Alongside CIA, British spies also bankrolling Afghan government

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British officials have publicly admitted that senior members of the Afghan government receive “direct cash payments” from London on a regular basis. British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported over the weekend that the funds have been delivered to Afghan cabinet members “periodically” ever since 2001, when British troops entered Afghanistan alongside their American colleagues. The revelation comes only a week after the publication of a New York Times exposé, which disclosed that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had delivered “tens of millions of dollars [in] off-the-books cash” to Afghanistan’s governing elite. The newspaper added that there was little evidence that such bribes had helped promote Washington’s interests in the country in any substantial way. According to British officials, London has channeled “a smaller fraction” of the amount paid by the CIA. The British funds are delivered to senior members of the government of Hamid Karzai by MI6, Britain’s foremost external intelligence agency. The funds are then allegedly spent on what Afghan government officials call “special projects”, implying that they are used as bribes to pacify local warlords, many of which are ethnic Pasthuns and belong to the Taliban. Last week, following The New York Times revelations, Mr. Karzai told the loya jirga —Afghanistan’s grand assembly— that there was “nothing unusual” about the CIA funneling money to his government. He added that he had implored the CIA’s Station Chief in Afghan capital Kabul to continue making regular payments despite popular concern in the US, as the funds were vital to the stability of the government: “we really need it”, he said. Read more of this post

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CIA bankrolling Afghan government officials ‘on a vast scale’

AfghanistanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has delivered “tens of millions of dollars [in] off-the-books cash” to Afghanistan’s governing elite, but there is little evidence that such bribes have helped promote Washington’s interests in the country, according to a new exposé published over the weekend in The New York Times. The paper cites “current and former advisers to the Afghan leader” Hamid Karzai, who allege that, for over a decade, the CIA has secretly delivered to the presidential palace in Afghan capital Kabul monthly payments ranging “from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars”. According to Khalil Roman, who was President Karzai’s Chief of Staff for four years until 2005, Afghan officials called the CIA funds “ghost money” because “it came in secret [and] left in secret”. The article suggests that the cash given to the Afghan government appears to be handled outside the CIA’s standard financial assistance programs, which are typically subject to restrictions and oversight from administrators both inside and outside the Agency. Some American officials, who spoke to The Times on condition of anonymity, said the CIA’s goal in funding the inner circle of the Afghan government is to maintain access to its members and to “guarantee the Agency’s influence at the presidential palace”. But there is little evidence that the funds, which are handled exclusively by a “small clique at [Afghanistan’s] National Security Council” have bought the CIA the political influence it seeks. Read more of this post

Afghan government blames Pakistan for attempt on spy chief’s life

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Afghan President and senior cabinet officials have described the recent assassination attempt against the country’s spy chief as the work of “a professional intelligence service” and said they would be asking Pakistan “for clarification”. Assadullah Khaled, who heads Afghanistan’s National Directorate for Security (NDS), survived a suicide attack last Thursday in Kabul. According to Afghan officials, Khaled was attacked by a member of the Taliban posing as a “peace emissary”, who blew himself up as he was meeting Khaled to discuss a possible peace deal with the government. Media reports suggest that the bomber had concealed explosives in his undergarments and that he was not searched out of “respect for [Afghan] traditions and hospitality”. Shortly after the attack, the Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility and said they would try to kill Khaled again. But speaking to reporters last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that “more professional hands” were behind the attack on Khaled. The Afghan leader described the suicide attack as a “very sophisticated and complicated act by a professional intelligence service” and said the Afghan security services “know [for] a fact” that the suicide bomber had entered the country from Pakistan. President Karzai stopped short of directly implicating the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) of directly planning the attack; but he said his government would be “seeking a lot of clarifications from Pakistan” about the bombing. Last Sunday Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Janan Musazai told reporters that Afghan officials were “100 percent sure” the suicide bomber had come to Afghanistan from the Pakistani city of Quetta. Read more of this post

Proposed Afghan spy chief divides Western, Afghan officials

Assadullah KhaledBy 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. Read more of this post

Afghan President replaces spy chief with controversial figure

Assadullah KhaledBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The office of the Afghan President announced yesterday the dismissal of the country’s intelligence chief and his replacement with a controversial official accused by Canadian and British sources of using torture to implement his policies. Speaking to reporters in Kabul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai thanked Rahmatullah Nabil, the outgoing Director of the National Directorate for Security (NDS), for his service, and said he would soon be appointed ambassador to a foreign country. According to Karzai’s representatives, the dismissal falls under the President’s decision that “no intelligence Director could serve longer than two years”. But observers point out that Nabil’s dismissal is part of a broader bureaucratic turf-war between the Office of the President and the Afghan Parliament, over the control of Afghan intelligence and military agencies. Earlier this month, the Parliament managed to oust two senior government officials, Minister of the Interior Besmillah Mohammadi and Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak. Both men are considered to be among President Karzai’s closest political allies. Nabil’s dismissal is therefore seen by many as an act of retribution by the President against defiant Afghan parliamentarians. What is arguably more interesting, however, is Karzai’s choice of the person to replace the fired Nabil, who is no other than Assadullah Khaled, currently Afghanistan’s Minister for Border and Tribal Affairs. According to sources in Kabul, Khaled’s appointment to lead the NDS is a matter of days, and that is appointment can already be considered as having been “confirmed”. This is despite the fact that Khaled is known for resorting to brutal torture and outright intimidation to get his way, especially during his time as Governor of the province of Kandahar. While there, he built a notorious reputation for abducting, torturing, and often killing, his personal and political opponents. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #716 (analysis edition)

Mordechai VanunuBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Kabul attacks show intel failures in Afghanistan. Dozens, possibly hundreds of people would have been involved in training, equipping and then infiltrating into the heart of Kabul the large number of insurgents who were prepared to fight to a certain death in the Afghan capital last Sunday. Yet neither Afghan nor foreign intelligence operatives appeared to have any idea that an unprecedented wave of attacks was about to engulf both Kabul and several other key locations around the country. So it seems that Afghan President Hamid Karzai may have a point when he says that the “infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO and should be seriously investigated”.
►►Report claims China spies on US space technology. China is stealing US military and civilian space technology in an effort to disrupt US access to intelligence, navigation and communications satellites, according to a report authored by the State and Defense Departments. The report (.pdf) argues China should be excluded from recommendations made to the US government to ease restrictions on exports of communications and remote-sensing satellites and equipment. Chinese officials have denied the report’s allegations, calling it a “Cold War ghost”.
►►The long and sordid history of sex and espionage. Using seduction to extract valuable information is as old as the Old Testament —literally— Whether from conviction or for profit, women —and men— have traded sex for secrets for centuries. The Cold War provided plenty of opportunities for so-called “honey-pot” scandals. Perhaps the most dramatic case of seduction in recent times involved Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. In 1986 he visited London and provided The Sunday Times with dozens of photographs of Israel’s alleged nuclear weapons program. But Mossad was on his trail and a female agent —Cheryl Ben Tov— befriended him (reportedly bumping into him at a cigarette kiosk in London’s Leicester Square). She lured him to Rome for a weekend, where he was drugged and spirited to Israel.

Revealed: Afghan government at war with ‘CIA vigilante group’

Afghanistan

Afghanistan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Very little has been written about the Kandahar Strike Force, a controversial CIA-funded vigilante group operating in Afghanistan’s Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces. In 2009, The New York Times reported that the late Ahmed Wali Karzai, notorious drug lord and younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, helped the CIA run the group. But ever since Wali Karzai’s assassination, in July of this year, the CIA-operated group appears to be engaged in a brutal war, not with the Taliban and al-Qaeda, but with provisional Afghan authorities. The Christian Science monitor spoke to the former leader of the Kandahar Strike Force, Atal Afghanzai, who is currently in prison, having been convicted of shooting dead a senior Afghan police commander in broad daylight. The group is made up of elite members of Afghanistan’s regular army, selected by CIA case officers and trained by US Special Forces personnel in Kandahar’s Camp Gecko, a former al-Qaeda base built by Osama bin Laden’s forces in 1996. The group operates outside the institutional parameters of the Afghan government, and answers directly to the CIA, says The Monitor, which claims to have corroborated this information with “US diplomats, other Western officials, and Afghan authorities”. The group’s imprisoned former leader told the newspaper that he and his men were paid directly by the CIA, and that they were transported by United States Blackhawk helicopters to various locations around the country, where they were expected to conduct “raids on Taliban targets at a moment’s notice”. Afghanzai claims that the group’s operations were so effective that they received letters of appreciation by no other than Hamid Karzai. But the idyllic relationship between the Kandahar Strike Force and the Afghan government appears to have ended, as members of the group are now accused of “extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and larceny”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #605

Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai

►►French intelligence ‘spied on Socialist politician’. Hand-picked” French intelligence agents allegedly spied on the private life of François Hollande, the Socialist whom polls predict is best-placed to beat Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential elections. They are also said to have spied on Hollande’s partner, Valérie Trierweiler –-potentially France’s future first lady.
►►US to release Cuban spy under supervision. Rene Gonzalez, the first of five Cubans imprisoned in the United States as spies since 1998 will regain his freedom Friday but won’t be able to go home for three more years because of a court order requiring he remain under US supervision.
►►Afghan intelligence says it stopped plot to kill Karzai. A plot to kill Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been foiled by Afghan intelligence agents in Kabul who arrested six men with links to al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network. The discovery of the plot comes just two days before the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan in retaliation for the September 11 attacks in the US and, had it been successful, would have plunged the country further into chaos.

Bodyguard who killed Karzai’s brother was CIA agent

Wali Karzai

Wali Karzai

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The bodyguard who killed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother was a trusted aide of British and American intelligence and had worked with US Special Forces in Afghanistan, before turning on his employer, according to American and British news media. Ahmed Wali Karzai, influential Afghan drug lord and CIA agent, was shot dead on July 12 by no other than his trusted bodyguard, Sardar Mohammad. The killing shocked Afghan and American officials, who believed Mohammad’s trustworthiness and loyalty to be beyond reproach. Initial reports blamed Karzai’s killing on internal feuds that often feature in bloody Afghan politics. But these early reports may need to be revised following the revelation in The Washington Post that Mohammad had been working closely for years with the CIA and US Special Forces in Afghanistan, prior to turning against his boss. According to the paper, not only was Mohammad working with the CIA, but two of his brother-in-laws served in the Kandahar Strike Force, a notorious paramilitary unit trained and armed by the CIA. Based on this new information, The Post explains Karzai’s killing as yet another spectacular triumph by Taliban intelligence, who must have managed to recruit Mohammad and turn him against the US-supported Afghan government. Commenting on Mohammad’s CIA background, an unnamed “Western intelligence analyst” told British newspaper The Independent that Karzai’s assassination is indicative of the Taliban’s “increasingly sophisticated intelligence apparatus” in Afghanistan. Western intelligence agencies “probably [...] underestimate the [Taliban's] intelligence components”, said the analyst, even though the latter “do have dedicated intelligence officers. And that’s not just about gathering information but also about infiltration, using whatever combination of blackmail or ideological levers [they need to]”. But there is also another possibility, which neither The Post nor The Independent appear to entertain: namely that Mohammad was still acting under the commands of the CIA when he killed Karzai. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #538

Wali Karzai

Wali Karzai

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egyptian diplomat dead in London after bizarre suicide attempt. Police in London are trying to solve the mysterious apparent suicide of Ayman Mohammed Fayed, a 41-year-old employee of the Egyptian embassy, who plunged to his death from one of the embassy’s third-floor windows last week. Embassy officials said he did so after hurriedly signing a brief suicide note to his family. Interestingly, one witness saw him trying to get back into the building from the window, apparently having changed his mind about killing himself. But, says The Daily Mail, he seems to have “lost control and fell”. The death does not seem to be related to the political changes that have taken place in Egypt this year. ►►CIA agent Wali Karzai dead in Afghanistan. Another death, that of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s brother, has featured all over the news media in the past few days. Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan drug lord and influential strongman, was shot dead by his bodyguards last Tuesday. Wali Karzai’s role as a CIA agent is less widely advertised in obituaries (with a few notable exceptions). IntelNews readers will remember that, in October of 2009, The New York Times revealed that Wali Karzai had been financially sustained by the CIA ever since the initial US invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001, and that he was still —as of 2009— receiving “regular payments” from the Agency.  Read more of this post

News you may have missed #407

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News you may have missed #372

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News you may have missed #0164

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News you may have missed #0160

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Breaking news (or is it?): Karzai’s brother on CIA payroll

Wali Karzai

Wali Karzai

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Citing “current and former American officials”, The New York Times said last night that Ahmed Wali Karzai, notorious drug lord and younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, “gets regular payments from the CIA. Understandably, the Times report is making headlines all over the world today, though it’s not exactly a revelation. IntelNews readers have known about Wali Karzai’s spy connection since September 17 (respect to The Washington Post‘s Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who first alerted us to it). That aside, there are four main new pieces of information in the Times article. First is the allegation that the CIA has financially sustained Wali Karzai ever since the initial US invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Second, Karzai appears to function as a “landlord” to the CIA force in southern Afghanistan, providing it with facilities and logistical support. Read more of this post

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