Ninety percent of the world's heroin comes from Afghanistan, much of it from the poppies grown in Kandahar Province, where the unofficial ruler is President Hamid Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, CBS News Correspondent Mandy Clark reports.
They call him the King of Kandahar. At a meeting of province elders, Ahmed Karzai takes a seat of honor, but he's accused of amassing his power through dishonorable means, including under-the-table deals with tribal warlords and Taliban fighters.
"No one came up with any proof that I'm involved in any illegal activities," said Ahmed Karzai. "When it comes to drug issues, it's not a legal issue. It is a political issue. It's going on and off, and I believe it's in the past now, and when it comes to the insurgency, I was part of this war from even before 9/11. We were fighting against the Taliban before 9/11. My father was assassinated by the Taliban in '99."
But a decade later, Kandahar remains a Taliban stronghold. As 10,000 more U.S. troops arrive to drive out insurgents, experts say corruption is their biggest obstacle.
"Of all parts of the country, corruption is probably most severe in Kandahar City in Kandahar Province in part because the figure at the top of that network is the president's younger brother," said Stephen Biddle, senior fellow for defense policy for the Council on Foreign Relations.
A U.N. survey found half of all Afghans paid a bribe last year, spending an estimated $2.5 billion, or 23 percent of the country's economic output. Families that earn, on average, about $425 a year paid an average bribe of $160 to each corrupt official they came across.
"This kind of corruption and this kind of abuse of power creates serious disaffection on the part of average Afghans with the government that's in league with all of this, and that in turn creates an opening for the insurgency," Biddle said.
The Karzais have been tied to illicit deals with private security companies in Afghanistan.
"It is notable that one of the major private security contractors in Kandahar, Watan Risk Management, is owned by cousins of the Karzai brothers," said Carl Forsberg, a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, in testimony before Congress.
"I never benefited from the security companies," said Ahmed Karzai. "I wish I did. There's a lot of money in it."
Under pressure to control the situation, Hamid Karzai this week announced private security forces must stop work in Afghanistan by the end of 2010. Critics say it's another empty attempt by his administration to tackle corruption. Just last week, Karzai tried to disband a task force trained by U.S. forces after it accused powerful family friends of laundering drug money, and it is drug money that fuels the Taliban.
"My enemies are the enemies of Afghanistan," Ahmed Karzai said.
His allies are all those who can keep Kandahar's king seated on his throne.
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