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Karzai Brother Strong-Arms Reporter

Ahmed Wali Karzai (right), the president's brother, sits in early April with other members of Kandahar's provincial council.

Ahmed Wali Karzai (right), the president's brother, sits in early April with other members of Kandahar's provincial council.

McClatchy Newspapers correspondent Tom Lasseter has written a scathing piece accusing the powerful brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai of threatening him with physical violence after a little tough questioning. It happened while Lasseter was reporting for the piece "Afghan Drug Trade Thrives With Help, And Neglect, Of Officials."

After Ahmed Wali Karzai casually dismisses an official's claim of his intervention to free "a Taliban commander who'd been arrested in a major drug-trafficking area," Lasseter says the president's brother launches into "a litany of obscenities and [says] he was about to beat me."

"You should leave right now," he said.

I stuck my hand out to shake his; if I learned anything from three years of reporting in Iraq and then trips to Afghanistan during the past couple of years, it's that when things turn bad, you should cling to any remaining shred of hospitality.

Karzai grabbed my hand and used it to give me a bit of a push into the next room. He followed me, and his voice rose until it was a scream of curse words and threats.

I managed to record just one full sentence: "Get the (expletive) out before I kick your (expletive)."

Lasseter says he got the message and high-tailed it out of Kandahar.

Few would argue with the Karzai government's practice of labeling as "enemies of Afghanistan" the militants and other miscreants still targeting ordinary Afghans and the central government with violence.

But now president Karzai's brothers, Kandahar provincial council chairman Ahmed Wali Karzai ("I am just the victim of their politics") and Mahmoud Karzai ("all these attacks and allegations are of a political nature"), have employed similar language to deflect legitimate questions about their activities.

The thing is, it's becoming difficult to avoid the conclusion that there is more than political sniping behind the persistent tumult stemming from the Karzais' entrepreneurial and political activities.

And sure, the timing's bad for the president, whose reelection bid is just months away.

But it's worse for weary Afghans, who desperately need to believe that their situation can improve and that democratic elections are part of the solution.

-- Andy Heil

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