>Yes, people. This is true, according to a New York Times article in yesterday’s paper.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments 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 helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the C.I.A.’s direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai’s home.
Um, is this a joke? Is it true that our government is shooting itself in the foot in trying to make Afghanistan a stable “democracy” by paying off a suspected drug lord?
More from the article:
The ties to Mr. Karzai have created deep divisions within the Obama administration. The critics say the ties complicate America’s increasingly tense relationship with President Hamid Karzai, who has struggled to build sustained popularity among Afghans and has long been portrayed by the Taliban as an American puppet. The C.I.A.’s practices also suggest that the United States is not doing everything in its power to stamp out the lucrative Afghan drug trade, a major source of revenue for the Taliban.
More broadly, some American officials argue that the reliance on Ahmed Wali Karzai, the most powerful figure in a large area 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.
Well…yeah! Here’s an obvious quote from an official who spoke on the condition of anonymity:
“Hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money are flowing through the southern region, and nothing happens in southern Afghanistan without the regional leadership knowing about it,” a senior American military officer in Kabul said. Like most of the officials in this article, he 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 Mr. Karzai. “Our assumption is that he’s benefiting from the drug trade.”
Don’t you just love bureaucracy and the hypocrisy our government likes to show the world its capable of?
Let’s get one thing out on the table: funding the Afghan opium trade won’t help the U.S. achieve its longstanding dream of having a flourishing democracy in the middle east and in western Asia.
According to this Washington Post article, opium production in Afghanistan increased by 34 percent over the past year and “country is now the source of 93 percent of the heroin, morphine and other opiates on the world market.”
93 percent, people. 93 percent!
The article points out that the production is the highest since the opium production in 19th century China. The connection to funding the Taliban insurgency was also outlined in this article:
The surge in opium production has frustrated U.S. and NATO military commanders, who believe that the trade plays a major role in funding a Taliban insurgency that has become increasingly deadly over the past two years. Commanders also believe that the involvement of public officials in the drug trade has undermined Afghans’ confidence in their government.
While our government may receive some short-term benefits from paying off drug lords (which is essentially paying off the Taliban to postpone their desperate attempts to overthrow the Karzai government), there are no long-term benefits our government can get from this–or the people of Afghanistan. If this country continues to turn a blind eye from the flourishing opium trade (and the world’s addiction to heroin), the people of Afghanistan will be the ones left to deal with the consequences of a country immersed in a probable bloody civil war.