News / Asia

Half-Brother's Death Deals Blow to Afghan President

Ahmad Wali Karzai, half-brother of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar, Afghanistan, April 14, 2010 (file photo)
Ahmad Wali Karzai, half-brother of Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar, Afghanistan, April 14, 2010 (file photo)

The killing of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother has removed a key power broker from the Afghan political scene.  Ahmad Wali Karzai was the most powerful figure in Kandahar province, a hotbed of insurgent activity. His death is seen as a severe blow to the power base of President Karzai.

Ahmad Wali Karzai was head of the Kandahar provincial council, but had far more power than the provincial governor.  He wielded both economic and political clout on behalf of himself and his half-brother, President Hamid Karzai, in the midst of the Taliban insurgency.  

Ambassador Simon Gass, NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, says Wali Karzai’s death is a severe political and personal blow to the Afghan president.

"Well, obviously Ahmad Wali Karzai was a really heavy hitter, particularly in Kandahar politics.  He was the president’s brother, and the loss of him will be a tremendous blow to the president in personal terms.  In political terms, there certainly will be a space created in Kandahar politics.  But the president has many supporters in that city, not just one, and I’m sure that he’ll be resilient and bounce back from that," Gass said.

Larry Goodson of the U.S. Army War College says Wali Karzai’s death deprives the president of a key ally who could deliver votes in elections and mobilize the ethnic Pashtun constituency.

"His ability - no matter how unsavory and so forth he might have been in regard to some of the activities he was reputed to have engaged in - his ability to deliver the south for (Hamid) Karzai and this region that is sort of the hotbed of anti-Karzai resistance was critical.  And that’s going to be gone," Goodson said.

Offering his personal assessment, Goodson says he believes President Karzai has been looking for ways to stay in office.  The president’s second term expires in 2014 - the year the U.S. troop withdrawal is scheduled to finish - and by law he cannot seek a third term.  Goodson says Wali Karzai’s death will have what he terms an “enormous impact” on his half-brother’s plan to cling to power by amending the constitution or some other means.

"I think (Hamid) Karzai’s plan all along has been to find a way to get beyond the constitutional limit on two terms.  He’s been looking for a way to alter the constitutional requirement and maintain his position.  And Ahmad Wali’s ability to be a power broker in the volatile center of the insurgency region was critical to his efforts to do that," Goodson said.

But some analysts believe his death actually removes an irritant for the president. No longer will he have to answer the complaints from some Western diplomats about his half-brother’s behavior.

Wali Karzai was held up by many Western diplomats as the prime example of the corruption in Afghanistan.  One former U.S. official with extensive experience in Afghanistan, who asked not to be named, said that whether true or not, everyone in Afghanistan believed Wali Karzai to be, as he put it, “a criminal, drug smuggler, thief, and a thug.” He held court like some medieval potentate, reports say, receiving diplomats and generals.  He was dogged by allegations of corruption and involvement in the drug trade, charges he repeatedly denied.  He was also alleged to be on the payroll of the CIA, which he also denied.

Whatever he actually was, Afghans are bracing for what comes next in Kandahar.  Larry Goodson says it will be messy.

"I think what’s more likely to happen is there’s going to be a power struggle between various claimants to the throne in Kandahar.  And the Taliban are going to be involved in trying to manipulate the outcome. And it’s probably going to be bloody.  And the opportunity for increased corruption in the south is going to be there as people try to influence the outcome of that struggle.  So I think that in the short and medium term, it’s likely to be really bad," Goodson said.

And the Taliban remain active in Kandhar.  NATO Ambassador Simon Gass says the assassination of Wali Karzai - if it was indeed a Taliban killing, as they claim - is a sign of desperation.

"I do think that the policy of the insurgents now targeting senior Afghan leaders is really a self-defeating policy.  Partly, of course, it reflects the fact that the insurgents are having such little success on the battlefield that they’re resorting more and more to attacks against individuals, and also a few spectacular and complex attacks against particular cities," Gass said.

Much of the U.S. troop surge ordered last year by the Obama administration was focused on Kandahar.  Analysts voice concern that the NATO forces in the province could get caught in the middle of bloody contest to fill the power vacuum created by Ahmad Wali Karzai's death.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs