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Hamid Karzai's Brother Linked to CIA
Suspected player in drug trade admits 'helping other Americans,' denies being on agency payroll
KABUL–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 Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the CIA's direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, his home.
Karzai said in an interview that he cooperates with American civilian and military officials, but does not engage in the drug trade and does not receive payments from the CIA
Karzai and the CIA's relationship is wide ranging, several American officials said. He helps the agency operate a paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, that is used for raids against suspected insurgents and terrorists. On at least one occasion, the strike force has been accused of mounting an unauthorized operation against an Afghan government official.
Karzai is also paid for allowing the CIA and American Special Operations troops to rent a large compound outside the city – the former home of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's founder. The same compound is also the base of the Kandahar Strike Force.
"He's our landlord," a senior American official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Karzai also helps the CIA communicate with and sometimes meet with Afghans loyal to the Taliban. His role as an intermediary between the Americans and the Taliban is regarded by supporters of Karzai as valuable now, as the Obama administration is placing a greater focus on encouraging Taliban leaders to change sides.
A CIA spokesman declined to comment for the story.
"No intelligence organization worth the name would ever entertain these kind of allegations," said Paul Gimigliano, the spokesman.
Some American officials said the allegations of Karzai's role in the drug trade were not conclusive.
"There's no proof of Ahmed Wali Karzai's involvement in drug trafficking, certainly nothing that would stand up in court," said one American official familiar with the intelligence.
In an interview, Karzai denied any role in the drug trade or that he takes money from the CIA. He said he received regular payments from his brother, the president, for "expenses," but said he did not know where the money came from. He has, among other things, introduced Americans to insurgents considering changing sides. And he has given the Americans intelligence, he said. But he said he is not compensated for that assistance.
"I don't know anyone under the name of the CIA," Karzai said. "I have never received any money from any organization. I help, definitely. I help other Americans wherever I can. This is my duty as an Afghan."