U.S. intelligence suspects Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is "in bed" with the Taliban and unwilling to protect U.S. military and civilian assets deployed in his country, officials tell WND.
Publicly, Karzai has pledged support for the U.S. and the international war on terror.
Behind the scenes, however, the one-time member of the Taliban has sought the release of more than 700 Taliban detainees captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Now he is demanding the release of Taliban prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay military detention center. Officials say Karzai four months ago sent an Afghan delegation to Gitmo to interview the Taliban detainees he wants to free.
What's more, he is secretly negotiating a power-sharing deal with the Taliban leadership, now in exile in Pakistan. Ten years ago, the U.S. military vanquished the terrorist regime for its ties to al-Qaida and its supporting role in 9/11.
At the same time, Karzai has grown increasingly hostile toward American troops, referring to them as "occupiers" and "demons," who commit "Satanic acts that will never be forgiven by apologies." Karzai has warned U.S. officials he will order Afghan troops to join Pakistan in battle against U.S. forces if they attack the neighboring Muslim country, which has fired on U.S. troops in recent border skirmishes.
Karzai's divided loyalties are a growing security concern, officials tell WND, particularly now that the U.S.-installed president has taken over control of the security of reconstruction projects and convoys inside the dangerous country from private Western contractors.
Next year, his Afghan guards will even take over security of U.S. and NATO military bases.
"This is a major problem," said a senior U.S. Army intelligence official who requested anonymity.
"Hamid Karzai is negotiating with the Taliban," he added, "and now that everybody knows that we're leaving (Afghanistan following the U.S.-announced withdrawal), there's not one reason for a local to not side with the Taliban, either overtly or covertly."
This includes Afghan security forces, he says.
As part of its 2014 exit strategy, the Obama administration agreed to Karzai's demand to disband all private security contractors protecting U.S. troops and dignitaries and replace them with local Afghan guards.
The administration has also agreed to transfer U.S.-captured detainees – including Taliban and other terrorists who have attacked U.S. troops – to Afghan custody. Officials complain that more than 200 "bad guys" have already been released from U.S. custody.
"We're essentially handing over the keys to Bagram (prison) to a guy who's in bed with the enemy," the senior intelligence official said.
Another concern, officials say, is Karzai's newly created Afghanistan Public Protection Force, or APPF, which is run by the Afghan Interior Ministry. APPF is now responsible for investigating the backgrounds of recruits for the Afghan army and police, which according to the senior official, "are riddled with Taliban."
The APPF certifies recruits primarily by checking them against local criminal records and interviewing tribal elders for references, many of whom are sympathetic to the Taliban.
Ideally, Afghan recruits should be subject to psychological screening, including polygraph tests, asserts a high-level military intelligence officer who has done tours at Bagram.
"But we've got problems getting our own people polygraphed for their Top Secret clearances due to a lack of polygraphers," he said. "So imagine trying to get that done on 170,000 ANA (Afghan National Army), or ANP (Afghan National Police)."
When bidding on new work in Afghanistan, companies will need to rely for the first time on Karzai's APPF for the vetting and training of new guards, according to the Professional Services Council, which represents government contractors doing business in Afghanistan.
"Given growing concerns about so-called 'green-on-blue' attacks by uniformed Afghans on U.S. and coalition personnel, the use of new APPF guards complicates the risk assessment and cost projections when deciding whether, and at what price, development projects can be successfully completed in Afghanistan," the council said in a recent sworn statement submitted to the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's subcommittee on national security, homeland defense and foreign operations.
Lax security screening has led to a number of Taliban insurgents infiltrating the Afghan security forces and carrying out green-on-blue attacks against U.S. troops working alongside them in training exercises.
Earlier this year, the Taliban took credit for the cold-blooded assassination of two unarmed U.S. military officers inside the Afghan Interior Ministry, where security is controlled by Karzai's administration.
For the first time in April, a member of the Afghan special forces, who are more closely vetted than regular soldiers, turned a machine gun on U.S. troops near Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold. He killed one American and wounded others.
Last week, in another first, an Afghan security commander ambushed U.S. troops. The officer, who was helping U.S. Marine special forces train the local police force, lured the elite American troops to a Ramadan meal at his outpost under the pretext of discussing security. He then opened fire on them at close range, killing three soldiers and wounding another.
According to the International Security Assistance Force, uniformed Afghan security forces have killed 31 coalition troops just this year, including 17 American soldiers. That means one out of every 12 Americans killed in Afghanistan this year have died at the hands of their trusted allies.
Since ISAF starting keeping such records in 2007, Afghan insider attacks have resulted in the death of close to 100 American and NATO service members.
U.S. military officials say Karzai owes the U.S. an apology for the "friendly fire" shootings. The Afghan president has neither denounced the attacks nor condemned them.
Yet he issued a joint statement with Islamic elders calling the recent violence against U.S. troops over the burning of Qurans "justifiable." Six American soldiers, including the two officers, were murdered.
Karzai has demanded all U.S. troops move out of Afghan villages. He has also demanded the U.S. turn over soldiers accused of desecrating the Quran to be tried in Afghanistan.
Trust in the U.S. ally has waned, as Karzai has met face-to-face with Taliban leaders to broker a power-sharing deal in Kabul, which military brass believe will have the effect of full transfer of power to the Taliban after President Obama pulls out troops in 2014.
Concerns about the new security policy mandated by Karzai to guard U.S. assets and bases is compounded by fears he will empty the jail cells of Taliban fighters.
Karzai has threatened to "join the Taliban" himself if the U.S. didn't stop meddling in his affairs. He told his parliament as much after the U.S. began monitoring his regime for corruption in March 2010.
The American public would be surprised to learn that Karzai originally supported the Taliban, and even had an early, low-level position in Taliban chief Mullah Omar's regime.
"I was among the first to actively support the Taliban movement," Karzai revealed in a Senate hearing before 9/11, before the world knew him. "I personally knew and worked with the majority of their leadership during the entire period of jihad."
Karzai joined the Soviet resistance at age 25, during which he got to know Omar and other mujahedeen fighters. Some of Karzai's cousins in Maryland even hosted Omar in their homes, his sister-in-law, Patricia Karzai, revealed in the book "Crude Politics."
Omar and the Karzais are part of the same ethnic Pashtun tribe.
One of the Afghan president's younger brothers, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who lived in Quetta, Pakistan, before returning to Afghanistan, admitted in a New Yorker magazine interview: "In the early days, we did kind of help the Taliban."
Once radical elements infiltrated the new Taliban government, however, the Karzais discontinued their support and moved to Pakistan.
"There were many wonderful people in the Taliban, many moderate and patriotic people," explained Hamid Karzai. "But the control from the outside, the interference from Pakistan and the radical Arabs made it hard for the moderates to stay there and help."
And in late 1998, after Taliban guest Osama bin Laden blew up the U.S. embassies in Africa, the brothers actively campaigned against the regime. The next year, Karzai's father was assassinated in Quetta, possibly by Taliban agents. Abdul Ahad Karzai, who served as deputy speaker in the Afghan parliament in the early 1970s, at the time had openly denounced the Taliban as a cancerous brand of Islam.
Despite that tragedy, Hamid Karzai has little lust for revenge. In fact, Karzai showed leniency toward the Taliban even in the early days of regime change last decade.
He has gone easy on captured Taliban agents and those who still harbor them inside Afghanistan, according to "Crude Politics," which quotes from U.S. Central Command communiques classified "Secret."
One series of internal emails details a 2002 incident in which Karzai asked U.S. forces to release a Taliban friend of his caught up in a sweep of suspected terrorist haunts north of Kandahar.
The Afghan president's friend and colleague was among terrorist suspects captured by U.S. Special Forces in a raid on a "suspicious residence" thought to be harboring both Taliban and al-Qaida operatives in Uruzgan province.
There, the special-operations team found a model of a Boeing 747, ammunition, weapons, grenades and a satellite phone.
Not long after the September 2002 raid, Karzai called a U.S. commander to complain that the team had arrested one of his friends. The suspect initially was held in the Deh Rawod district of Uruzgan province.
But the president later vouched for the entire group of 23 suspects caught up in the anti-terrorist reconnaissance sweep, and they were all released at Karzai's request before they could be photographed and interrogated.
"We didn't get 23 prisoners," a CentCom intelligence official said. "These guys all got let go."
He says Tampa immediately put a tight lid on the political mess, described by a colonel involved in the matter as "warlord politics," in an attempt to save the White House from embarrassment. The White House had hand-picked Karzai to replace Omar and assigned U.S. Special Forces personnel to guard him around the clock at his presidential palace, according to "Crude Politics."
One of the Secret emails, sent to CentCom officers Sept. 21, 2002, from a colonel in Afghanistan, reads as follows:
Gents the attached emails layout [sic] a situation where ODA 364 [Operational Detachment Alpha or A Team, a.k.a. Special Forces team] was on a recon and acquired 23 PUCs [persons under control] at a suspicious residence. CG [commanding general] then received a call from President Karzai saying the ODA had arrested one of his friends/colleagues. Items found at the resident [sic] are outlined in the email. They also include a model of a Boeing 747, ammo, weapons, grenades and a satellite phone. Currently, the CG has asked that the possible colleague of President Karzai not be released until the identity is verified! He will be held in Deh Rawod awaiting disposition and direction from the CG.
In a subsequent email, also first reported by "Crude Politics," the colonel added: "Of course the big question is ... what was he doing in this situation with the model of a Boeing passenger plane?"
To which another officer replied: "Trust me, he ought to be treated like any other dirtbag associated with the bad guys. Guilty by association is guilty!"
After talking to Lt. Gen. Daniel McNeill, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the colonel said: "He wants us to not move the PUCs until he gets to talk to President Karzai. Sounds like a political mess is brewing. OGA [other government agencies] got a call from Karzai who says he is now vouching for the whole group! Sounds like warlord politics. We will take pictures and collect MI [military intelligence] data on the players we have until the disposition is made in the morning here."
As details of the situation moved through the chain of command in Tampa, a senior officer there commented in an email under the subject line "ODA 364 Sweep in Deh Rawod/PUC/Possible President Karzai Colleague Caught in Sweep: "This has the potential to spin through the ceiling. ... We need to track this very closely and build a story board for the SecDef [secretary of defense] prep in the morning."
The Pentagon declined to comment on the incident.
Alhough Karzai has publicly claimed he parted company with the Taliban because they became too radical in their Islamic ideology, his administration, like the brutal Taliban regime before it, has jailed Muslim women who have been raped and abused.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 women and girls are being held in Afghan prisons now for "moral crimes."
Karzai signed a postwar constitution for Afghanistan that enshrines Islamic law and its cruel and unusual punishments of women and non-Muslims.