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.”