Ahmed Wali Karzai

As you know if you read our recent Yale Daily News column, the New York Times reported this week that Ahmed Wali Karzai–younger brother of Hamid, member of Kandahar’s provincial council–has been on the CIA’s payroll for the last eight years. Specifically, the article claims that Karzai:

-Helps the CIA operate a Kandahar paramiltary group

-Allows American special forces to rent a compound outside of Kandahar

-Serves as a go-between when the CIA wants to communicate with the Taliban

Karzai claims that he helps the Americans whenever possible but has “never received any money from any organization”. And of course Karzai continues to respond angrily to allegations that he’s involved in the drug trade. The Times article also cites DEA notes in which informants claim that Karzai has benefited from American operations against Afghan drug lords to take over their business. A “former Afghan Interior Ministry official” also adds that Karzai charges traffickers for the use of bridges over the Helmand River which he controls.

Gerald Posner of the Daily Beast contacts the Karzai brothers and finds them indignant and accusatory: Mahmoud Karzai claims that the report is the doing of the ISI and “far-left” lobbyists. Ahmed says he isn’t worried because no Pashtuns believe the Times anyway, and adds that he thinks this is the Times’ way of trying to influence the election.

The reaction from lawmakers has been cautious but concerned. John Kerry was placed in an awkward spot because he’d just defended Karzai in a speech on Monday, but he now says he has “serious questions” about the information the CIA’s been giving to Congress. John McCain is also angry and says that Ahmed Wali Karzai “should not be in the country”. The White House hasn’t commented.

Of course, as Andrew Exum points out, even if Ahmed Wali Karzai turns out to be completely innocent of drug trafficking and receiving money from the CIA, the fact that “we think that AWK is the CIA’s guy” means that “the Afghans most certainly believe that to be the case”. Joanna Nathan of IWPR adds that this should probably serve as a wakeup call to Americans who like to chastize Hamid Karzai’s government for corruption without realizing that many of our actions–like letting government officials get rich off of our contractors–feed the problem and add to the mistrust among ordinary Afghans. For example, this report from NYU’s Center on International Cooperation catalogues the millions of dollars ISAF has lavished on warlords like Nangarhar governor Gul Agha Sherzai in return for security services. The report lists Hashmat Karzai (another brother) and Defense Minister Hamid Wardak “as powerful figures who control private security firms that have gotten security contracts without registering with the government.”


10 responses to “Ahmed Wali Karzai

  1. As President Karzai reaps the benefits of Abdullah Abdullah’s decision to drop-out of Afghanistan’s presidential run-off, the situation there becomes even more complex than before. For example, the system of actors in Afghanistan consists of many stakeholders – the US military, coalition partners, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Government of Afghanistan, the Taliban, local warlords, tribal leaders, religious leaders, and neighboring countries – each with their own interests. The interdependencies and relationships between these actors are just as important as the actors themselves. As such, the Taliban represents only a small piece of the puzzle to be solved. The US military is doing an amazing job of dealing with an enemy that is often elusive and battle-hardened. Road construction projects are linking villages and towns that were once accessible only by foot. Perhaps most importantly, the Afghan National Army (ANA) is growing and training hard to meet the demands of a maturing institution in a very complex environment. Within the ANA lies a potential point of leverage. The ANA presents an opportunity for a national, unifying identity in Afghanistan to emerge. A national identity within the ANA, enhanced by proper training and education, may serve as the foundation for building a national identity throughout the country. This effort will have to overcome strong tribal ties that form the basis of the identity and governance within the country. Afghanistan’s youth provide an in-road to this approach as they boast a more nationalist perspective than do the tribal elders. Yet, incentives must exist that encourage young Afghans to join and embrace the ANA providing the capacity – in terms of both quality and quantity – required to secure the country. President Obama, the US, and its coalition partners all play a major role in this process and must develop and follow a long-term strategy focused on building a partnership with the ANA and its training and education institutions. However, this strategy must include a plan to “hand-over” full responsibility of these institutions to the Afghan Government. Failure to do so will most likely result in an endless role for coalition forces in Afghanistan and the region.

  2. Afghanistan is now producer of 90% of the world’s heroin, and that fact is not on the political radar. There is no point in winning the people’s hearts and minds after the people have lost their minds or had their hearts broken.

  3. “Nangarhar governor Gul Agha Sherzai in return for security services. ”
    When did he leave Kandahar province? I missed that.

    “However, this strategy must include a plan to hand-over full responsibility of these institutions to the Afghan Government.”
    When will they be getting a government? Legitimate government I mean of course.

    Do we think the recent leaks are a harbinger of dumping Hamid?

  4. According to Sherzai’s wikipedia page, he left Kandahar in 2003 and became Nangarhar governor in 2004.

  5. Martin, you are looking at a complex problem from from a very superficial perspective. We must take a very calcualted approach when dealing with the opium harvested in Afghanistan. We must address this problem without hurting the income of the local farmer. We must interdict the opium after the farmer has been paid for his harvest.

    Secondly, be careful when you discuss winning hearts and minds. The proper phrase is building relationships and cooperation. As long as everyone understands the objective, hearts and minds are irrelevant.

    Lastly, people should not loose their minds or have broken hearts unless they are covered in sweat from their own hard work on this situation.

  6. Sorry you feel that way, Scott.
    Here is a nice quote from the former British Ambassador, Craig Murray, about heroin.

    I think that we don’t destroy the heroin labs because our guys control them.
    I prefer the “hearts and minds” phrase myself, because people’s lives are being destroyed, and the phrase is a little more in sync with that than “relationships and cooperation” is.

  7. Here is an article that estimates the street value of the opium crop at $60 billion, of which, $1bn is characterized as “farm gate”; that is, dollars that reach the farmer.
    I also see that some NATO members question the legality of destroying heroin labs. I see many quotes that indicate only drugs related to the Taliban are to be interdicted.

  8. Re: Hearts and minds
    Here is a video interview of Anthony Zinni talking about the conflicts his Marine son faces (@10:00)

  9. “For example, the system of actors in Afghanistan consists of many stakeholders ”
    The list omits the key stakeholder: the mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who are trying to live in Afghanistan while all these other evil stakeholders are busy pursuing their own interests.

    Is Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi truly pursing his studies at Yale?

  10. More on the US approach to the heroin problem: we built a bridge over the Panj River so that the opium heading north into Tajikistan could be increased from the current 4 metric tons/day. bit.ly/3UvTj6
    This development is no doubt the result of a few bad apples.

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