What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Time to react to the big news from four days ago...

So it turns out the CIA was/is working closely together with Ahmed Wali Karzai who is alleged to be in control of a great part of the drugs trade in southern Afghanistan.
Here are some of the things this might reveal.
- Firstly, and very basically, that there is this issue of drugs... Surrealist CT (counterterrorism) enthusiasts and population-centric COIN (counterinsurgency) fans will continue their great battle for Washington hearts and minds over the right Afghanistan strategy, without giving a damn about Pakistan which makes both arguing for launching effective strikes across Pakistani airspace to landlocked Afghanistan and for controlling Afghanistan's population for the long run totally futile efforts in and of themselves, no matter what. And they will continue to do so even without taking notice of the loud CN (counternarcotics) crowd and how influential and yet equally mistaken that crowd is...
- Now we might possibly know more of the Kandahar Strike Force which might have been behind the firefight that saw Kandahar's police chief, Matiullah Qahteh, killed, along with others. (CNN reported then that "A U.S. military official with direct knowledge of the situation told CNN that his understanding at the moment was that the security forces accused of the attack included 40 Afghan nationals hired to do counterterrorism work with U.S. special forces. Without the assistance of any U.S. or NATO troops, the official said, the nationals tried to get a friend out of a Kandahar jail.")
Etc.
But the bigger question is of course something that Jari Lindholm wrote of a couple of days ago: "the Pentagon’s Joint Integrated Prioritized Target List — a roster of 367 approved terrorist targets — had been expanded to include 50 “nexus targets”, or Afghan drug lords with links to the insurgency. Since Mr. Karzai, a “suspected” drug boss, obviously isn’t on the list, the only conclusion one can draw is that the United States is wiping out his competitors for him."
Is this good? Or bad? Can this be judged in good-and-bad terms at all? The safest answer to this could be something that Joshua Foust wrote - in a comment at Registan (that he is writing comments instead of blogposts for Registan nowadays is a blow to the Afghanistan campaign in my personal opinion btw): "If we had (...) ignored the opium side of things and focused instead on the insurgency and the economic/social/political issues that underpin an opium culture, there’d be far less moral incoherence in coopting AWK to suit our purposes."
Indeed. But at the same time there is a question hidden in Jari Lindholm's and Joshua Foust's implicitly contrasting comments. Is/was AWK and asset or someone coopted? The two are not necessarily all the same. Depending on this, you might weave different personal motives into a narrative of what happened to the control of the drugs supply market in southern Afghanistan post-2005. The NYT recaps the narrative you could creatively interpret:
"In debriefing notes from Drug Enforcement Administration interviews in 2006 of Afghan informants obtained by The New York Times, one key informant said that Ahmed Wali Karzai had benefited from the American operation that lured Haji Bashir Noorzai, a major Afghan drug lord during the time that the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, to New York in 2005. Mr. Noorzai was convicted on drug and conspiracy charges in New York in 2008, and was sentenced to life in prison this year.
Habibullah Jan, a local military commander and later a member of Parliament from Kandahar, told the D.E.A. in 2006 that Mr. Karzai had teamed with Haji Juma Khan to take over a portion of the Noorzai drug business after Mr. Noorzai’s arrest." (And I should add to this that Haji Juma Khan has since also been arrested, and for the second time, just like Haji Bashir Noorzai who was first detained post-2001 and then released back on the field for a couple of years, before he was arrested in New York eventually and put to court in the U.S. - P.M.)
Whatever is the case regarding Ahmed Wali Karzai, it ought to be realised that his alleged use as a readily committed or a coopted asset is partly what put Hamed Karzai in an ungovernable, illegitimate sort of situation in the end.
Finally, one needs to note that the fact that news of AWK's alleged dealing with the CIA came now, is something that could very easily have been timed to come just this much before the second round of the presidential elections - it might have come not entirely randomly coincidentally in fact.

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