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.
The financial ties and close working relationship between the intelligence agency and Mr. Karzai raise significant questions about America’s war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.
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.
What 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. The leaking of its ties to Karzai's brother is a disaster of nightmare proportions for any chance of COIN success there, the icing on the cake. Added to all the other factors - the election, the civilians bombed, the abysmal state of the Afghan security forces, the very fact of a foreign occupation - the occupation has passed its tipping point for sure. [...]
Although that will be bolting stable doors after the horses have all bolted. It's a pity in many ways that this will land on Obama's doorstep when it was obviously a Bush administration initiative. My advice to the current White House would be 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.