Some time ago I listened to this Fresh Air piece on NPR. It was interesting but also a little frustrating in that it represents what I consider typical Establishment journalism.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother to the more famous and now ex-Afghan president Hamid Karzai was involved in the drug trade and had connections to the CIA. He occasionally made it into the international news but was largely ignored except by those following the seemingly endless US occupation. His assassination in 2011 is really the only reason he's getting any attention now.
Partlow the Washington Post correspondent, lays out an interesting story and yet utterly fails to address the decades long and voluminous evidences and testimonials regarding the CIA and drug running. Karzai is left looking like a loose-cannon, a rogue. If history has established any precedent in Southeast Asia, Turkey, the Balkans and Latin America, there's every reason to believe the CIA sanctioned at least some of his activities... or even in many cases ordered them.
The interview ignores the context of the wider underground war taking place in not only Afghanistan, but Pakistan, Iran and the various nations of Central Asia. The story is much bigger and always was.
The 2001 invasion was sold to the public as a response to 9/11 and yet it was clear the United States had been gearing up for the war for at least a year prior to the terrorist attacks. Taliban representatives had visited George Bush's Texas in the late 1990s. Central Asia had something of a Wild West flavour during this period. The Russians were out of the picture and all the talk was about pipelines, natural gas and oil. Several of the Central Asian countries are double-landlocked and the only way to get the resources out is through pipelines. Some could pass across the Caspian into the troubled Caucasus but there was a serious desire to develop Afghanistan. When the Taliban ended the Civil War, it looked like there might be enough stability to make the vision come true. At the time the West was more than willing to overlook the Taliban's treatment of women and its draconian, even brutal regime of Sharia. Hypocritically these very reasons were later utilised to buttress US intervention, nation-building and sustained presence. But if the original pipeline deal had gone through, these issues would have been downplayed and set aside.
Then things turned sour and the Taliban became an international pariah state. The media went to work on them in the late 1990s and of course harbouring al Qaeda gave the United States the flimsy excuse it needed in the fall of 2001. The invasion was on. The American public was largely incapable of grasping the fact that the Taliban had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 and though a detestable regime they never attacked the United States.
And yet this was always part of a bigger strategy. The United States had friends and allies going back to the 1980's. The mujahideen had become the post-Soviet era warlords and many of them were now the backbone of the Northern Alliance. They fueled and financed their war through trade in opium.
The way the war was sold to us in 2001 was a patent lie accentuated by the absurd statements of the now rightly discredited figure of Tony Blair passionately talking about bombing the Taliban's poppy fields. The Taliban had just the year before almost eradicated poppy cultivation in the areas they controlled... and Blair knew it.
Of course as soon as they were ousted and turned once more into a guerilla army, they returned to the ever lucrative trade. They needed the revenues to finance the war against the Americans and at the end of the day nothing pays like drugs.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of Washington's favourite mujahideen fighters from the 1980s was heavily involved in the drug trade. Like many other US allies, in the 1990s he became an affiliate of al Qaeda. Now virtually an old man, Hekmatyar has (to the astonishment of many) reached a peace deal with the government in Kabul and is prepared to re-enter the mainstream of Afghan society. To many Afghans he's a cunning butcher and one of the great villains of the post-Soviet era. He along with the other warlords was responsible for the destruction of Kabul and the barbarity of the Civil War that followed the Soviet withdrawal. It was this chaos that afforded the Pakistani ISI sponsored Taliban to come to power. After being driven out by the Taliban victory and spending several years exiled in Iran, Hekmatyar returned to the Pakistani frontier in the 2000s and collaborated with the Taliban and al Qaeda to fight the Americans. The former ally of Washington had now turned enemy.
And yet in late 2016, this former guerilla fighter, warlord, drug dealer, terrorist and murderer was given an honorary post in the Afghan government.
It's hard to imagine that either Washington or many of its Afghan allies are pleased about this. What does it mean? Does this show the weak hand of the Kabul government? Are they that desperate to end one of the many branches of the 'Taliban' resistance? Are they turning away from Washington?
The point is, that all too often and not just in Afghanistan, the US has keenly supported warlords who fund their armies with drug money. And every time evidence seems to pop up suggesting the US not only knows about it, but facilitates it. One need only think of Air America, some of the figures and incidents associate with the Contra scandal and certainly figures like Hekmatyar in Afghanistan.
But this scholar is going to sit on NPR and (I guess) just assume the total ignorance of the audience and not even raise the question. If anything one should assume Karzai was working with the CIA in the drug trade, not vice versa. The fact that the American installed and UNOCAL-connected president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai was his brother makes it even more suspicious.
The story also follows a familiar pattern. After a decade or so, the relationship was no longer holding. There was too much baggage and too many loose ends. The Karzai's had to go. Hamid went quietly, his brother ended up dead.
Even the fact that Karzai was being investigated by other branches of the US government tells us nothing. This is par for the course, an old story we've seen time and time again. The CIA and other intelligence agencies are often engaged in illegal activities and they hide what they do from other branches of the government. Investigations will ultimately fail and if need be they are frustrated. If that fails, patsies and fall guys are sometimes used. In extreme cases there will be top-down intervention. What the CIA doesn't want is for the story to flow to congress where hearings and media coverage will ensue. That said it's hardly a stretch to state that Langley has not a few assets in the Capitol that are clearly on its payroll and on board with its projects. What it fears is journalistic exposure. This never comes from the mainstream media. They'll only talk if a story breaks and at that point they will mostly aid in containing it. No, they fear real investigative journalism and exposure on the part of other intelligence agencies.
Wali Karzai's career is reminiscent of another figure. Largely unknown in the West but notorious in Turkey, Abdullah Çatli was a similar figure who straddled the world of drugs and government. He was connected to the Grey Wolves, US intelligence and even the plot to kill the pope. His death sparked an outrage and unleashed a scandal of a magnitude that's hard to understate.
In fact it could be argued that the rise of Erdogan and his dismantling of the Washington-connected Deep State are in no small part an outworking and aftershock of Çatli's 1996 death and the subsequent Susurluk Scandal.
Partlow seems to find it implausible that the CIA would have killed Karzai. Does he really think the CIA wouldn't do that? Granted it might be hard to come up with a signed document but since when is that kind of evidence available when it comes to such questions?
While indeed others may have killed Karzai, to dismiss the question is to play your hand. You're not a real journalist. You're a mouthpiece for the establishment.
This paragraph is classic:
But there were also allegations that the CIA had killed Ahmed Wali. That was something that the - Pakistan's intelligence chief had told President Karzai directly that the CIA was responsible for the death. That was something I never really believed because Ahmed Wali had worked so closely with the CIA and was such an asset to them. There were other allegations that it - the dispute had to do with a rivalry over a woman or because he was molesting young boys. There were plenty of stories about him. But ultimately, Ahmed Wali was betrayed by one of his closest allies.
Partlow exhibits what I refer to as a general credulity regarding Karzai and the entirety of the Afghan narrative. The fact that he had worked with the CIA means that they wouldn't have hurt him? The reality is quite the contrary. Does he think the CIA would have just fired him or sent him to jail? Is Partlow really this naive? Has he read much about the CIA? Is he familiar with their history?
The reason why the CIA functions so well with organised crime is because (in the field) it operates in a similar fashion. All too often an agent running an operation utilises the underworld and operates very much like a godfather figure. The ethics are largely the same. You're not allowed to quit.
The credulity is astounding. But what do you expect from a Washington Post journalist with ties to the Wilson Center?
We've seen similar such examples recently in the news when it comes to covering Putin's Russia. The US media will openly entertain virtually every suggested conspiracy about Putin and his regime and yet to raise the same questions with regard to the US government... is wholly out of bounds.
Likewise NPR dropped the ball when covering Karzai in 2010.
This article sets the stage for the Karzai fall and indicates there were powerful forces in Washington that wanted him gone. However it completely neglects to even mention connections to drugs or heroin. Why? You would think they would have wanted to trumpet this fact in order to discredit him?
Perhaps official policy was not clear in 2010 and so aspects of the story were left out? I hate to be a total cynic, but what are you supposed to think?
The New York Times mentioned it two years earlier.
The BBC at least mentions the drug smuggling allegations.
The US is said to turn a blind eye.
Der Spiegel was covering the story back in 2006.
Partlow seems to have no grasp of Deep State. Karzai heroin was certainly channeled through Turkey. While the Çatli episode comes to mind, it's but a chapter in a larger and longer story that extends back into the 1970's and the famous French Connection. In the 1990s up to the present the European entrepot is through the Balkans. While Kosovo wasn't within the scope of Partlow's story, it ought to be. There's a connection. The US backed the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in its fight against the Serbs and once again drugs come into the picture. Drug running out of Turkey into the Balkans, along with weapons and fighters helped to fund and support a guerilla movement. The drugs were funneled to Turks and Albanians in Germany and Italy and then dispersed throughout Europe. The operation continues to this day, though it is now interspersed with Islamic fighters, people smuggling and the weapons trade.
It's but another chapter in a long story, one that also includes American banking and finance... a sage that Wilson Center Scholars and Establishment media will not under any circumstance allow to be told.