Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oops! – Afghanistan's VP is a drug lord and we knew it all along

The NYT on Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, former secretary of defense and potential new vice president:

But by 2002, C.I.A. intelligence reports flowing into the Bush administration included evidence that Marshal Fahim was involved in Afghanistan’s lucrative drug trade, according to officials discussing the reports and the internal debate for the first time.

He had a history of narcotics trafficking before the invasion, the C.I.A. reports showed. But what was most alarming in the reports were allegations that he was still involved after regaining power and becoming defense minister. He now had a Soviet-made cargo plane at his disposal that was making flights north to transport heroin through Russia, returning laden with cash, the reports said, according to American officials who read them. Aides in the Defense Ministry were also said to be involved. [...]

Some United States officials in Washington and Kabul argued that there was no smoking gun proving his involvement in narcotics trafficking, and thus no need to break off contact with him. And eventually, the Bush administration hit on what officials thought was a solution: American military trainers would be directed to deal only with subordinates to Marshal Fahim, and not Marshal Fahim himself.

That would at least give the Bush administration the appearance of complying with the law.

Interestingly, there was a period when it seems that Karzai kicked Fahim out of the most obvious positions of power, which the NYT writer seems to think was to win an ethnic bloc in the coming election:

By late 2003, officials said, the Bush administration began to realize its mistake, and initiated what officials called its “warlord strategy” to try to ease key warlords out of power. Marshal Fahim remained defense minister until 2004 and was briefly Mr. Karzai’s running mate as vice president in elections that year, but Mr. Karzai then dropped him.

Marshal Fahim remains a powerful figure among Tajiks, the ethnic group in north Afghanistan, and Mr. Karzai, a Pashtun from the south, calculated that an alliance with the general would help him increase his support in northern Afghanistan.

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