar/index.html?inline=nyt-per), 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 (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/world/asia/05afghan.html) were not conclusive.
“There’s no proof of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s involvement in drug trafficking (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/afghanistan/drug_trafficking/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier), 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.”

American officials say that Afghanistan’s opium trade, the largest in the world, directly threatens the stability of the Afghan state, by providing a large percentage of the money the Taliban needs for its operations, and also by corrupting Afghan public officials to help the trade flourish.
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.
Other 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 last August. 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.
“The only way to clean up Chicago is to get rid of Capone,” General Flynn said.
In an interview, Ahmed Wali Karzai denied any role the drug trade and that he takes money from the C.I.A. He said he received regular payments from his brother, the president, for “expenses,” but said he did not know where the money came from. He has, among other things, introduced Americans to insurgents considering changing sides. And he has given the Americans intelligence, he said. But he said he is not compensated for that assistance.
“I don’t know anyone under the name of the C.I.A.,” Mr. Karzai said. “I have never received any money from any organization. I help, definitely. I help other Americans wherever I can. This is my duty as an Afghan.”
Mr. Karzai acknowledged that the C.I.A. and special forces stay at Mullah Omar’s old compound. And he acknowledged that the Kandahar Strike Force is based there. But he said he no involvement with them.
A former C.I.A. officer with experience in Afghanistan said the agency relied heavily on Ahmed Wali Karzai, and often based covert operatives at compounds he owned. Any connections Mr. Karzai might have had to the drug trade mattered little to C.I.A. officers focused on counterterrorism missions, the officer said.
“Virtually every significant Afghan figure has had brushes with the drug trade,” he said. “If you are looking for Mother Teresa (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/t/teresa_mother/index.html?inline=nyt-per), she doesn’t live in Afghanistan.”
The debate over Ahmed Wali Karzai, which began when President Obama (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/o/barack_obama/index.html?inline=nyt-per) 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 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/30/world/asia/30afghan.html) at the office of a local prosecutor.
The circumstances surrounding Mr. Qati’s death remain shrouded in mystery. It is unclear, for instance, if any agency operatives were present — but officials say the firefight broke out when Mr. Qati tried to block the strike force from freeing the brother of a task force member who was being held in custody.
“Matiullah was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Mr. Karzai said in the interview.
Counternarcotics officials have repeatedly expressed frustration over the unwillingness of senior policy makers in Washington to take action against Mr. Karzai — or even launch a serious investigation of the allegations against him. In fact, they say that while other Afghans accused of drug involvement are investigated and singled out for raids or even rendition to the United States, Mr. Karzai has seemed immune from similar scrutiny.
For years, first the Bush administration and then the Obama administration have said that the Taliban benefits from the drug trade, and the U.S. military has recently expanded its target list to include drug traffickers with ties to the insurgency. The military has generated a list of 50 top drug traffickers tied to the Taliban who can now be killed or captured.
Senior Afghan investigators say they know plenty about Mr. Karzai’s involvement in the drug business. In an interview in Kabul earlier this year, a top former Afghan Interior Ministry official familiar with Afghan counter narcotics 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 is able to charge huge fees to drug traffickers to allow their drug-laden trucks to cross the bridges.
But the former officials said it was impossible for Afghan counternarcotics officials to investigate Mr. Karzai. “This government has become a factory for the production of Talibs because of corruption and injustice,” the former official said.
Some American counternarcotics officials have said they believe that Mr. Karzai has expanded his influence over the drug trade, thanks in part to American efforts to target other drug lords.
In debriefing notes from Drug Enforcement Administration (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/d/drug_enforcement_administration/index.html?inline=nyt-org) interviews in 2006 of Afghan informants obtained by The New York Times, one key informant said that Ahmed Wali Karzai had benefited from the American operation that lured Haji Bashir Noorzai, a major Afghan drug lord during the time that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, to New York in 2005. Mr. Noorzai was convicted on drug and conspiracy charges in New York in 2008, and was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year.
Habibullah Jan, a local military commander and later a member of parliament from Kandahar, told the D.E.A. in 2006 that Mr. Karzai had teamed with Haji Juma Khan to take over a portion of the Noorzai drug business after Mr. Noorzai’s arrest.

Danny Jarman
10-28-2009, 04:24 AM
Uh oh, someones going to get a bollocking. :ridinghorse:

Magda Hassan
10-28-2009, 05:44 AM
Uh oh, someones going to get a bollocking. :ridinghorse:
Maybe the reporter for talking about it. But, hey, Danny, Ahmed will get honours and wealth beyond his wildest dreams. More than he is getting now. I wouldn't be surprised if we hear his name mentioned next year as a Nobel Prize nominee for all his good work in bringing the warring factions of Afghanistan together through free trade and private enterprise. Certainly a place on the board of many trans-national corporations. Increasing the the US drug cartel's production to 90% of all the worlds market share is no mean feat. Any company would just love to have him work for them. I just bet there is many a heart just bursting with pride over there in Langley. Now, if he could just learn some Spanish he would be able to do the same for them in Colombia with cocaine.

David Guyatt
10-28-2009, 10:55 AM
Maybe the reporter for talking about it. But, hey, Danny, Ahmed will get honours and wealth beyond his wildest dreams. More than he is getting now. I wouldn't be surprised if we hear his name mentioned next year as a Nobel Prize nominee.[/QUOTE]


Danny Jarman
10-28-2009, 03:10 PM
Uh oh, someones going to get a bollocking. :ridinghorse:
Maybe the reporter for talking about it. But, hey, Danny, Ahmed will get honours and wealth beyond his wildest dreams. More than he is getting now. I wouldn't be surprised if we hear his name mentioned next year as a Nobel Prize nominee for all his good work in bringing the warring factions of Afghanistan together through free trade and private enterprise. Certainly a place on the board of many trans-national corporations. Increasing the the US drug cartel's production to 90% of all the worlds market share is no mean feat. Any company would just love to have him work for them. I just bet there is many a heart just bursting with pride over there in Langley. Now, if he could just learn some Spanish he would be able to do the same for them in Colombia with cocaine.

Yeah that's what I meant.

But what I want to know is, where does this fit in with things? Are they really trying to get rid of Karazi for the fraudulent elections or are they just pretending to look like they are bothered, and intend to keep him in power so his brother can continue what he is doing?

Infact...don't answer that. :thumpdown:

Peter Presland
11-01-2009, 07:02 PM
This thread seemed the best home for this. The whole Afghan election saga has moved beyond farce.

From USA Today: (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2009-11-01-abdullah-afghan-election_N.htm)

KABUL — The main challenger to Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced Sunday he was withdrawing from the Nov. 7 presidential runoff, dealing a potential blow to the government's legitimacy at a time when President Obama is weighing a decision to send thousands of additional troops into the fight there.
Abdullah Abdullah made his defiant announcement inside a tent packed with hundreds of supporters, including tribal leaders wearing turbans who sat near the front of the audience. Supporters interupted his speech with scattered applause and cries of Allah Akbar (http://content.usatoday.com/topics/topic/Akbar), God is great.

The decision leaves Afghanistan's government in a fragile position and heightens political tensions at a sensitive time. Karzai's popularity is waning amid charges of corruption and incompetence as it struggles against a growing insurgency.
"I think the government will have a difficult time," said Sayed Eshaq Gilani, an Abdullah supporter and member of parliament. "The most important thing is legitimacy."
Karzai's campaign spokesman, Waheed Omar, said it was "very unfortunate" that Abdullah had withdrawn but that the Saturday runoff should proceed.
"We believe that the elections have to go on, the process has to complete itself, the people of Afghanistan have to be given the right to vote," Omar said.
It should be vintage entertainment to watch the contortions of Clinton et al over this one.

Peter Presland
11-01-2009, 08:54 PM
Well the 'vintage entertainment' I looked forward to in my last post wasn't long coming. This from Associated press (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ixcNykfSzxPxVWGUYUDa0QKOUIcAD9BMAMTG0) (Hat tip to Juan Cole):

JERUSALEM — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says Abdullah Abdullah's call for a boycott of next weekend's runoff election in Afghanistan will not affect the legitimacy of that runoff.
Clinton was asked Saturday at a news conference in Jerusalem about the presidential challenger's decision to not participate in the runoff.
She said that it his decision to make but said the runoff has already been legitimized.
When Afghan President Hamid Karzai accepted the runoff after the first election, she said, "that bestowed legitimacy from that moment forward."
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the matter of when to hold a runoff was a decision for the Afghans, and they have already said it should be Nov. 7.
Asked about putting it off until spring, Crowley said, "It's not our decision," adding, "The sooner a new government emerges, the better."
Or as Al Jazeera puts it: (http://english.aljazeera.net//news/asia/2009/11/20091117415150759.html)

James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said many Afghans had told him that an election with only one candidate would be "farcical".

"I've been speaking to Afghans and they're all telling me the same thing: They believe that an election with only one candidate would be simply farcical," he reported.

"One educated Afghan said to me that one of the great things that the West has always boasted about after the days of the Taliban, was bringing democracy to Afghanistan. [But] many Afghans are asking what sort of democracy results in a second-round election with only one candidate."Quite so.

Lots more to come I have no doubt.

Jan Klimkowski
11-01-2009, 09:02 PM
Only one candidate? :)

Hell - They're simply showing the "savages" the innate superiority of the democratic system. :playingball:

As the Palestinians discovered, democracy means voting for the guy the West tells you to vote for. Even if the "right guy" is a quisling, like Abbas.