Here is the latest edition of my column at Foreign Policy.
1) Why would ‘American officials’ expose their own intelligence source?
2) U.S.–India military cooperation: some rare good news in Asia.
Why would ‘American officials’ expose their own intelligence source?
On Oct. 27 the New York Times reported that Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of President Hamid Karzai and a major power broker in Kandahar, was a paid intelligence asset of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Times’s sources for this allegation included “current and former American officials” including a former CIA officer and perhaps a senior U.S. military officer in Kabul. Ahmed Wali Karzai acknowledged aiding U.S. efforts but denied receiving any payments from the CIA.
The piece asserted that Karzai’s alleged connections to Afghanistan’s drug trade created deep frustrations with senior political and military officials in both the Obama and Bush administrations.
Did frustration and moral outrage with Karzai’s illicit activities lead U.S. officials to expose him as a paid CIA asset? It would certainly be understandable, for these officials may have a low opinion of him and perhaps by association his brother the president. But this collective outburst is folly and will make a nearly impossible task for the Americans in Afghanistan only that much harder to achieve.
The U.S. officials who exposed Karzai are likely hoping that with his status now public, he will no longer be useful to the CIA. Perhaps they are hoping that the CIA will be too embarrassed to continue paying him. As the New York Times piece discusses, some officials believe that if the U.S. really wants better governance in Afghanistan, it must begin by getting rid of types like him. They believe that for a population-centric counterinsurgency strategy to succeed, clean Afghan administration needs to occur concurrently, not later. By continuing to work with the president’s brother, the CIA was not cooperating with this view. Those objecting to the CIA’s alleged connection with Karzai appear to have used the New York Times in an attempt to resolve this interagency dispute.