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No proof of Karzai's brother being a drug lord says Kerry

Last updated on: October 27, 2009 09:56 IST
Despite claims that Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's younger brother Ahmad Wali Khan Karzai -- the representative for southern Afghanistan in Kandahar -- is a prominent figure in the drug trade, United States Senator John F Kerry has said no hard evidence has been provided to him by US intelligence and/or law enforcement to lend credence to these allegations.

In the interaction that followed his address to the Council on Foreign Relations on Monday on his recent trip to Afghanistan, Kerry, asked about President Karzai's lack of credibility when his brother is rumoured to be one of the country's biggest drug lords, started with a caveat that "I hope I am not violating any confidence in sharing this with you, but I think it's important to sort of put it out there."

During his meeting with Hamid Karzai, Kerry said, "we had a very direct conversation about that. In fact, he asked me about ...he raised the subject. It's quite interesting, and we talked about the perceptions of his brother."

"Let me just say this in answer to it, (that) I have requested from our intelligence sources and law enforcement forces the smoking gun -- the evidence," the senator said. "Show me what do we know that he's had this (involvement). And, I'll tell you right now folks, nobody has -- nobody has -- nobody's given me that sort of hard and fast here's what we heard him say or here's what we caught him doing, or here's what he's involved in, etc."

"So, this swirls around, and you know, there are lots of different stories like that swirl around," he said, and added: "Now I am not going to go into all of the conversations I had with the president (Karzai). I think there are things that Ahmad Wali Karzai has done that haven't been helpful, (but) there are things he does which are very helpful for us."

Thus, Kerry argued that "we need to look hard at the balance of how we can best manage Kandahar and that particular region. I am confident that that is a conversation that is going to be engaged in very, very soon with the president (Karzai)."

"But we are all very sensitive to that, (but) for the moment, we are walking by the poppies. We are not destroying them because we have learned that it is counter-productive to do that unless you have a replacement. And, so, I think we've gotten smarter."

Kerry said "the immediate demand is security and then, once you got security, bring the people in to begin to work on the crop substitution, on the alternative seeds."

However, he reiterated, "If all you do is destroy their livelihood and there is no substitution for it, you are creating the Taliban or whatever. So, I think, we've gotten smarter."

Kerry said he was convinced that Karzai "understands the need to make some changes. There are some terrific ministers incidentally in his government. We work with them very closely and we have significant confidence in a number of these ministers."

He acknowledged that "there are also some where there are some greater problems in certain ministries in terms of delivery of services and he is well aware of it."

Kerry said "as in any election anywhere, no one running for election for president of the country is going to announce who is moving out till the election is over," but he reiterated that "I am confident there are going to be some changes and we need to work very hard at these because they are central to this turning around."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC