Thursday, September 02, 2010

It's Time To Crack Down On Karzai And The Afghan Shell Game

The brothers Karzai
Karzai's brother calls for U.S. to shore up Kabul Bank as withdrawals accelerate

DUBAI - As depositors thronged branches of Afghanistan's biggest bank, Mahmoud Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a major shareholder in beleaguered Kabul Bank called on Thursday for intervention by the United States to head off a financial meltdown.

"America should do something," said Karzai in a telephone interview, suggesting that the U.S. Treasury Department guarantee the funds of Kabul Bank's clients, who number about a million and have more than a billion dollars on deposits with the bank.

Kabul Bank handles salary payments for soldiers, police and teachers. It has scores of branches across Afghanistan and holds the accounts of key Afghan government agencies. The collapse of the bank would likely spread panic throughout the country's fledgling financial sector and wipe out nine years of effort by the United States to establish a sound Afghan banking system, seen as essential to the establishment of a functioning economy.

Action by the United States, said Mahmoud Karzai, would prevent a run on Kabul Bank and protect other banks, too. He said Kabul Bank is "stable and has money" but cannot withstand a stampede by panicked depositors.

"If the Treasury Department will guarantee that everyone will get their money, maybe that will work," said Karzai, who holds 7 percent of the bank's shares, making him the third-biggest shareholder. Karzai, who spends most of his time in Dubai - where he lives in a waterfront villa paid for by Kabul Bank - rushed to Kabul on Wednesday to join efforts to salvage the bank.
Americans have spent far too much blood and treasure in Afghanistan already, only to be tapped once again to "shore up" a failing bank. We have our own problems, and Mahmoud Karzai, who "spends most of his time in Dubai - where he lives in a waterfront villa paid for by Kabul Bank" should spend a bit more of his time finding his own solutions.

So, who are these Karzais anyway? They appear to be the typical third world self-indulgent thieves, enriching themselves while their country languishes in poverty:
Persistent allegations of corruption aimed at Hamid Karzai's family are undermining Western efforts in Afghanistan and feeding the Taliban-led insurgency, Washington policy-makers have warned.

The president's brothers, Mahmoud and Ahmed Wali, are accused of having amassed millions of pounds since Mr Karzai took office even as most of Afghanistan remains poverty stricken. The development has fuelled a popular disillusionment and anger with the leadership that the Taliban has exploited.

Ahmed Wali Karzai has been dogged by allegations, which he denies, of involvement in the country's $3 billion opium trade, while Mahmoud Karzai has been accused of using his brother's influence to build a business empire that has made him one of the country's wealthiest men.

Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a research centre, said: "There's a perception that members of his family are benefiting from his position. It's bad for our counter-insurgency efforts."

The rumours of corruption and displays of obvious wealth were providing propaganda for the insurgents.

One Western diplomat said: "We are losing this war to corruption."

Diplomats fear that Mr Karzai shows little appetite to rein in his brothers, despite intense pressure from his international backers and attempts by Western intelligence agencies to investigate his siblings' assets.

Malou Innocent, a foreign-policy analyst at the Cato Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said the Taliban was using the Karzai brothers' wealth as evidence that the president was a puppet of the NATO-led forces. "It's getting worse," she said. "There doesn't seem to be any silver bullet for getting rid of it considering how endemic it is."

Ahmed Wali Karzai, 48, who has a portfolio of land, transport and private security business interests in the southern city of Kandahar, said the allegations of unproven links with the drug trade were aimed at weakening his brother.

Any involvement in opium production is considered particularly harmful because the drug trade channels hundreds of millions of dollars into the insurgency each year. Taliban commanders earn huge sums from drug traffickers and growers by charging tithes or protection money and providing convoy guards.

Mahmoud Karzai, 54, who has interests in mines, a cement factory and property, denied that he had capitalised on his brother's influence.
To hell with the Kabul Bank; let the Karzais and their wealthy Muslim brethren in Dubai bail them out. These people are playing both ends against the middle, and they deserve to be squashed in the process.

The fact is that Islam itself is fractured; it is by no means a united front. Allow these fractures to be evident.

I (and I think I speak for a a lot of the American people) am tired of funding these scoundrels, while their Muslim brothers, who display obscene amounts of wealth, stand idly by as though they are helpless.

This would be a time for Obama to show some testicular fortitude and stop this generations-old practice of playing the American patsy.

While I would applaud this action, I have no allusions that it will become reality.

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