American rift with Karzai worsens over 'drug-dealer' ally

US envoy's row with Afghan president tests fraying relationship further

The United States may refuse a visa to Hamid Karzai's running mate in the election because of his alleged links with the drug trade.

Muhammed Fahim, due to become vice-president if Mr Karzai wins, has been accused by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of being involved in opium trafficking. American officials say this could make it legally impossible to let him enter the US.

The controversy over Mr Fahim, defence minister in Mr Karzai's last government, is yet another sign of rising tension between Washington and the incumbent president.

The Independent revealed this week how Richard Holbrooke, the American envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, clashed with Mr Karzai over his choice of electoral allies, such as Mr Fahim and the warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum. He also claimed the president's team had engaged in ballot fraud.

Mr Karzai is said to have walked out of the meeting after 20 minutes after Mr Holbrooke suggested that a second round of voting would be necessary to alleviate public scepticism over the probity of the election. The US envoy subsequently spent three hours in talks with the rival presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah.

The growing antagonism between Mr Karzai and the West is mutual. The Afghan President is said to have been deeply unhappy at the "patronising" tone taken by Mr Holbrooke and is said to be preparing himself for a lecture by a senior British politician who is due in the country. A supporter of Mr Karzai, who has flown over from America to help with the campaign, said: "It could be useful, perhaps he can tell Afghan MPs how to maximise their expenses."

There is also a future confrontation in the making with Britain after the election over the Helmand governor, Gulab Mangal, who is backed by London. Mr Karzai had in the past planned to replace him with Sher Mohammed Akhunzadi, a former holder of the post, who has been accused of corruption and human rights abuses.

The UK has so far managed to protect Mr Mangal. But another governor favoured by Britain, Engineer Daoud, was removed by the Afghan president who is said to want to reward Mr Akhunzada for delivering votes in Helmand. Similarly, Mr Karzai needs the support of Mr Fahim and General Dostum, with their northern power bases, to counter Dr Abdullah, who is of Tajik and Pashtun descent, and is dependant on voters in the north of the country.

Barack Obama has stated that General Dostum should be investigated for his part in the deaths of thousands of Taliban prisoners after the 2001 war. However, it is the position of Mr Fahim which poses the biggest problem for the United States.

The former Northern Alliance commander was intimately involved with the CIA in the campaign against the Taliban, and became defence minister when Mr Karzai came to power. But reports began to circulate that he was using his position in his capacity as an opium poppy trafficker and the State Department at one point warned the Pentagon that it may be illegal to channel military aid through him. However, the warning was ignored and Mr Fahim continued to meet senior US officials such as the then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Lt-Gen Karl Eckenberry in charge of military assistance to the new Afghan army.

However the Obama administration has deliberately taken a tougher stance towards Mr Karzai compared to that adopted by the White House under George W Bush. The new US position makes little secret of its displeasure at the Afghan leader surrounding himself with figures with tainted reputations including his brother, Walid, who is accused of being involved in the drug trade.

One US official said: "It was difficult enough with Fahim being defence minister, but it would be even more problematic if and when he becomes vice-president. We'll have a situation of American soldiers fighting, and dying, for a country whose second most powerful man is a narco-suspect. There are government reports accusing him of trafficking. How can you let such a man into the States? He can end up facing charges."

Supporters of Mr Karzai insist that the allegations against Mr Fahim and Walid Karzai are politically motivated. They also complain that Western officials and the media have concentrated on malpractices by the Karzai camp in the election when there has been widespread voting fraud in the northern region by Dr Abdullah's team.

This was backed by another candidate, Ramzan Bashardost, who commented: "Let us not kid ourselves, Abdullah Abdullah's people were also involved in illegal activities, it just happened in a different part of the country."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing