The Assassinated Press
CIA Seduces Karzai's Brother Into Drug Trade
By DARXTAR FUKINS
The Assassinated Press
Oct . 27, 2009
KABUL, Afghanistan – “He was always such a good boy; well-mannered; got good grades; never missed a day of school,” said Jamilla Karzai, mother of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president. “But then he began hanging around with his new friends from the CIA with their Rolex watches, Swiss bank accounts, SUV’s with tinted windows, fancy sunglasses and Ivy League degrees, and the next thing you know he’s into heroin.”
Karzai a player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments for his drug efforts from the Central Intelligence Agency, 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 drug harvesting and processing, assassination of rival drug lords and helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary drug 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 go a long way in explaining America’s war strategy. It’s about drugs and the money it generates.
“look if you didn’t have the CIA running its own international drug operations, the Director would be on the Hill every other week asking for more money,” said former CIA head of operations, Claire George. “Drugs are the life blood of black ops.”
The ties to Mr. Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration, many of whom prefer cocaine smuggling to heroin smuggling and site long standing alliances with the Colombian government and military. The critics say the ties are necessary to facilitate America’s increasingly happy relationship with President Hamid Karzai’s brother, who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans by helping promote the country’s number one export while his brother Hamid has long been portrayed by the Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.’s practices also suggest that the United States is doing everything in its power to stamp out indigenous competition in the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a trade the Taliban eliminated a few years ago, an accomplishment that the U.S. with its billions of dollars apparently can’t duplicate. Hmmm?
Is Afghanistan Backing CIA Drug Thugs?
More broadly, some American officials argue that the reliance on the drug trade and 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, precisely the scenario U.S. arms makers seek.
“If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are rightly perceived as drug thugs, then we are assisting not only our international drug production and distribution but the people who make the weapons necessary to control that trade,” said Maj. Gen. Meldon T. Flint, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan who next month will retire to sit on the boards of sixteen major arms manufacturers including AAI Corporation, BAE Systems Inc., Boeing, Bushmaster Firearms International, Colt's Manufacturing Company, General Atomics, General Electric, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Raytheon Corporation and United Technologies.
Ahmed Wali Karzai said in an interview that he cooperates with American civilian and military officials, but does not engage in their drug trade and does not receive payments from the C.I.A. “The drug trade those Ivy league fucks are into is too dangerous and degrading for me to participate in,” Karzai said.
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 drug competitors. On at least one occasion, the strike force has been accused of mounting an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government running his own heroin operation, 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 which contains a the largest heroin processing plant— the former home of Mullah Mohammed Omar, 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, Andrew Tyler, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The plant is enormous. Even bigger than the Agency’s heroin processing lab in the old Pepsi bottling plant in Vientiane, Laos back in the 1960’s. I mean fucking huge.”
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 and get into the drug trade, a strategy initiated by the Cheney administration called Operation Hooked.
‘There's No Proof Like an Old Proof’
A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment for the story saying “I’m too stoned.” “No intelligence organization worth the name would ever entertain these kind of allegations,” said Paul Gimigliano, the spokesman, back handedly confirming the allegations.
Some American officials said that the allegations of Mr. Karzai’s role in the drug trade were not conclusive. “There’s no proof of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s involvement in drug trafficking, certainly nothing that would stand up in court,” said one American official familiar with the intelligence. “Now, the CIA’s involvement. That’s pretty well established. You can’t ignore what the Afghan government has done for American counterterrorism efforts. But then you can’t ignore what the U.S. has done for the Afghan drug trade.”
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.
Lucrative Poppy Trade
These military and political officials say the evidence, though largely circumstantial, suggests strongly that Mr. Karzai has enriched himself by helping the CIA’s 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 Cheney administration.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money are flowing through the southern region, and nothing happens in southern Afghanistan without the U.S. knowing about it,” a senior American military officer in Kabul said. Like most of the officials in this story, John Martens 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 U.S. involvement. “Quack. Quack. Our assumption is that Karzai’s benefiting from the drug trade. Otherwise he’d be whining to us about his cut. Want to main line with me in the executive washroom?”
Drug Trade Poses Stability Threat
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 CIA 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 in competition with the CIA and believed to permeate the highest levels of President Karzai’s administration. They have pretended to press him to move his brother out of southern Afghanistan, but he has so far pretended to refuse to do so. Other Western officials pointed approvingly 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. But the only way to clean up Afghanistan is to get rid of me,” General Flint said. “Ironic, how imperialism ain’t like Chicago. Ain’t it?” “I Don’t Want To Go Down In a Mysterious Plane Crash.”
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 or why the envelopes are covered in a sticky residue. He has, among other things, introduced Americans to insurgents considering changing sides “seein’s as how the Americans are making so much scratch.” And he has given the Americans intelligence, he said, something they were sorely lacking. 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 except the 700 Club. I help, definitely. I help other Americans wherever I can. This is my duty as a traitor to Afghanistan.”
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. “I just collect the rent check. Sometimes they want to pay me in smack. America’s broke. I take what I can get.’
Focused on Counterterrorism Missions
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 counterterrorism missions mattered little to C.I.A. officers focused on the drug trade and production, the officer said.
“Virtually every CIA offical has had involvement with the drug trade,” he said. “If you are looking for Mother Teresa, she doesn’t shit at Langley.”
The debate over Ahmed Wali Karzai, which began when President Obama 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 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 Afghans in competiton with the CIA are accused of drug involvement, investigated and singled out for raids or even rendition to the United States, Mr. Karzai has seemed immune from similar scrutiny.
List of Top Drug Traffickers
For years, first the Cheney administration and then the Obama administration have said that the CIA 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 who are in competition with the CIA. The military has generated a list of 50 top drug traffickers who are in direct competition with the Agency who can now be killed or captured.
Senior Afghan investigators in drug competition with the CIA 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 built by the U.S. military that cross the Helmand River on the route between the opium growing regions of Helmand Province and Kandahar.
The former Interior Ministry official said that the CIA and Mr. Karzai are able to charge huge fees to drug traffickers to allow their drug-laden trucks to cross the bridges as well as lease the trucks themselves. But the former officials said it was impossible for Afghan counternarcotics officials to investigate the U.S.. “America’s involvement 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 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, a major drug competitor with the CIA, 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 and the CIA to take over a portion of the Noorzai drug business after Mr. Noorzai’s arrest.