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Afghan Prez’s bro in heroin trade?

The assertions about the involvement of the president’s brother in the incidents were never investigated, according to American and Afghan officials.

world Updated: Oct 06, 2008 00:45 IST

When Afghan security forces found an enormous cache of heroin hidden beneath concrete blocks in a tractor-trailer outside Kandahar in 2004, the local Afghan commander quickly impounded the truck and notified his boss.

Before long, the commander, Habibullah Jan, received a telephone call from Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai, asking him to release the vehicle and the drugs, Jan later told American investigators, according to notes from the debriefing obtained by The New York Times.

He said he complied after getting a phone call from an aide to President Karzai directing him to release the truck.

Two years later, American and Afghan counternarcotics forces stopped another truck, this time near Kabul, finding more than 110 pounds of heroin.

Soon after the seizure, US investigators told other American officials that they had discovered links between the drug shipment and a bodyguard believed to be an intermediary for Ahmed, according to a participant in the briefing.

The assertions about the involvement of the president’s brother in the incidents were never investigated, according to American and Afghan officials, even though allegations that he has benefited from narcotics trafficking have circulated widely in Afghanistan.

Both President Karzai and Ahmed, now the chief of the Kandahar Provincial Council, the governing body for the region that includes Afghanistan’s second largest city, dismiss the allegations as politically motivated attacks by longtime foes.

“I am not a drug dealer; I never was, and I never will be,” the president’s brother said in a recent phone interview. “I am a victim of vicious politics.”

The White House says it believes that Ahmed is involved in drug trafficking, and American officials have repeatedly warned President Karzai that his brother is a political liability, two senior Bush administration officials said in interviews last week.

“We thought the concern expressed to Karzai might be enough to get him out of there,” one official said. But President Karzai has resisted, demanding clear-cut evidence of wrongdoing, several officials said. “We don’t have the kind of hard, direct evidence that you could take to get a criminal indictment,” a White House official said. “That allows Karzai to say, ‘Where’s your proof?’”

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