Payoffs To Karzai’s Cronies Continue To Backfire

Story Tools: Email This Story
Example ignored: Sabet pocketed foreigners' cash while corruption and smuggling soared

U.S. and NATO officials can hardly feign surprise at revelations that an alleged fraudster within President Hamid Karzai’s inner circle has been on the C.I.A.'s payroll.

Witness our report from April of 2007: “On Her Majesty’s Service - And Blowing It,” republished below, exploring the West’s complicity in the breakdown of policing and customs controls at Kabul Airport.

Not coincidentally, the airport is the focus of the current standoff between U.S.-backed Afghan investigators and Karzai, who is reportedly obstructing a probe of one of his senior aides in the New Ansari currency smuggling and bribery affair.

The trafficking of heroin, cash and other contraband surged at Kabul Airport following the mysterious interventions in late 2006 by Karzai’s former Attorney General, Abdul Jabar Sabet.

Western powers deserve much of the blame for the consequences.

American and British officials championed Sabet’s installation in 2006 and ridiculously described the mercurial lawman to Western journalists as “a crimefighter’s crimefighter."

Sabet abused the powers of his office so outrageously that even Karzai blanched. The president finally fired his accident-prone legal Rasputin in July, 2008.

At first Sabet threatened to tell all. He was placed under criminal investigation by his successor, but Karzai intervened and Sabet went free. He even staged his own bizarre bid for Karzai’s job in last year’s fraud-ridden election.

Sabet dropped out of the race, but not before inexplicably gaining the means to retire to Nangahar province with a retinue of militiamen to protect him.

From page 38 of Recent Stories, and first published on April 25, 2007, “On Her Majesty’s Service – And Blowing It”...

TODAY can reveal a possible explanation for the rash excesses of Hamid Karzai’s Attorney General.

For at least two years, Abdul Jabar Sabet allegedly has been issued monthly payments by Britain’s foreign intelligence service, MI6, according to two sources currently working within Afghanistan’s national security services.

In the context of the Karzai government, this situation is less exotic than it might sound.

Over decades of conflict, many of the figures in President Karzai’s cabinet and circle of advisors have developed links with various of the spy agencies currently crawling through Kabul’s underworld, notably those of the U.S., Britain, Russia, Iran, China and Pakistan. And Australia, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The list goes on.

One of the sources claiming Sabet’s British connection, a national police official, claims to have heard the Attorney General boast of his sideline to a subordinate. Both sources insist their names be withheld due to fear of reproach by other elements of the Karzai government’s National Directorate of Security.

Sabet could not be reached for comment. He has shunned requests for interviews since ordering last week’s raid by 50 armed policemen of Afghanistan’s leading independent station, Tolo TV.

Significantly, British officials both in London and Kabul have been mute about the raid, a marked contrast to immediate demands from the United Nations that the Karzai government cease “unlawful physical intervention” against the media.

Echoing the sounds of silence from the British, there has been no comment at all from U.S. and Canadian officials. Sabet owes his current position to lobbying by U.S. Justice Department advisors, and since 2001 he has claimed to be a Canadian citizen.

As skyreporter has previously reported, he collected welfare in Montreal, and returned to Kabul with empty pockets in 2003 to take up a poorly paid lawyer’s position in the Interior Ministry. Today, he is developing a prime housing site in Kabul’s Wazirpoor district (aka Bigshot-ville) and is able to summon crowds of anti-media protestors, some of whom have confessed to promises of payment for their services.

As recently as March 25 of this year, Britain’s Attorney General Lord Goldsmith appeared in a joint news conference in Kabul, side by side with his Afghan counterpart – despite Sabet’s role in the ongoing Kabul Airport heroin trafficking scandal, and his mounting notoriety as a brusque and bungling prosecutor.

Observers say that Goldsmith’s ill-advised decision to appear with Sabet in public is the result of the chronic inability of British and U.S. intelligence agencies to understand the complexities of Afghan politics, and the dangerous personalities inhabiting its darker regions.

“They’re misjudging the culture, as well as background loyalties and double-dealing,” says a seasoned U.S. Congressional investigator critical of “rental” plants in high office.

"We just never learn:  the more senior the official, the more willing he is to take money, then the less reliable he'll be. Call it ‘Warlord 101.’ We just keep skipping that class. We always go with the guy who speaks good English and tells us what we want to hear."

Sabet speaks fluent English.

He made his first mark on the Afghan political scene in the late 1980’s as an aide to arch-fundamentalist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, now one of Washington’s most lethal and intractable foes.

Ironically, in the late 1980’s, Britain’s MI6 had Hekmatyar and his people correctly pegged as the most disruptive and treacherous elements of the fractious alliance of Afghan resistance parties. This reporter recalls specifically discussing Sabet with the then-MI6 officer assigned to Peshawar, Pakistan, the base of Afghan mujahideen operations against the Soviets.

The Americans were slow to come around, but finally in 1992 State Department officials blocked Sabet’s attempt to resume employment and residency in Washington D.C. for the Voice of America, where he had previously worked.

Perversely, that rejection was reversed to help Sabet gain access to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, where he gave the Pentagon facility rave reviews last year in return for a U.S. boost up the career ladder.

Though a bully by nature and possessed of a volcanic temper, Sabet is a cunning survivor – and a practiced con artist. Witness his ability to gain entry into Canada in the late 1990’s under “Convention Refugee” status, and later to obtain permanent residency. But far from being a refugee, Sabet was a discredited former counsellor to an infamous Afghan extremist, who had been denied residency in the U.S.

Canadian Immigration Officials - and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office - steadfastly refuse to answer questions about Sabet, specifically whether the terms of his original application to enter Canada constituted material misrepresentation, thereby subject to a possible exclusion order.

Could Sabet be thrown out of one country, as he wreaks legal havoc in another - while working part-time for a third?

Editor’s Note: When Sabet was fired, he found temporary sanctuary with the Bush-era Justice Department officials who had helped win his appointment as AG.

See “Shamed Lawman Begs Karzai To Drop Criminal Investigation” and “U.S. Officials Shield Accused Kabul Crony From Justice” on page 11 of Recent Stories.

© 2007 Home About The Book Archives On The Record Contact