Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Taliban claim assassination of President Karzai's brother


Ahmed Wali Karzai (right), the half brother of President Hamid Karzai. EPA photo.
The Taliban are claiming credit for the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president and a key power broker in the strategic southern province of Kandahar.
The controversial Ahmed Wali Karzai was gunned down in his office in Kandahar City earlier today by Sardar Mohammed, who has been described as a bodyguard and the commander of security outposts in Karza just south of the provincial capital. Mohammed was conducting a meeting with Ahmed Wali behind closed doors when he pulled out a pistol and shot him in the head. Ahmed Wali died before he could reach the hospital. The assassin was gunned down by Ahmed Wali's bodyguards.
In a statement released on their website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the murder of Ahmed Wali, and said that the assassin "was in contact with Mujahideen."
"The killing of Ahmad Wali Karzai is considered as one of the most successful attacks carried out by Mujahideen since the beginning of Operation Badr," the Taliban claimed. Operation Badr is the Taliban's counteroffensive that is designed to counteract NATO's surge in the Afghan south. One of the goals has been the assassination of key Afghan political and military leaders.
While the assassination of Ahmed Wali could not be confirmed as a Taliban operation, the terror group has successfully executed other high-profile assassinations in the recent past. Since the spring of 2010, the list of those killed in the Taliban's assassination campaign in Kandahar includes the provincial chief of policethe deputy governor of Kandaharthe district chief for Arghandab, and the deputy mayor of Kandahar City.
Ahmed Wali served as the head of the provincial council in Kandahar, and was widely recognized as the government's most powerful man in the key southern province, home to the birthplace of the Taliban. He was a lightning rod for criticism due to his role in the drug trade, his domination of local security companies, and accusations that he provided explosives and other support to the Taliban. Ahmed Wali was also on the CIA's payroll.
In 2009, the US military was critical of Ahmed Wali and sought to have him removed from power. The US ultimately failed, as President Hamid Karzai fiercely protected his half brother and insulated him from efforts to dislodge him from power.
It is unclear what impact Ahmed Wali's assassination will have on the recent security gains in Kandahar and the south.
"He was the number-one man in Kandahar," Mir Wali Khan, a former parliament member from Helmand province who was close to Ahmed Wali and was present at his home at the time of the shooting, told The Associated Press. "We expect now the security of Kandahar will get worse, and the fighting among the tribes will grow stronger and stronger."
Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/07/taliban_claim_assass.php#ixzz1RwqB0Vph


Who will really miss Ahmed Wali Karzai?


A trusted family associate shot Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan president Hamid Karzai's half-brother, multiple times this morning in one of Wali's five Kandahar mansions. While the Taliban have claimed responsibility for his death, there's no reason -- yet -- to think Sardar Mohammed, who was quickly gunned down by Wali Karzai's bodyguards, had any connection to the insurgency.
In a way, AWK, as he was known, was the penultimate Afghan leader: Deeply popular to his followers, hated and feared by everyone else, involved in a number of questionable activities, but utterly essential to the American presence. Rumors abound that he was on the payroll of the CIA, that he ran his own private army, that he was a vital node in monitoring and attacking the insurgency in the country's south. Like Afghanistan itself, AWK was fascinating, dangerous, and tightly controlled Western access to his domain.
While everyone ponders the big questions about AWK's death -- especially those related to his place as a regional security broker -- it's worth considering how the contradictions of his rule in Kandahar played out. He was elected to Kandahar's provincial council in 2005, in one of the few actually democratic and fair elections in the country. AWK zealously defended his people, and among direct recipients of his patronage and support he inspired fierce loyalty.
Whatever his influence as a political stabilizer, though, Ahmed Wali was also an economic and political nightmare. He would, in essence, hold court at his many offices and mansions around Kandahar city, circumventing the "legitimate" government and doling out to his supplicants handfuls of cash everyone whispered were gained through smuggling opium. From a business perspective, AWK was a mafia don, controlling his own business interests with an iron fist and, the rumors go, violently attacking anyone who posed too much competition.
When you combine his violent business activities with his close association with his brother Hamid, it is unsurprising that AWK had a list of enemies as large as the Hindu Kush Mountains. Even if his killer turns out to have very little real association with the Taliban, AWK's death is, in many ways, just the latest in a string of violent acts against Kandahar's prominent leaders.
From the perspective of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), this throws things into disarray. Much like the 32-year old Gen. Abdul Raziq, AWK was beloved of the Americans in particular because of his penchant for getting things done. The Western preference for working through strongmen and thugs probably won't abate even now, which is a real shame.
Ever since the 2007 death of anti-Taliban tribal leader Mullah Naqib, in the Arghandab Valley just north of Kandahar City, the province's leaders have been under the constant threat of death-often from the Taliban, but sometimes from their local rivals. Four years ago, ISAF had the opportunity to start developing the fundamentals of the institutions of government in the area, a system of rule based not on personality or thuggery, but laws, regulations, and structure. They chose, instead, to go through Ahmed Wali Karzai.
When your entire modus operandi is based on friendly local strongmen,you rise and fall on their backs. AWK reaped what he sowed in Kandahar: A vicious rule by thug, gently papered over with the veneer of respectability and Western-friendliness. Among the Americans, his loss is devastating; among the Afghans, he will barely be missed.
Joshua Foust is a fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.netHe blogs about Central Asia at www.registan.net.