The brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai lobbied aggressively for the contract to provide private security for Canada’s major aid project to rebuild the Dahla Dam in the country’s south, despite his “reputation for shady dealings,” according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables.
WikiLeaks has yet to release the 2,276 leaked cables from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa and consulates across Canada – which are expected to be revealed later this week. They have Ottawa buzzing with concerns about secrets revealed and, it is believed, U.S. diplomats’ private slights about Canada’s “inferiority complex.”
But in the documents released Sunday, a pair of cables from the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan reveal the line that U.S. and Canadian diplomats walked with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the powerful half brother of the President who holds sway in Kandahar, and is described by U.S. diplomats as “widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker.”
U.S. and Canadian diplomats clearly felt they had to deal with the power-broker, but were wary of what U.S. diplomats considered his “malign” influence.
In one 2009 meeting, the senior U.S. representative in Kandahar, Frank Ruggiero, and his then Canadian counterpart, Ben Rowswell, met with Ahmed Wali Karzai and Kandahar governor Tooryalai Weesa. Mr. Karzai, commonly dubbed AWK, asked for big infrastructure projects and lobbied for all private security contracts to go to one firm – but the diplomats suggested he wanted to profit from it.
“AWK is understood to have a stake in private security contracting, and has aggressively lobbied the Canadians to have his security services retained for the Dahla Dam refurbishment. Both he and the governor have tried to exert control over how contracts are awarded in the province,” says a cable summarizing the meeting.
The cable notes the meeting underlined the challenge of fighting corruption and connecting people to government “when the key government officials are themselves corrupt.”
A record of a later meeting between Mr. Karzai and Mr. Ruggiero, in February, 2010, indicates he was being warned not to obstruct Western allies or interfere with the police. “He appears not to understand the level of our knowledge of his activities, or that the coalition views many of his activities as malign, particularly relating to his influence over the police,” the U.S. summary notes.