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A week or so ago, HuffPo's Jeff Stein wrote a piece on Ahmed Walid Karzai, brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  The story led with Mike Rogers, R-MI, ("A key member of the House Intelligence Committee")pooh-poohing the idea that Karzai was a  U.S. intelligence asset.

Fast forward to this morning's NY Times, where the lead story reveals that Karzai has been on the CIA payroll for eight years.  According to the report, Karzai has been paid to help the CIA set up and operate a paramilitary strike force in the Kandahar region.

A week or so ago, HuffPo's Jeff Stein wrote a piece on Ahmed Walid Karzai, brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  The story led with Mike Rogers, R-MI, ("A key member of the House Intelligence Committee") pooh-poohing the idea that Karzai was a  U.S. intelligence asset.

Rogers said in an interview that Ahmed Wali Karzai, widely reported to be protecting the heroin trade in southern Afghanistan, "cooperates" with U.S. intelligence, but is not a controlled agent.

"There's a difference between being an intelligence asset and somebody who cooperates," said Rogers, a former FBI agent. "'Asset is an overstatement ... He is a public official who cooperates ... He cooperates when he's talked to -- that's different than an asset."

Um, okay.  So Karzai is a corrupt official involved in the drug trade, but he's pretty plugged in so we talk to him sometimes. Distasteful, yes, but the reality of intel work means interacting with some pretty sketch people.

Mr. Rogers advocated a hold-your-nose strategy on working with Karzai:

President Karzai could make life difficult for the U.S. in Afghanistan if his brother were forced from power or arrested, Rogers said.

The congressman ticked off a number of responses the Afghan leader could take: postponement of a status-of-forces agreement that the U.S. has been pursuing; releasing people from prison; demanding NATO troop withdrawals from particular areas; and even threats to make regional power-sharing deals with the Taliban.

U.S. anti-corruption advocates will have more leverage to deal with Wali Karzai after the presidential election results are settled, Rogers maintained.

But for now, "We certainly need the president to be with us," he said.

"That would be hard if we're hauling off his brother to a detention center."

Fast forward to this morning's NY Times, where the lead story reveals that Karzai has been on the CIA payroll for eight years.  According to the report, Karzai has been paid to help the CIA set up and operate a paramilitary strike force in the Kandahar region.  "On at least one occasion, the strike force has been accused of mounting an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government."  

Karzai also gets U.S. $$ by renting out space in a compound to CIA and Special Ops personnel.  Another  source of revenue comes from his "role as a go-between between the Americans and the Taliban."

Again, this seems like typical intel: deal with unsavory people to get what is needed to accomplish your mission.

Except that Karzai's reputation for corruption and drug trade involvement runs counter to stated U.S. military goals.

“If we are going to conduct a population-centric strategy in Afghanistan, and we are perceived as backing thugs, then we are just undermining ourselves,” said Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the senior American military intelligence official in Afghanistan. [skip]

Now, with more American lives on the line, the relationship with Mr. Karzai is setting off anger and frustration among American military officers and other officials in the Obama administration. They say that Mr. Karzai’s suspected role in the drug trade, as well as what they describe as the mafialike way that he lords over southern Afghanistan, makes him a malevolent force.

One has to wonder just how much Mike Rogers is contributing to our national security. A former Army officer with FBI experience and a member of the House Intel committee for the past decade, Rogers should be leading the way in reconciling U.S. military goals with intelligence work and anti-corruption efforts.  

Sadly, despite his many taxpayer-funded trips to Afghanistan, Mr. Rogers' contributions to our nation's efforts in that war-torn country have included

* Crashing a meeting of FBI, CIA and U.S. defense U.S. officials at Bagram Airbase, blabbing (inaccurately) about the content of the meeting to Fox News, then failing to do anything about it once the microphones were turned off.

* Loudly opposing a possible transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to a maximum security facility in rural Michigan (not in his district, mind you), suggesting instead that the name of Guantanamo Bay just be changed to something else

* Ringing alarm bells on Iran... yet again.

National security and publicity are two very different things. Mr. Rogers really ought to make an effort to learn the difference.

UPDATE: Foreign Policy followed up on the story with Rogers' spokeswriter Sylvia Warner:

Asked about the New York Times' allegations Wednesday, Rogers stuck to his guns. "[Rep. Rogers] stands by his comments to you," the congressman's spokeswoman, Sylvia Warner, said by email. "He is firm about that."

Originally posted to kelster93 on Wed Oct 28, 2009 at 07:14 AM PDT.

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