First Takes on the CIA-Karzai Connection

The brother of Afghan president Hamid Karzai is a suspected opium dealer on CIA payroll

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The New York Times has reported that Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of current Afghan president  Hamid Karzai, "gets regular payments" from the CIA, even as he continues to be "a suspected player in the country's booming illegal opium trade." This implies that the U.S. is not "not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade," which is a major revenue stream for the Taliban. The story, which many in the media are calling "explosive," is already provoking responses. What could this revelation mean for the U.S. war effort, Obama administration, and Hamid Karzai's government in Afghanistan?

  • Reexamine Everything  Spencer Ackerman spells it out in the Washington Independent: "CIA money funds a politically connected drug dealer. Opium funds the Taliban. We are in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. How much CIA money has indirectly funded the Taliban?" Furthermore, he asks in a follow-up blog post, "What’s the connection, if any, between U.S. counternarcotics policy in southern Afghanistan and the CIA/Ahmed Wali Karzai relationship? ... Who's," he concludes, "going to be the first member of Congress to call for hearings into the CIA/Karzai clique relationship?"
  • Memo to Administration: Dish  "If there's a more perfect way," writes Steve Hynd at Newshoggers, "to undermine any prospect whatsoever of the Karzai government being seen as legitimate, I can't think of it." Furthermore, he argues, "[w]hat the CIA has done, and done for most of the last eight years apparently, directly undermines any population-centric counter-insurgency that was ever possible in Afghanistan." Saying "the occupation has passed its tipping point for sure," he advises the Obama administration, particularly in this case of a policy likely started under Bush, "to forget about the usual "we don't comment on intelligence operations" bulls**t. We're talking a potential Iran/Contra level mess here--spill the beans."
  • No Surprises Here, announces Aryn Baker for Time. Afghans have "long considered ... Hamid Karzai to be an American puppet," and "[t]he revamped allegations that Karzai frère is deeply involved in Afghanistan's annual $4-billion drug industry isn't much of a shocker either." Nor, Baker contends, should we be surprised that "the CIA might turn a blind eye to the unsavory extra-curricular activities of a local asset." There are reasons the CIA is known for "often-shady compromises": "If you think we are only talking to 'good' guys to get information on al-Qaeda, think again--men with clean hands rarely truck with those without." Nevertheless, there are obviously problems with these revelations: "If the CIA can't uphold law and order in Afghanistan, how can one expect Afghans, who haven't had much experience with either over the past 30 years, do better?"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.