Afghan President’s Slain Brother a Controversial Power Broker

Posted July 12th, 2011 at 6:40 pm (UTC-5)
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The younger half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai was considered the most powerful figure in the southern province of Kandahar — the birthplace of the Taliban.

Ahmad Wali Karzai's role as chief of the Kandahar provincial council was largely consultative, but his power came from his tribal and family connections, as well as the wealth he accumulated. People would line up every day to seek Wali Karzai's advice and support on business matters, political dealings and tribal disputes.

But the source of his wealth and power fueled the controversy surrounding Wali Karzai. He was seen as a key power broker in the region and an ally of the international forces fighting the Taliban. But Wali Karzai was also accused of corruption and drug trafficking, as well as of being involved in a massive voter fraud in 2009 to help President Karzai win re-election to a second term. Other reports put him on the CIA's payroll — allegations he denied.

For the last several years, President Karzai had relied on his brother to help maintain support among his ethnic Pashtun community in the south. The United States and other Western nations also relied on Wali Karzai and his influence in Kandahar, where international troops were working to clear insurgent strongholds.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai strongly defended his paternal half- brother against any criticism. Both men returned to Afghanistan from the United States after the Taliban-led government was ousted by U.S. forces in 2001.

Wali Karzai was born in 1961 and had five children. He survived several assassination attempts before his death on Tuesday.

His death comes as U.S. and coalition troops begin to draw down combat troops from Afghanistan. The U.S. troop withdrawal is scheduled to be completed in 2014, the same year Hamid Karzai's second term as president expires.