AC: "I would be more shocked if you weren't paying Karzai's brother."
John King fills in for Ancerson Cooper and has a panel discussion about today's bombings as well as The New York Times' article revealing that Harmid Karzai's brother (whom Michael reported on last month) is on the CIA's payroll. The panel is Michael, David Gergen, and former CIA agent Bob Baer, who now works for Time.
JOHN KING: In Pakistan, a car bomb ripped through a busy market in Peshawar, killing at least 100 people. It was the deadliest attack in two years, and it happened just hours after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the country.
Across the border in Afghanistan, the Taliban claiming responsibility for an attack that killed five United Nations workers this morning. The U.N. is helping with the runoff presidential election ten days from now.
Meantime, new questions about the Afghan president's brother, a reputed drug lord. "The New York Times" is reporting he's received regular payments from the CIA for years. Should we be surprised?
Bob Baer is an intelligence analyst at Time.com and a former CIA agent. He wrote about this today, and he joins me today, along with Michael Ware and CNN political analyst David Gergen.
So David, to you first, the president's brother, a reputed drug warlord, that part's not new. It's always been a source of controversy. Perhaps on the CIA payroll. How much does this complicate things at this very incredibly delicate moment?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It sure doesn't help President Obama, does it? You know, there are going to be a lot of Americans, John, I think, who are going to say, after reading that, why in the devil should we spend one more American life saving the Karzai brothers, brothers in corruption? Why should we do that? Let's just -- let's screw it, the hell with it.
But, you know, so the president, I think, cannot take that view. I think there are a lot of people, but I'm sure Michael would say, why are we surprised? Of course we're paying out people.
MICHAEL WARE: I would be more shocked if you weren't paying Karzai's brother.
GERGEN: I mean, to a considerable extent in a lot of these wars, we pay -- we try to pay our way out, rather than spending American lives.
KING: But American taxpayer dollars, CIA money going to pay off a guy who's not only the president's brother, but if he's a drug warlord, isn't he somehow killing Americans, young Americans with heroin?
WARE: Do you think he's the first drug lord in Afghanistan who's been on the U.S. government payroll? I mean, there's one -- there's one of them in jail here in New York, the head of the Norzoi (ph) tribe, which is much bigger than the Afghan president's tribe in Kandahar. He cut a deal with the CIA back in January 2002. When that went -- failed, they busted him for drugs. He's now in a federal prison.
GERGEN: But John, I think the point the president and the White House has to come back to is they've got to come -- and they've got to come away from their tentativeness and get off this thing and come out very squarely what they want to do.
But the point is, we're not there to save the Karzais. They're there to prevent terrorism here in the United States. And what we do know is that most of the big terror plots that have been broken here in the last few years have their roots back in al Qaeda, and they have many of their roots back in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's been true here, and it's been true in Europe.
KING: Bob, come into the conversation. As you do, address this Text 360 question. It's from Jane here in New York. She wrote, "How bad is this for President Karzai? Can't be good news for a man who's struggling to maintain his family's independence from the United States since he took office."
BOB BAER, INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Oh, it's terrible news. I -- one, I think it's true that he is on the CIA payroll. This has been out there for a while. "The New York Times" reported it for the first time yesterday.
But what it does is it identifies Karzai, essentially, as an American agent, which is about the worst thing that could happen to him now. Even if he wins the runoff, he's going to be tainted by this. And the chance he's going to pick up any energy or direction in the next couple of years is virtually impossible. We have nobody to fall back on in that country.
KING: And let's broaden the conversation a bit. The president today signed a defense spending bill, the authorization bill, gives the money to the Pentagon. In there, there's money, Michael, that could be possibly used like it was in Iraq. If there's Taliban who want to come back over, essentially, you buy off the enemy a little bit. It was done with the awakening in Iraq. Is it apples and apples?
WARE: None of that's new. None of that's new. There's been a reconciliation program for the Taliban under way for some time. And on the ground, you go to the reconciliation officer, they've got no money, no staff. It's an absolute, laudable joke. What isn't such a joke and where that money may become more useful is not so much buying off Taliban, card carrying, per se, but buying off the tribes. You turned the Sunni insurgents against al Qaeda in Iraq. You put 103,000 men who were killing Americans on the U.S. government payroll. The insurgency stopped, al Qaeda died.
You can do the same in Afghanistan. Much more complicated and much more plotted minefield to tread. Nonetheless, Karzai's brother is already running the pilot program with these tribes down in Kandahar. They're calling it the local national protectors program.
GERGEN: I don't think there's any doubt that both these brothers are corrupt. I think that's clear cut.
I think what's important to understand is when we went in the first time back in 2001, the U.S. military thought, "We don't want to keep a whole lot of troops here." And so they eventually pulled back, kept the numbers very small. And in order to keep the thing in good hands. They paid off a lot of people. They started buying off. That's when Karzai went on the payroll of the CIA, because they were buying off a lot of people.
It's been a standard American practice. When we can, we want to buy our way out of a problem than fight our way out of a problem.
WARE: You think the Pakistanis, the Iranians, the Chinese, everyone else isn't doing the same thing?
GERGEN: Absolutely. It is part of the dark underbelly of international politics.
BAER: You can't buy off the Afghans. This isn't Iraq. I mean, the Soviets tried it for eight years. And we bought off more of them than they bought off of communists in that country. And it's not going to work. This is not Iraq; it's not going to work.
We are facing a war of national liberation, and we don't have many cards in our hand.
KING: Let's talk -- let's end this conversation on this point. Because we're waiting to see how many more troops, if more troops, the president will give General McChrystal. He has wanted to adopt this different strategy to, you know, come out of the mountains and protect the cities, essentially protect the Afghan people. Don't go out there looking and searching for insurgents and Taliban.
Is that the right approach?
WARE: Well, we were discussing this just earlier. I mean you know, so technically, you're surrendering the villages, so to speak, and taking the cities. Well, what are you really giving up?
You don't control the countryside. You've barely got a, you know -- you're hanging on by your fingernails as it is. You don't have enough troops. You don't have enough friends. You don't have enough allies. You haven't got the support of the local people, who are so disenchanted with everything, that really, what would you be giving up?
GERGEN: I think it's very important whether you also protect the highways that connect up some of these cities, and you also protect some of the agriculture areas. If you only go into the cities, and keep people in their barracks, we learned in Iraq, that's not going to work. And we would be conceding large parts of Afghanistan to terrorists.
And I think a lot of people in Pakistan would be demoralized by that. The whole push -- we've been encouraging them to go after the Taliban in Pakistan, and we can see from today's explosions, this is getting very rough on all sides.
KING: And connect, though...
BAER: The problem is, we're running a risk of going to war with the Pashtuns. Because right now, Pakistan's at war with the Pashtuns in South Waziristan. We're against the war with Pashtun in Zabul and other provinces on the border. And we're going to get a big mess if we don't change course, and it's got to be more than just protecting the cities. We have to really change the politics.
KING: Bob Baer, Michael Ware, David Gergen, thanks so much. We'll keep on top of this one. Big decisions for the president. It's obviously a messy and delicate time. Gentlemen, thank you so much.