US - Afghanistan

Karzai's brother corrupt drugs baron, WikiLeaks cables say

ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs Office/Open access

US diplomats dubbed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother a corrupt drugs baron who uses his position for personal enrichment, according to cables made public by whistleblower WikiLeaks. And they described the president “extremely weak” and prone to conspiracy.


Hamid Karzai’s office on Monday declared that WikiLeaks' latest revelations "won't have any impact on the strategic relations between the US and Afghanistan". The president's spokesperson Waheed Omer described the leaked reports as "not surprising".

Ahmed Wali Karzai – referred to as AWK in the cables - is the controversial governor of Kandahar province, who has been accused of working with the CIA as well as corruption and drug-trafficking.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

But US diplomats seem to have been less than keen on dealing with him.

"While we must deal with AWK as the head of the provincial council, he is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker," said one note after a meeting between the president's brother and US envoy Frank Ruggiero in September 2009.

Officials will “continue to urge AWK to improve his own credibility gap”, it said.

At the meeting, also attended by Canadian officials, Ahmed Wali Karzai lobbied for funding for megaprojects, rather than the small-scale operations that foreign forces prefer.

"Given AWK's reputation for shady dealings, his recommendations for large, costly infrastructure projects should be viewed with a healthy dose of scepticism," the report said.

He also pushed for the many private security firms working in the province to be brought under a single person’s control. Given that he runs his own militia, that too aroused suspicion.

"AWK is understood to have a stake in private security contracting, and has aggressively lobbied the Canadians to have his security services retained," the cable said.

And it said that Karzai, who said he was ready to be tested by a lie-detector over charges that he is involved in the opium trade, “appears not to understand the level of our knowledge of his activities, and that the coalition views many of his activities as malign”.

The diplomats concede that Ahmed Wali Karzai is not an isolated case and that  corruption is widespread and harmful to US strategy in Afghanistan.

"The meeting with AWK highlights one of our major challenges in Afghanistan,” it says. “How to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt."

 Other leaks on Afghanistan include:

  • Suspicions of high-level corruption - one cable alleges that Vice-President Zia Massoud was carrying 52 million dollars (40 million euros) in cashed when stopped during a visit to the United Arab Emirates - Massoud denies taking money out of the country, the cable claims he was allowed to keep it without explaining its provenance;
  • President Hamid Karzai is said to be "driven by paranoia", while officials in the key Helmand province are sharply criticised;
  • Criticism of British military operations, especially an alleged failure to impose security around Sangin, a town in Helmand where British has lost more soldiers than anywhere else in the country.


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