Jim had a perceptive post this morning talking about how, now that Obama has won re-election promising an Afghan withdrawal plan, his Administration has started negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement that will allow forces to stay past 2014. There were several other hints today that we’ll be in Afghanistan past that promised date, starting with General Joseph Dunford’s confirmation hearing to take over the Afghan Command from General John Allen (which Jim will hit in detail tomorrow).
Then there’s this. For the first time ever, Treasury has designated a key Taliban member–Mullah Naim Barich–not a terrorist, but a drug kingpin.
The Treasury Department has previously sanctioned Taliban leaders and affiliates for their support of terrorism, as well as money-exchange housessupporting the Taliban, but Thursday’s designation marks the first time the department has designated a senior Taliban official for narcotics trafficking.
Treasury said Thursday that Mullah Naim Barich, the “shadow governor” of Afghanistan’s largest opium-producing province, is a narcotics kingpin.
“Today’s action exposes the direct involvement of senior Taliban leadership in the production, manufacturing, and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan and underlines the Taliban’s reliance on the drug trade to finance their acts of terror and violence,” David S. Cohen, under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a news release. “Treasury will continue exposing links between the international narcotics trade and terrorist networks, in Afghanistan, and wherever else they exist.”
Now, the Taliban and other Afghans have been neck deep in the opium trade forever. Indeed, Wikileaks just released a 2007 Stratfor document claiming that DEA had been ordered to back off Hamid Karzai’s now-deceased brother Ahmed Wali Karzai’s drug involvement.
Yet, as WSJ notes, Treasury has always gone after the Taliban via terrorism designations, not drug ones.
Terrorism designations will be more difficult to sustain if we “pull out” in 2014 declaring victory in Afganistan.
Worry not! We’ve got the Global War on Drugs in Afghanistan now.
This is going to make it more difficult for us to declare victory and withdraw from Afghanistan.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar provincial council chief, was killed during a gathering, said provincial governor Tooryalai Wesa. He did not know a motive.
While the governor initially said a friend killed Karzai, his spokesman later clarified that the death was at the hands of a guard.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying that the guard accused of shooting him was working for them.
There are reports saying the guard had a grudge, and was not working for the Taliban; whether or not that’s spin, though, it highlights the lack of security in the country. In any case, for all AWK’s corruption, he was a key figure in Hamid Karzai’s exercise of power. (Not to mention the CIA’s past monetary support of AWK.)
Joe Lieberman has introduced what he claims to be a law targeted at Wikileaks.
“The recent dissemination by Wikileaks of thousands of State Department cables and other documents is just the latest example of how our national security interests, the interests of our allies, and the safety of government employees and countless other individuals are jeopardized by the illegal release of classified and sensitive information,” said Lieberman in a written statement.
“This legislation will help hold people criminally accountable who endanger these sources of information that are vital to protecting our national security interests,” he continued.
The so-called SHIELD Act (Securing Human Intelligence and Enforcing Lawful Dissemination) would amend a section of the Espionage Act that already forbids publishing classified information on U.S. cryptographic secrets or overseas communications intelligence — i.e., wiretapping. The bill would extend that prohibition to information on HUMINT, human intelligence, making it a crime to publish information “concerning the identity of a classified source or informant of an element of the intelligence community of the United States,” or “concerning the human intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government” if such publication is prejudicial to U.S. interests.
Problem is, not only would it not endanger Wikileaks (as far as we know). But it would put both good journalists–like Dexter Filkins–and bad ones–like Judy Miller and Bob Novak–in jail.
As far as we know, Wikileaks has been successful in its dumps at hiding the identities of any intelligence sources. (It has exposed one of State Department’s moles in Germany, who has been fired. But a diplomatic source is not an intelligence source, is it?)
But other journalists do expose sources. Such as when Dexter Filkins reported on how much the CIA has been shoveling at Ahmed Wali Karzai. Or when Judy Judy Judy exposed the CIA ties of a Ahmed Chalabi rival. And then, of course, there’s that little matter of Bob Novak and Valerie Plame.
This is all getting really, really stupid. Doesn’t Joe Lieberman have anything better to do with his time? Like funnelling money to the TSA for some other invasive search machine? Or giving the uber-rich big tax breaks?
The outage of the day is the report that Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff, Umar Daudzai, receives a steady stream of bags of Euros from Iran.
One evening last August, as President Hamid Karzai wrapped up an official visit to Iran, his personal plane sat on the airport tarmac, waiting for a late-running passenger: Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan.
The ambassador, Feda Hussein Maliki, finally appeared, taking a seat next to Umar Daudzai, Mr. Karzai’s chief of staff and his most trusted confidant. According to an Afghan official on the plane, Mr. Maliki handed Mr. Daudzai a large plastic bag bulging with packets of euro bills. A second Afghan official confirmed that Mr. Daudzai carried home a large bag of cash.
“This is the Iranian money,” said an Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Many of us noticed this.”
The bag of money is part of a secret, steady stream of Iranian cash intended to buy the loyalty of Mr. Daudzai and promote Iran’s interests in the presidential palace, according to Afghan and Western officials here. Iran uses its influence to help drive a wedge between the Afghans and their American and NATO benefactors, they say.
Mind you, Karzai claims he has told the US about his Iranian gravy train.
But I think the real question to ask is whether the bags of Euros Daudzai gets from Iran are bigger than the bags of dollars Ahmed Wali Karzai–Hamid’s brother–receive from the CIA?
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.
And whether the money all ends up in the same place: in the Karzai clique’s private bank accounts in Dubai?
While we’re clutching pearls about monetary influence, we probably ought to ask how all the bags of money flowing to Karzai compare to the truck-loads of foreign money being spent to influence our elections. Granted, the $885,000 we know about is probably smaller than the total directly benefiting Karzai. But after Citizens United, we’re just getting started.
Last week, the WaPo quoted at least two military figures stating, as fact, that the Taliban was a bigger threat to the US mission in Afghanistan than corruption. Based on that judgment, the WaPo suggests “military officials” are now pursuing a policy of tolerating some corruption among Afghan allies.
Military officials in the region have concluded that the Taliban’s insurgency is the most pressing threat to stability in some areas and that a sweeping effort to drive out corruption could create chaos and a governance vacuum that the Taliban could exploit.
“There are areas where you need strong leadership, and some of those leaders are not entirely pure,” said a senior defense official. “But they can help us be more effective in going after the primary threat, which is the Taliban.”
Kandahar is not just a Taliban problem; it is a mafia, criminal syndicate problem,” the senior defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. “That is why it is so complicated. But clearly the most pressing threat is the Taliban.”
Now, the WaPo headline suggests this is definitely the plan, but the story itself admits that it is unclear whether everyone in the Obama Administration agrees with the plan.
It was not immediately clear whether the White House, the State Department and law enforcement agencies share the military’s views, which come at a critical time for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Indeed, the WaPo piece anonymously quotes an adviser (apparently, but not certainly, civilian) advocating for a crackdown on corruption. And it acknowledges that earlier this year some diplomats and military leaders called to arrest Ahmed Wali Karzai, but Stanley McChrystal scuttled the effort.
So it seems this initiative may come from the DOD side, and if this represents Administration (as opposed to DOD) policy, then clearly not everyone has bought off on it. Which makes it worth cataloging those in the story who might qualify as the “senior defense official” endorsing this new policy. The story quotes the following:
(Stephen Biddle, of the Council on Foreign Relations, is also quoted supporting this policy.)
Assuming the WaPo is following accepted practice about anonymous quotations, I’d bet a few pennies that the “senior defense official” declaring that the Taliban is a bigger threat than corruption or drugs is Robert Gates.
Dexter Filkins’ story reporting that a top, corrupt, Hamid Karzai aide is on the CIA payroll is not, by itself, all that interesting.
Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for the National Security Council, appears to have been on the payroll for many years, according to officials in Kabul and Washington. It is unclear exactly what Mr. Salehi does in exchange for his money, whether providing information to the spy agency, advancing American views inside the presidential palace, or both.
But read it in conjunction with Filkins’ other two stories this week. His week started, after all, with the equally unsurprising story that Abdul Ghani Baradar’s capture some months ago may have been orchestrated by Pakistan’s ISI to prevent peace negotiations between Karzai’s government and the Taliban. That story relies on both Pakistani officials boasting of their ploy, Afghan officials explaining how they attempted to negotiate peace, and a Pakistani spiritual leader talking about his role in the attempted negotiations. It includes the allegation–made by a former Afghan official and a NATO official–that Ahmed Wali Karzai had met with Baradar. But perhaps most interesting for our purposes is this passage:
Some American officials still insist that Pakistan-American cooperation is improving, and deny a central Pakistani role in Mr. Baradar’s arrest. They say the Pakistanis may now be trying to rewrite history to make themselves appear more influential. It was American intellgence that led to Mr. Baradar’s capture, an American official said.
“These are self-serving fairy tales,” the official said. “The people involved in the operation on the ground didn’t know exactly who would be there when they themselves arrived. But it certainly became clear, to Pakistanis and Americans alike, who we’d gotten.”
Other American officials suspect the C.I.A. may have been unwittingly used by the Pakistanis for the larger aims of slowing the pace of any peace talks.
That is, among Filkins’ American sources, one side denies Pakistan would be so tricky with the US (read, the CIA). That person calls the entire story “self-serving fairy tales.” And the other side “suspect[s] the CIA may have been unwittingly used by the Pakistanis.”
That is, among Filkins’ American sources, this story is a debate over whether the CIA is incompetent or not.