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On Ahmed Wali Karzai

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Ahmed Wali Karzai

Foreign Policy writes:

A trusted family associate shot Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s half-brother, multiple times this morning in one of Wali’s five Kandahar mansions. While the Taliban have claimed responsibility for his death, there’s no reason — yet — to think Sardar Mohammed, who was quickly gunned down by Wali Karzai’s bodyguards, had any connection to the insurgency.

In a way, AWK, as he was known, was the penultimate Afghan leader: Deeply popular to his followers, hated and feared by everyone else, involved in a number of questionable activities, but utterly essential to the American presence. Rumors abound that he was on the payroll of the CIA, that he ran his own private army, that he was a vital node in monitoring and attacking the insurgency in the country’s south. Like Afghanistan itself, AWK was fascinating, dangerous, and tightly controlled Western access to his domain.

Whatever his influence as a political stabilizer, though, Ahmed Wali was also an economic and political nightmare. He would, in essence, hold court at his many offices and mansions around Kandahar city, circumventing the “legitimate” government and doling out to his supplicants handfuls of cash everyone whispered were gained through smuggling opium. From a business perspective, AWK was a mafia don, controlling his own business interests with an iron fist and, the rumors go, violently attacking anyone who posed too much competition.

When your entire modus operandi is based on friendly local strongmen,you rise and fall on their backs. AWK reaped what he sowed in Kandahar: A vicious rule by thug, gently papered over with the veneer of respectability and Western-friendliness. Among the Americans, his loss is devastating; among the Afghans, he will barely be missed.


Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 13, 2011 at 4:38 am

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