In a bombshell revelation based on an anonymous leak, The New York Times reports that the CIA has been funding alleged drug-lord Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Afghan President’s brother, for the past eight years. Wali Karzai is thought to be a player in the country’s lucrative opium trade, a source of revenue for the Taliban. Coming just two weeks before the Afghan elections, how will this leak affect Obama’s war strategy? (Watch the New York Times reporter make the link between the CIA and the Taliban)
This makes it even harder to win the Afghans’ trust: The CIA’s payoffs to Wali Karzai are “at best appalling and at worst a harbinger of doom,” says Fred Kaplan in Slate. The counterinsurgency strategy being hashed out by the White House and Pentagon rests on winning the country’s trust and “propping up” its government, but if the CIA is “abetting high-level corruption,” we can kiss Afghan “hearts and minds” goodbye.
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Obama must decide between the CIA and Army approaches: The Army may be planning for a counterinsurgency, says David Frum in The Week’s Bullpen, but the CIA is focused on counter-terrorism. “Either we make a big investment aimed at securing peace or we pay a local bad guy to kill even worse guys. It’s the Army approach or the CIA approach….it’s generally expected that [Obama] will split the difference between the two paths.” And that’s a mistake.
A big mess just got messier: Whoever engineered this “extraordinary leak” knew it would compromise President Hamid Karzai's ability to govern the country, says Charles Cooper in CBS News. “Tensions have grown with the U.S., which pressured Hamid Karzai to allow a re-do after the rigged election results. Now, the Afghan leader also has to fight allegations that his corrupt brother is in cahoots with the CIA, the bête noir of every 3rd World conspiracy nut out there.” Afghanistan is looking more like Vietnam all the time.
This is just the cost of doing business in Afghanistan: The Vietnam analogies are worrisome, says Robert Baer in Time. “But before anyone calls for a congressional investigation, let’s remind ourselves” that in Afghanistan, all foreigners—the CIA, NATO, the Carter and Reagan administrations, the Soviets—“survive by renting clans, tribes, and narcotics dealers.”
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