Video: Karzai's brother thought to be in opium trade

  1. Transcript of: Karzai's brother thought to be in opium trade

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor (Bagram Air Force Base): And back here in Afghanistan , like in the States , we woke up to a huge story, The New York Times reporting that the brother of Hamid Karzai , Afghanistan 's president, is on the CIA payroll. New York Times veteran war correspondent Dexter Filkins , who co-wrote the story, underscored for us in an interview today why it's so controversial and so neck-snapping if true.

    Mr. DEXTER FILKINS (The New York Times): Ahmed Wali Karzai , the president's brother, is widely believed to be involved in the poppy trade, in the opium trade , which is no small thing here. Most of the profits go to the Taliban , so they go right to killing American soldiers . The second thing I learned, which was really the most surprising, was that Ahmed Wali Karzai is paid regularly, and has been paid regularly by the Central Intelligence Agency . The concern is that somebody who may be involved in trafficking in opium, and therefore is necessarily involved with the Taliban in doing that, is also being paid by the United States government and therefore strengthened by the United States government . And that's a problem.

    WILLIAMS: Dexter Filkins of The New York Times , who made time to talk with us in Afghanistan today. And in that same article, we should point out, President Karzai 's brother say he cooperates with American civilian and military officials, but denies he's in the drug trade or that he received payments from the CIA . For its part, the White House and Washington tonight is refusing to comment.

updated 10/28/2009 7:18:51 PM ET 2009-10-28T23:18:51

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president, on Wednesday denied reports that he has received regular payments from the CIA for much of the past eight years.

The New York Times, citing current and former American officials, reported Tuesday that the CIA pays Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the CIA's direction in and around Kandahar.

Karzai called the report "ridiculous."

"I work with the Americans, the Canadians, the British, anyone who asks for my help. They (CIA) do their own recruitment. I have no idea where they get their recruits. It's absolutely ridiculous," he told The Associated Press in Afghanistan.

The CIA's ties to Karzai, who is a suspected player in the country's illegal opium trade, have created deep divisions within the Obama administration, the Times said.

Allegations that Karzai is involved in the drug trade have circulated in Kabul for months. He denies them.

Critics say the ties with Karzai complicate the United States' increasingly tense relationship with his older brother, President Hamid Karzai. The CIA'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.

Some American officials argue that the reliance on Ahmed Wali Karzai, a central figure in the south of the country where the Taliban is dominant, undermines the U.S. push to develop an effective central government that can maintain law and order and eventually allow the United States to withdraw.

Karzai helps the CIA operate a paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, that is used for raids against suspected insurgents and terrorists, according to several American officials, the Times reported. Karzai also is paid for allowing the CIA and American Special Operations troops to rent a large compound outside the city, which also is the base of the Kandahar Strike Force, the newspaper said.

Karzai also helps the CIA communicate with and sometimes meet with Afghans loyal to the Taliban, the newspaper reported.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs refused to confirm, comment on or directly pass judgment on Karzai’s relationship with the CIA, but suggested the Obama administration would not endorse that sort of arrangement.

“This administration is, as you know, conducting a comprehensive assessment as to where we are. And every participant in any meeting that’s happened here as part of that assessment understands that we have to have and must have a partner that addresses governance issues as we move forward,” Gibbs said Wednesday.

CIA spokesman George Little declined to comment on the report.

A congressional official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the story is accurate and said that some members of Congress have known about the relationship between Karzai and the CIA "for some time." The offical spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information.

Afghans vote Nov. 7 in a runoff presidential election between Hamid Karzai and challenger Abdullah Abdullah. The second round was ordered after U.N.-backed auditors threw out nearly a third of Karzai's votes from the Aug. 20 ballot, determining widespread fraud, and pushed Karzai's totals below the 50 percent threshold needed for a first round victory.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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