Nothing captures the tangled American strategy in Afghanistan better than the person of Ahmed Wali Karzai - brother of President Hamid Karzai and poster boy for the corruption U.S. officials say riddles the Afghan government.
"I personally have been shown Western intelligence reports that would appear to indicate that he is indeed deeply involved in drugs," said Gretchen Peters, the author of a book on the Afghan drug trade. "He is the one that will make sure the customs and border police don't search the trucks that are full of drugs."
Now the New York Times reports that Ahmed Wali Karzai is also on the CIA payroll.
In other words, the U.S. is reportedly bankrolling a man suspected of being a major player in the corruption that handcuffs American troops in their fight against the Taliban.
"What you hear from Western intelligence officials is that he helps them get information about the whereabouts of Taliban officials," Peters said, and "about terrorist attacks that are going to take place against U.S. troops there."
He is also said to have provided the CIA this compound in Kandahar. For his part, Ahmed Wali Karzai denies any ties to the drug trade or the CIA.
But the U.S. military wants nothing to do with him. One senior officer said, "He's one of the worst things we've got going in Kandahar."