The half-brother of President Hamid Karzai seemed to embody many of the war's contradictions
In late 2009, when the New York Times first reported that the CIA had for years been working with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president's half-brother and a major player in the heroin trade, Major General Michael T. Flynn, the top military intelligence officer in Afghanistan, told the newspaper, "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," he said. "The only way to clean up Chicago is to get rid of Capone." Flynn's comment underscored one of the war's many challenges: the military, which has led the international mission in Afghanistan since 2001, and the CIA, which had spearheaded U.S. interests in Afghanistan from the 1979 Soviet invasion through September 11, 2001, often work at cross purposes and toward different goals.
Today's killing of Ahmed Wali Karzai, reportedly by a close business associate, is a reminder of the complicated web of loyalties, interests, and contradictions that the U.S. has attempted to navigate for nearly a decade. Ahmed Wali Karzai was a politician working within the system and a criminal working against it; he ran militias on behalf of the CIA and funded drug networks that were the stated enemy of the U.S. military; he worked with trucking contractors that sold services to NATO and that funded anti-NATO warlords; he was a close ally of the U.S. and a tremendous drag on its mission to win over the Afghan people.