NEW YORK, Oct 5: The White House believes that Afghan President’s brother Ahmed Wali Karzai is involved in “drug trafficking” and American officials have repeatedly warned President Hamid Karzai “that his brother is a political liability,” the New York Times says in a report.

The newspaper reported on Sunday that “numerous reports link Ahmed Wali Karzai to the drug trade, according to current and former officials from the White House, the State Department and the United States Embassy in Afghanistan.”

The Times said: “In meetings with President Karzai, including a 2006 session with the United States ambassador, the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief and their British counterparts, American officials have talked about the allegations in hopes that the president might move his brother out of the country, said several people who took part in or were briefed on the talks.”

On official said: “We thought the concern expressed to Karzai might be enough to get him out of there,” but President Karzai had resisted, demanding clear-cut evidence of wrongdoing. “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’?”

Neither the Drug Enforcement Administration which conducts counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, nor the fledgling Afghan anti-drug agency has pursued investigations into the accusations against the president’s brother.

Several American investigators said senior officials at the DEA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence had complained to them that the White House favoured a hands-off approach towards Ahmed Wali Karzai because of the political delicacy of the matter, the newspaper said.

But, according to the report, White House officials dispute that and cite limited DEA resources in Kandahar and southern Afghanistan and the absence of political will in the Afghan government to go after major drug suspects as the reasons for the lack of an inquiry.

Citing one verified report, the Times said: “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.” And within minutes Mr Karzai’s brother called the security forces commander Habibullah Jan asking him to release the vehicle and the drugs.

Mr Jan later told American investigators, according to notes from the debriefing obtained by The New York Times, that he complied after getting a phone call from an aide to President Karzai directing him to release the truck.

Both President Karzai and Ahmed Wali Karzai, 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 long-time foes.

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

But the assertions about him have deeply worried top American officials in Kabul and in Washington.

The newspaper said: “The United States officials fear that perceptions that the Afghan president might be protecting his brother are damaging his credibility and undermining efforts by the United States to buttress his government, which has been under siege from rivals and a Taliban insurgency fuelled by drug money,” several senior Bush administration officials said.

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