December 12, 2012

The Many Faces of Afghanistan's Spy Chief

Overview of the shadowy side of Asadullah Khalid, head of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS):
For those that know him best, Asadullah Khalid has always been "a man of action."

His reputation for "assertiveness" has ingratiated the head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) - the Afghan intelligence agency - with some of the most powerful figures in the nation.
But Khalid's literally hands-on methods have also earned him powerful enemies abroad and a reputation for ruthlessness. He has been accused of assassinations, torture, and drug-dealing as governor of Ghazni and Kandahar provinces.

Despite the allegations, Khalid is a favourite among Afghan President Hamid Karzai's inner circle. So it came as little surprise when Karzai rushed to a Kabul hospital to visit his spy chief hours after a December 6 suicide attack wounded him.

The assailant pretended to be a "messenger of peace and negotation from the Taliban side" before detonating explosives hidden in his underwear at a government guesthouse, an intelligence agency spokesman said. Khalid survived and is now in a US-run military hospital, though the seriousness of his wounds remains unclear.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, the fifth attempt on Khalid's life in five years.
"Karzai was in shock. His reaction was the same as when he got the news about Ahmad Wali," a high-ranking cabinet official said, referring to the July 2011 assassination of the president's half-brother, who was close to Khalid.

That closeness earned Khalid the respect of the elder Karzai, who named him Afghanistan's intelligence chief in September.

Wahid Monawar, former permanent representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations in Vienna, described Khalid as genuinely loyal to the president, a rare trait that earned the 42-year-old many high-level posts, including governor of Kandahar province.

Karzai's man

Three high-level officials spoke to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, all citing a fear of offending Khalid and his powerful allies.
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