Washington: When Afghan security forces found an enormous cache of heroin hidden in a tractor-trailer outside Kandahar in 2004, the local Afghan commander quickly impounded the truck and notified his boss.
Before long, the commander, Habibullah Jan, received a telephone call from Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai, asking him to release the vehicle and the drugs, Jan later told American investigators, according to notes from the debriefing obtained by The New York Times.
Two years later, American and Afghan counter-narcotics forces stopped another truck, this time near Kabul, finding more than 110 pounds of heroin.
Soon after the seizure, US investigators told other American officials that they had discovered links between the drug shipment and a bodyguard believed to be an intermediary for Ahmed Wali Karzai, according to a participant in the briefing.
The assertions about the involvement of the President’s brother in the incidents were never investigated, according to American and Afghan officials, even though allegations that he has benefited from narcotics trafficking have circulated widely in Afghanistan.
Both President Karzai and Ahmed Wali Karzai, now the chief of the Kandahar Provincial Council, the governing body for the region that includes Afghanistan’s second largest city, dismiss the allegations as politically motivated attacks by longtime foes.
“I am not a drug dealer; I never was, and I never will be,” the president’s brother said in a recent phone interview. “I am a victim of vicious politics.”
The White House says it believes that Ahmed Wali Karzai is involved in drug trafficking and American officials have repeatedly warned President Karzai that his brother is a political liability, two senior Bush administration officials said in interviews last week.
“We thought the concern expressed to Karzai might be enough to get him out of there,” one official said.
But President Karzai has resisted, demanding clear-cut evidence of wrongdoing, several officials said. “We don’t have the kind of hard, direct evidence that you could take to get a criminal indictment,” a White House official said. “That allows Karzai to say, ‘Where’s your proof?’”
Spokesmen for the drug enforcement administration, the state department and the office of the director of National Intelligence declined to comment.
© 2008/THE NEW YORK TIMES