All In The Karzai Family

What are we fighting for again?

Corruption fighting, Afghanistan style

Just how corrupt is the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan? It should be clear by now that President Hamid Karzai doesn’t want us to know. He’d prefer that we just keep sending our troops and our dollars, and not ask too many questions.

Karzai’s government announced this week that American and allied advisers, dispatched to Kabul to help investigate massive and endemic graft, will no longer be allowed to do any actual investigating. Karzai’s chief of staff told The Post that the government is still determined to eliminate corruption, but intends to do so “within an Afghan framework.”

And what a framework it is. Karzai is evidently upset that foreign advisers helped build a case against one of his high-ranking aides, Mohammad Zia Salehi, who is charged with soliciting a bribe — $10,000 plus a new car — from a money-exchange firm. In return, according to the charges, Salehi was supposed to derail an investigation into allegations that the company, called New Ansari, had illegally shipped $3 billion in cash out of the country. Most of the funds ended up in Dubai, where many of the wealthy Afghan elite have settled.

Salehi was arrested, but Karzai intervened to have him released from jail just seven hours later. Karzai has said that the use of wiretaps to build the case against Salehi was a violation of “human rights principles.” I wonder what other standard investigative techniques don’t fit within the “Afghan framework.”

A serious, sustained probe of high-level Afghan corruption might hit even closer to home for Karzai and his family. His brother, Mahmoud Karzai, is one of the major shareholders in Kabul Bank, the nation’s largest financial institution, which almost collapsed this week amid allegations that it was essentially being looted by politically connected insiders. Mahmoud Karzai lives in what the Financial Times describes as a “beachside villa” in Dubai.

President Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is the most powerful political figure in the Kandahar region — and also, according to persistent allegations, a major player in Afghanistan’s illegal drug trade. He denies any involvement in the opium business, and Hamid Karzai vouches for him, so that’s that. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

See also:
U.S. effort to help Afghanistan fight corruption has complicated ties
Kabul Bank’s Dubai connection
The Karzai empire, villas in Dubai and fears over Afghan aid
Corruption Allegations Test Afghan Banking System
Karzai Family Ties Shielded Afghan Bank
Karzai’s brother made $1m from Dubai deal financed by Kabul Bank

Gee, we’re doing Karzai’s fighting for him while his whole family is picking our pockets.

/of course, a Taliban government would be worse but, apparently, not by much

In One Door And Out The Other

Your tax dollars, hard at work, heading for the airport, getting out of town.

Afghanistan: $4.2 billion in mysterious cash flown out of Kabul since 2007

THE “blizzard of banknotes” leaving Kabul airport is worse than originally feared, The Scotsman has learned, with at least $4.2 billion (around £2.8 billion) exported in cash over the last three-and-a-half years.

Congressmen in the United States voted to suspend $4bn in aid to the Afghan government last week, after media reports showed $3bn in cash has been flown out of the country since 2007.

US and British fraud investigators fear that most of the money leaving Kabul has been siphoned-off from international aid contracts, or made from the country’s rapidly expanding opium trade.

Documents seen by The Scotsman show that the Afghan Ministry of Finance puts the real figure at $4.2bn – at least $1.2 billion higher than previously feared.

“Our records show that $4.2bn has been transferred in cash through Kabul International Airport alone during the last three-and-a-half years,” Afghanistan’s finance minister, Dr Omar Zakhilwal, wrote in a letter to US Congresswoman Nita Lowey.

Ms Lowey, chairwoman of the aid appropriations sub-committee in Congress, has vowed not to send another dime to Afghanistan until she was confident “that US taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists”.

Dr Zakhilwal’s letter acknowledges allegations that Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s government is “assisting or partaking in this fraud” but the minister hits back by pointing out that most of the money America spends in Afghanistan circumvents the Afghan government.

. . .

The sheer volume of cash couriered out of the country’s main airport is huge relative to Afghanistan’s gross domestic product which was just $13.5bn last year, and it easily dwarfs the amount of tax revenue collected by the government.

The figure doesn’t include cash exported from any of Afghanistan’s other international airports, which include Kandahar International, Mazar-e Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, and the main US base at Bagram, north of Kabul.

. . .

Afghanistan relies on a cash economy and there is no limit to how much money can be exported, as long as it is declared to customs. Official records show most of the money that was declared leaving Kabul since 2007 formed part of the traditional Islamic hawala system, in transfers to Dubai. The often informal nature of the hawala contracts, based on trust, honour and lender’s reputation, make the transactions almost impossible for financial investigators to track.

See also:
4.2 billion dollars have left Kabul airport: report
4.2 billion dollar worth ‘blizzard of banknotes’ have flown out of Kabul since 2007
Afghanistan minister rejects US corruption allegations
Afghan leader: Foreign contracts fuel corruption
Finance Minister Calls for Probe of Afghan Money Network
US freezes $4b of aid to Afghans
US cuts $5.6b Afghan aid amid graft charges
Afghanistan: US lawmakers block $4 bln in aid
Over $4 bn in cash flies out of Kabul

It looks like Karzai and his cronies have put together quite the U.S. financed retirement fund.

/no wonder it seems that Karzai doesn’t really care which side wins in Afghanistan, as long as he can make it to the airport to don his golden parachute

Who’s On The Offensive?

While the ISAF has delayed its much publicized Kandahar offensive, once again, the Taliban aren’t waiting around on the defensive. The Taliban continue to attack the ISAF, and they’re attacking them where they live, in broad daylight.

Afghan Taliban attacks NATO airfield, wounding two troops

Afghan Taliban-linked militants launched a bold daytime attack on a NATO airfield outside the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, setting off a car bomb and firing light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in a battle that killed at least eight militants and wounded two coalition personnel.

The attack comes at a delicate time for the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), just days before US General David Petraeus arrives to assume command after the ouster of US General Stanley McChrystal for insubordination. Coalition casualties are also climbing: as The Christian Science Monitor reported, June has been the deadliest month of the nine-year war for coalition troops, with 101 soldiers killed.

Wednesday’s battle began when a car bomb went off at the entrance to Jalalabad airfield, 78 miles east of the Afghan capital of Kabul near the border with Pakistan. The explosion was followed by a 30-minute gun battle with militants, says the Associated Press. Eight attackers were killed and two coalition personnel were wounded, including one Afghan soldier and one international soldier.

The New York Times reports that the attack was similar in style to the attack on Bagram Air Base in May, when a suicide bomber driving a car detonated his explosives at a gate to the base, clearing the way for Taliban fighters to enter the complex.

The BBC reports that militants attacked the Jalalabad base from multiple directions in what it calls “a commando-style raid,” a more sophisticated tactic that the Taliban has increasingly relied on to deliver heavier civilian and military casualties.

See also:
US, Afghans repel attack against major base
NATO Forces Repel Taliban Attack on Airbase
Eight Taliban fighters killed in failed raid on Nato base
Taliban suicide bombers launch attack on Afghanistan super base
Taliban suicide bombers attack NATO base in Afghanistan
Taliban Attack NATO Base in Eastern Afghanistan
Taliban attack Afghan airfield
Taliban attack Afghanistan Nato base near Jalalabad
When Taliban Attack

Although, so far, the Taliban haven’t been able to cause any substantial damage or casualties or successfully breach the perimeter of any of the major ISAF bases that they’ve brazenly attacked recently, they have shown sophistication in planning the attacks and they’ve been extremely persistent. All it will take is for the Taliban to breach the perimeter of just one of these bases and get their militants inside to cause a lot of mayhem and score a huge propaganda victory, along the lines of the Viet Cong getting inside the wall of the U.S. embassy in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. Tactically, it was nothing, strategically, it meant everything, in terms of propaganda.

/all I can say is that it’s a good thing that the Taliban don’t have access to any air power, they’re giving our coalition forces enough trouble on the ground

When Taliban Attack

Apparently not content to sit and wait around for the much promised and thoroughly foreshadowed major NATO Coalition assault on Kandahar, the Taliban have decided to launch an offensive of their own. And they call it al Fateh, or victory.

Afghan Insurgents Attack U.S. Base in Kandahar

Insurgents late Saturday launched coordinated ground and rocket attacks on Kandahar Air Field, the main coalition base in southern Afghanistan.

Stray rocket and mortar attacks on the Kandahar base have been common in recent years, but before Saturday, insurgents hadn’t mounted any coordinated assaults there.

Sounds of gunfire and explosions rattled through the base for about two hours, witnesses said. A spokeswoman for the U.S.-led coalition said a “small number” of military and civilian personnel were injured. There was no immediate information about any fatalities, she said.

The attack on Kandahar Air Field comes just a few days after a similar insurgent strike on Bagram Air Field, the main coalition base in eastern Afghanistan. Those insurgents, some disguised as U.S. forces, killed one contractor and injured several U.S. service members in the Bagram attack.

The Taliban declared this month that it was launching an offensive, dubbed al Fateh, or victory, aiming to besiege and take over coalition bases. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber rammed a van packed with explosives into a lightly armed convoy of coalition vehicles, killing killing 18 people including five Americans and a Canadian.

Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen Josef Blotz said the attack on the Kandahar base began at about 8 p.m. with a rocket and mortar barrage.

At least one rocket landed near a central hub of activity in the airfield, a collection of coffee shops and merchant booths surrounding a field where personnel often play soccer and volleyball.

Insurgents then launched a ground attack on the north side of the base, “but they did not pierce the perimeter,” Gen. Blotz said. Coalition gunships were strafing fields around the base hours after the attack, searching for insurgents who were repelled in the assault, said Gen. Blotz, who was on the base during the attack.

See also:
Afghan Guerrillas Attack U.S. Base In Kandahar
Insurgents attack Afghanistan base
Afghan Nato base comes under attack
Insurgents attack NATO’s southern Afghan base
Rebels Attack Base in Afghanistan
Kandahar Attack – Nato Kandahar Air Base Attacked in Afghanistan
U.S. contractor killed, 9 soldiers wounded in Taliban attack on Bagram air base
Taliban Attack American Base Outside Kabul
U.S. troops, Afghan police sweep through Taliban stronghold
Into Kandahar, Yesterday and Tomorrow
Results of Kandahar offensive may affect future U.S. moves
The chaos awaiting Kandahar
Taliban win £1,600 bounty for each Nato soldier killed

Needless to say, it’s not a welcome development that the Taliban are able to blow up our convoys and mortar and rocket our main air bases seemingly at will. It’s going to be a long, hot summer in Afghanistan, let’s hope we can retake the initiative and drive the Taliban onto the defensive and into retreat.

/God bless our troops, keep them safe, and grant them victory over our enemies

In Your Face Taliban, The Coalition Is Coming To Take Marjah And There’s Not A Damn Thing You Can Do About It

U.S. Announces Helmand Offensive

In a rare break from traditional military secrecy, the U.S. and its allies are announcing the precise target of their first big offensive of the Afghanistan surge in an apparent bid to intimidate the Taliban.

Coalition officers have been hinting aloud for months that they plan to send an overwhelming Afghan, British and U.S. force to clear insurgents from the town of Marjah and surrounding areas in Helmand province, and this week the allies took the unusual step of issuing a press release saying the attack was “due to commence.”

Senior Afghan officials went so far as to hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss the offensive, although the allies have been careful not to publicize the specific date or details of the attack.

“If we went in there one night and all the insurgents were gone and we didn’t have to fire a shot, that would be a success,” a coalition spokesman, Col. Wayne Shanks, said before the announcement. “I don’t think there has been a mistake in letting people know we’re planning on coming in.”

The risks could be substantial, however. By surrendering the element of surprise, the coalition has given its enemy time to dig entrenched fighting positions and tunnel networks. Perhaps worse for the attacking infantrymen, the insurgents have had time to booby-trap buildings and bury bombs along paths, roads and irrigated fields. Such hidden devices inflict the majority of U.S. and allied casualties.

Over the past few months, the new allied commander in southern Afghanistan, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, has revamped NATO’s coalition strategy in a region that is home to the Pashtun tribes and opium poppy fields that form the ethnic and financial foundations of the Taliban insurgency.

With the first of 30,000 new U.S. troops already on the ground in Afghanistan, Gen. Carter’s plan is to focus on two population centers—Kandahar city, in Kandahar province, and central Helmand province to the west. Combined, they are home to about two million of the estimated three million residents of southern Afghanistan.

Still, the military has taken an unusual step by broadcasting its imminent intention to assault a particular town, Marjah, and its environs. During World War II, civilians and servicemen were frequently reminded that “Loose lips sink ships” and “Enemy ears are listening.” For months leading up to the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, the Allies went to great lengths to disguise their target.

Similarly, the coalition in Afghanistan normally forbids—at the threat of expulsion—embedded reporters from writing about events before they take place. In this case, though, officials even released the name of the offensive, Operation Moshtarak, and said it would be a joint Afghan-coalition attack. Moshtarak means “together” in Dari, although the bulk of the population in southern Afghanistan speaks Pashto.

See also:
Allies publicly target Taliban
Coalition troops brace for biggest offensive since start of Afghan war
Marines gear up for push into Afghan Taliban enclave
Marines prepare to storm Taliban stronghold
US Marines, Afghan and NATO forces brace for battle in Afghan Taliban stronghold
US marines plan attack on Taleban stronghold
US, NATO, Afghan Troops Planning Major Southern Offensive
Troops Prepare and Publicize Offensive Against Taliban
Afghanistan: US and British to launch biggest offensive since 2001
U.S. Plans Defense of Kandahar

An interesting Coalition strategy indeed, will the Taliban flee in humiliation or flock to Marjah and die en masse? The overhead drones will surely be watching.

/either way, we’re taking the town

Tammany Hall Reincarnated

Boss Tweed would be proud.

Tainted Afghan Vote Tally Gives Karzai Majority

Afghanistan’s election commission announced a tally giving President Hamid Karzai a majority of votes in the Aug. 20 presidential election — potentially enough to avoid a runoff and claim victory — after the commission decided to include thousands of suspected fraudulent ballots that helped to put him over the top.

The commission’s decision came in response to intense lobbying by aides to Mr. Karzai’s campaign, two election commission officials said. It also came in defiance of a direct plea from the U.S. to exclude fraudulent votes. Election commission members who wanted to ensure a Karzai victory played a pivotal role in seeing that suspect votes were counted, one commission official said.

Hours before the announcement, United Nations-sponsored election investigators ordered a recount of ballots from suspect polling places because of “clear and convincing evidence of fraud.” Other candidates angrily rejected the tally, which gave Mr. Karzai 54.1% of the votes with nearly 92% of the ballots counted. His nearest challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, has 28.3%, according to the commission.

“We have been saying from the beginning that the [commission] has been proceeding in an illegal manner and we won’t accept” the results, said Dr. Abdullah’s campaign spokesman, Fazel Sangcharaki. The candidate has discouraged his supporters from violent protests, but widespread disaffection in Dr. Abdullah’s northern strongholds risks fracturing parts of Afghanistan that back the central government.

One election commission official, deputy chief electoral officer Zakari Barakzai, told of unspecified pressure on the commission to include suspect votes. “The results we have so far are only half-clean,” he said.

President Hamid Karzai takes 100% of votes in opposition stronghold

In the southern Afghan district of Shorabak, the tribesmen gathered shortly before last month’s presidential election to discuss which candidate they would back. After a debate they chose to endorse Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s leading opponent.

The tribal leaders prepared to deliver a landslide for Abdullah – but it never happened. They claim Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother and leader of the Kandahar provincial council, detained the local governor and closed all the district’s 46 polling sites on election day.

The ballot boxes were taken back to the district headquarters where, tribal leaders allege, they were stuffed with ballots by local policemen. A total of 23,900 ballots were finally sent off to Kabul, the capital – every one of them a vote for Karzai.

The alleged fraud, which Ahmed Wali Karzai denies, was the most blatant example among hundreds of incidents that have threatened to make a mockery of the election.

The sheer scale and audacity of the cheating, which includes supposedly “state-sponsored” ballot-stuffing, vote burning, intimidation and the closure of polling stations in antigovernment areas, has overwhelmed the country’s fledgling Electoral Complaints Commission.

Its staff are battling with more than 2,600 reports of vote-rigging, including at least 650 deemed serious enough “materially” to influence the result.

“This is a blatant violation of the procedure and I think it is stealing in daylight,” Abdullah said yesterday.

His aides say privately that if Karzai wins the 50.1% of votes needed for victory in the first round, they won’t accept the result. Abdullah said he intended to use all legal means to challenge any Karzai victory; his supporters talked menacingly of “Iran-style protests with Kalashnikovs”.

See also:
No Western fudge can fix the mounting Afghanistan election crisis
Evidence of fraud as Hamid Karzai passes threshold in Afghan poll
Fraud charges undermine trust in Afghan election
US says Afghan election results could take months
Afghanistan election results coult take months, warns US
U.S. Calls For ‘Rigorous Vetting’ of Afghan Election Fraud Allegations
U.S. in Delicate Spot as Fraud Claims Mount in Afghan Vote

So, we’re fighting and dying in Afghanistan, not only to track down, kill or capture, and disrupt the networks of al Qaeda and their protecters, the Taliban, but also to provide some semblance of a stable democratic national government that can eventually fend for itself and keep Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists hell bent on attacking Western interests worldwide.

And this is the thanks we get, widespread election fraud on behalf of Hamid Karzai, the candidate we’ve backed since we first came to Afghanistan? How awkward and embarrassing is this situation for the United States?

/and, more importantly, what’s Obama going to do about it?