In the Arena

The Insanity is in the Details

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Dexter Filkins has an entirely depressing report about the complexities of life in Pashtunistan today. It’s the story of a warlord in Oruzgan province, which is just north of Kandahar, who is being paid by the US to provide security on the highway from Kandahar to Oruzgan. His private army also works in conjunction with US Special Forces to clear the area of Taliban. All right. If the government can’t do it and this guy can, I can live with that…except for this, which comes late in the piece:

But doubts persist about Mr. Matiullah, especially about what he does when Afghan and American officials are somewhere else. An American intelligence report prepared for senior American commanders last spring listed a number of associates of Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai’s brother and the chairman of the provincial council of Kandahar Province, who were suspected of involvement in the country’s opium trade. The report listed Mr. Matiullah as one of the suspects, but provided few details.

You know what comes next: the strong suspicion is that when Matiullah is not providing security for military convoys, he is providing security for drug convoys. This is why it’s so hard to get Hamid Karzai to “do the right thing” by replacing warlords like his half-brother with government officials who are clean and accountable: the warlords, as often as not, are on clandestine U.S. payrolls.