What’s Next for the Family the U.S. Put in Power in Afghanistan?
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
With the coming withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the rule of President Hamid Karzai also will be coming to an end by 2014. But this doesn’t mean Karzai or his family members will be lacking for opportunities in their home country.
Qayum Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, is thinking of running for Afghanistan’s top political post. Some political experts question Qayum Karzai’s chances of succeeding his brother. He does have political experience serving in the Afghan Parliament, but voters may have had enough of the Karzais for a while, especially given the allegations of corruption that have surfaced during Hamid Karzai’s reign.
Other family members intend to focus their energies on making money through Aino Mena, Afghanistan’s largest private residential development. Shah Wali Karzai serves as project manager of Aino Mena, and his brother, Mahmoud Karzai, owns the development company doing the building.
Located outside of Kandahar, the project currently features 3,000 homes, with plans to build a total of 14,700. Critics have claimed the land was illegally taken from the government.
Mahmoud moved to the United States in 1976, and, with Qayum, opened a string of Afghan restaurants. Their half-brother, Ahmed Wali, managed a restaurant in Chicago. Hamid stayed behind in Afghanistan with his father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, who had served as deputy speaker of the national parliament in the 1960s. After the Soviets retreated from the country in 1989, both Hamid and his father served in the new government. But when there was a change of leadership, Hamid was forced to flee to Pakistan.
When the Taliban consolidated power in 1993 and 1994, Hamid supported them and was offered the position of ambassador to the United Nations. However, he saw that the Taliban were heavily influenced by the Pakistani military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and he never joined the Taliban government.
Instead, Hamid Karzai organized against the Taliban, who responded by assassinating his father in 1999. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the CIA and U.S. Special Forces supported Karzai as one of their proxies in the fight against the Taliban. When a leader was needed to serve as interim president in Kabul after the Taliban were driven from power, the U.S. and its allies chose Hamid Karzai. He and his three brothers soon divvied up a growing empire. Mahmoud was the businessman; Ahmed Wali took charge of Kandahar; and Qayum was satisfied with being the advisor behind the throne.
Relying on the family’s support from the Bush administration, Ahmed Wali gained control of the distribution of aid from NGOs, and soon took effective control of not just the security industry, but also the real estate and transportation sectors of the Kandahar economy. He was murdered by one of his bodyguards on July 12, 2011, an incident that is thought to have triggered the current internecine battle for power.
-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
Intrigue in Karzai Family as an Afghan Era Closes (by James Risen, New York Times)
Is the U.S. Supporting a Family of Karzai Crooks in Afghanistan? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Karzai Family Inc. in Afghanistan (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
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