Proposed Afghan spy chief divides Western, Afghan officials

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Hamid Karzai with U.S. Special Forces during O...

Hamid Karzai with U.S. Special Forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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September 14, 2012 by Joseph Fitsanakis 1 Comment

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last month we
reported Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan to appoint one of his most trusted advisors, Assadullah Khaled, to lead the country’s intelligence agency. There appears to be a slight problem with this proposal: Khaled is known as a fierce character in Afghan politics, who has been accused by Western diplomats of corruption, extreme brutality and narcotics trafficking. During the past few years, Khaled, currently Afghanistan’s Minister for Border and Tribal Affairs, has reportedly become “almost a surrogate family member” of the Karzai family, and is viewed “as a son” by the Afghan President. He also has a close relationship with officials in the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who seem to appreciate Khaled’s hardline stance against Pakistan. Moreover, Khaled is an ethnic Pashtun, that is, he belongs to the largest Afghan ethnicity, whose members occupy central Afghanistan. However, he has strong connections with leading figures in the former Northern Alliance, whose support is crucial for the survival of the Karzai regime. Some Western officials, therefore, see him as a potential unifying figure in the country. But in a confidential cable sent to the US Department of State by the American Embassy in Kabul in 2009, and leaked by WikiLeaks, Khaled was described by one senior American diplomat as “exceptionally corrupt and incompetent”. Later that same year, a high-level Canadian diplomat publicly accused Khaled of participating in international narcotics trafficking and systematically employing torture against his political enemies in Kandahar. The diplomat, who served in Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion, was referring to Khaled’s tenure as Governor of Kandahar Province, where he personally run what Kandaharis described as “the torture prison”. Colvin is apparently not alone voicing such concerns.  In an article published this week, The New York Times said it interviewed more than 20 Western and Afghan officials, many of whom said they were concerned that, if appointed to Director of Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security, Khaled would wield it “as a weapon of repression”. The paper reports that the Western diplomatic and security communities in Afghanistan are clearly divided over the proposed appointment, with some hoping that Khaled’s hardline stance will keep Pakistan at bay, while others fear his heavy-handed tactics and history of corruption. Khaled, who denies the charges, did not respond to a request for an interview from The Times.

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