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The Brothers Karzai


President Hamid Karzai has held unrivaled status in Afghanistan since the UN-backed Bonn agreement put him atop an interim administration to succeed the unrecognized Taliban regime in late 2001.

But even before the July 12 assassination of younger brother Ahmad Wali Karzai, the former anti-Soviet mujahedin wasn't the only Karzai in the headlines. He is one of eight siblings, seven brothers and one sister. Here's more from publicly available sources on three of the more prominent brothers:

Ahmad Wali Karzai (left) with Afghan President Hamid Karzai (right) in Kandahar Province in October 2010
Ahmad Wali Karzai, who was killed by an assassin's bullets at his Kandahar home on July 12, had emerged as a powerful figure in a part of the country that's seen as crucial to the success of the central government and international counterterrorism efforts. In a reference to the U.S. House speaker, Ahmad Wali Karzai famously dubbed himself "the Nancy Pelosi of Kandahar" to portray himself as a key "local politician and negotiator" who might serve as a "bridge between the people and the governor and the coalition."

But his oversized role in Kandahar posed a dilemma in the eyes of detractors -- reportedly including some international officials -- who thought his activities overshadowed officials with more transparent lines of accountability.

Ahmad Wali Karzai rejected characterizations that he was "a warlord" who dealt in drugs and corruption as politically motivated attacks, and shrugged off reports that he was a CIA operative (also here and here). A McClatchy reporter recounted how he'd been thrown out after a tense exchange over narcotrafficking and other allegations.

Mahmood Karzai in Kabul in March 2009
Another brother, the elder Mahmood Karzai, is a former restaurateur in the United States who returned to Afghanistan after the U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban in 2001. He has since become a major business figure in Kabul in large part by leveraging his ties to the president, according to critics. Corruption allegations have similarly dogged Mahmood Karzai, including over a massive real-estate development on what some say is army land as well as his role in the spectacular failure of the country's largest commercial bank, KabulBank. He also deals in Toyota vehicles and cement. Suspicions of wrongdoing by Mahmood Karzai, who remains a U.S. citizen, prompted an American investigation into alleged corruption that never resulted in charges. Mahmood Karzai has dismissed accusations against him as politically motivated.

Abdul Qayum Karzai is another of the president's older brothers, the owner of a restaurant in the United States and a former deputy in the People's Council (Wolesi Jirga), the lower house of the Afghan National Assembly. Reports suggest that Abdul Qayum Karzai was engaged in shuttle diplomacy with Saudi Arabia in a covert government effort to bring Taliban militants to the negotiating table dating back to at least 2008.

-- Andy Heil
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