Brother's murder huge setback for Karzai, US

The younger Karzai’s reputation was unsavoury, but he was the Americans' man in Kandahar.


Afp July 12, 2011

KABUL: He may have been an embarrassment to the Americans and his brother, the Afghan president, but Ahmed Wali Karzai was the deal-maker on whom they counted to stand against the Taliban in its spiritual home.

Analysts said his assassination on Tuesday represents a political as well as personal setback for President Hamid Karzai and could threaten gains made in southern Afghanistan by tens of thousands of US troops.

Dogged by allegations of corruption and drugs links and reported to have been on the CIA payroll, the younger Karzai’s reputation was unsavoury, but he was the Americans' man in Kandahar, perhaps the toughest battlefield in 10 years of war and the focus of a troop surge last year.

The staggering account of his murder at home, at the hands of a man who seemingly used to be responsible for protecting him, and whom the Taliban claim to have turned, also shows that no one is safe in today's Afghanistan.

It exposes security failures just weeks after US President Barack Obama said sending tens of thousands of extra American troops into battle had been successful enough for 33,000 soldiers to come home by the end of next summer.

"He was a paradoxical figure and his death certainly will shake up US perceptions (among the public) of the failure of the surge in Kandahar," said Candace Rondeaux, Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group.

A man with perhaps more enemies than friends, to his detractors he was an obstacle to progress but to his supporters, an important guarantor of security as Afghanistan prepares to move towards greater responsibility for its own security.

"The fundamental point is that Hamid Karzai has never been more vulnerable, never been more exposed, should serve as a warning sign that transition has got to be managed more carefully that it has been right now," Rondeaux said.

"In the long term it certainly will see a real possibility of government forces using this as an opportunity to seek revenge against those responsible which would result in more instability in Kandahar."

Thomas Ruttig, from the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said his demise was a loss for the Americans, who relied on his support for their counter-insurgency campaign, and warned of a damaging power struggle to replace him.

"Symbolically it's extremely important because it shows that someone can hit in his own house in the heart of the system down there, which is very well protected," Ruttig told AFP.

"Who did it, is a completely different question. Could be personal revenge. Could be revenge for killings done by his fighters. Could be something in the family, could be Taliban. There are too many candidates."

Afghan political analyst Haroun Mir warned that the assassination could undermine plans to transition seven areas to the control of Afghan security forces, a process which had been due to start this month and finish in 2014.

"We need strong leaders in Afghanistan, at least local leaders, (who) would be able to take responsibility, political responsibility. Now these people are (being) killed and we will not be able to replace them and it will create an opportunity for Taliban to return and undermine security in Kandahar." Mir said.

Western officials have privately expressed doubt about Afghanistan's ability to manage security affairs, with question marks hanging over literacy, retention and corruption within the local police and army.

"His assassination certainly creates an atmosphere of mistrust and even for president Karzai it becomes very risky because he does not know who to trust and who to rely on his own security," said Mir.

In neighbouring Pakistan, concerns were also rising about the possible implications for a political settlement in Afghanistan at a time when its own relations with the United States are at an all-time low.

"Taliban have claimed responsibility for Wali Karzai's murder and if it is so, it will seriously hamper Hamid Karzai's peace and reconciliation efforts," said Afghanistan expert Rahimullah Yusufzai.

"It is also a big loss for NATO, which needs friends and allies in whole of Afghanistan's southwest. The military alliance had an access to Hamid Karzai through Wali, who was a very influential politician."

COMMENTS (2)

Vortex | 10 years ago | Reply

Hmmm . . . writing is on the wall for . . . dare I say it . . .? Well, the whole country knows who!

Prince Shahryar Rana | 10 years ago | Reply

Security situation need to be reassessed.

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