- Ḥāmid Karzay
; born 24 December 1957)
is the 12th
President of Afghanistan
taking office on December 7, 2004. He became a dominant political
figure after the removal of the Taliban
government in late 2001. During the Bonn
Conference in Germany, on December 5, 2001, Karzai was selected by
prominent Afghan political
figures to serve a six months term as Chairman of the Transitional
Administration. He was then chosen for a two years term as
the Interim President during the 2002 Loya
Jirga in Kabul, Afghanistan. After the 2004 presidential
election, Karzai won and became President of the Islamic Republic of
then won the 2009
after his opponent withdrew from the
Early years and personal life
Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun of the
Popalzai tribe, was born in the village of Karz, which is
located on the edge of Kandahar
City in southern Afghanistan.
His grandfather, Khair Mohammad Khan, had
served in the 1919 Afghanistan’s
war of independence
and as the Deputy Speaker of the Senate
family were strong supporters of the former Afghan King, Zahir Shah
. His father, Abdul Ahad Karzai
, served as the Deputy Speaker of the
during the 1960s. Hamid Karzai attended Mahmood Hotaki
Elementary School in
Kandahar and Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan School in Kabul. He graduated from
School in 1976.
to 1983, Karzai took a postgraduate course in political science at Himachal Pradesh University in
After obtaining his Master’s
in India he returned to work as a fund-raiser by
supporting anti-Soviet Mujahideen
Afghanistan during the Soviet
for the rest of the 1980s. When Najibullah
's Soviet-backed government fell in
1992, Karzai served as Deputy Foreign Minister in the government of
Hamid Karzai married Zeenat Quraishi
Karzai, an obstetrician by
profession who was working as a doctor with Afghan refugees living in Pakistan.
They have a son, Mirwais Karzai, who was
born in 2007.
Karzai has six brothers, including Mahmoud Karzai
, Ahmed Wali Karzai
one sister Fauzia Karzai
. He is well
versed in several languages, including his mother-tongue Pashto
, as well as Persian
. He is often seen wearing a Karakul hat
, something that has been worn by
many Afghan kings in the past.
Soviet war in Afghanistan
Karzai was involved in helping to provide financial and military
support for the Mujahideen
1980s Soviet war in
. The Mujahideen were secretly supplied and funded
by the United States, and Karzai was a contact for the U.S.
at the time.
While Karzai's brothers immigrated to the United States, Hamid
Karzai remained in Pakistan during the Soviet occupation. He
accompanied the first Mujahideen leaders into Kabul in 1992
following the Soviet withdrawal.
When the Taliban
emerged in the mid 1990s,
Karzai, like many other Afghans, supported them, because he saw
them as a force that could finally end the violence and corruption
in his country. However, he later broke with them and refused to
serve as their ambassador to the United
, telling friends he felt the Inter-Services Intelligence
(ISI) was wrongly using them. On the other hand, Karzai recently
stated that "there were many wonderful people in the Taliban." He
was possibly refering to the moderate footsoldiers who were not
involved in politics.
lived in exile in Quetta, Pakistan,
where he worked to reinstate the former Afghan king, Zahir Shah.
On the morning of
July 14, 1999, Karzai's father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, was gunned down
as he was coming home from a mosque in the city of Quetta. Reports
suggest that the Taliban carried out the assassination
. Hamid Karzai worked closely
with Ahmad Shah Massoud
to help gather support for the anti-Taliban movement. In an
interview in February 2005, Karzai criticised the role the United
States played in empowering the Taliban to take control in
Afghanistan. He claimed that he spent many years before the
September 11, 2001, attacks
USA warning embassies about the threat, but that the West
failed to respond, describing it as an
act of "neglect, selfishness and short-sightedness."
U.S. military was
preparing for a confrontation with the Taliban in September 2001,
Karzai began urging NATO nations to
purge his country of Al-Qaeda.
, together with their foreign
supporters and the Taliban, destroyed miles and miles of homes and
orchards and vineyards," he told BBC. "They have killed Afghans
. They have trained their
guns on Afghan lives... We want them out."
Chairman to Interim President of Afghanistan
After the October 7
, 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom
loyal to the Northern
and other groups worked with the US military to
overthrow the Taliban and muster support for a new government in
Afghanistan. Karzai and his group were in Quetta, Pakistan, where
they began their covert operation. At this stage he warned his
fighters by stating:In October 2001, Hamid Karzai and his group of
fighters survived a US friendly fire
missile attack in southern Afghanistan. The group suffered injuries
and was treated in the United States; Karzai received injuries to
his facial nerves as can sometimes be noticed during his speeches.
On November 4, 2001, American forces flew Karzai out of Afghanistan
December 2001, political leaders gathered in Germany to agree on
new leadership structures.
Under the December 5 Bonn Agreement
they formed an
interim Transitional Administration and named Karzai Chairman of a
29-member governing committee. He was sworn in as leader on
. The Loya Jirga
of June 13, 2002, appointed Karzai
Interim holder of the new position as President of the Afghan
.Former members of the Northern
Alliance remained extremely influential, most notably Vice
President Mohammed Fahim
, who also
served as Defense Minister.
Karzai was installed into power, his actual authority outside the
capital city of Kabul was said to
be so limited that he was often derided as the "Mayor of
The situation was particularly delicate since Karzai
and his administration have not been equipped either financially or
politically to influence reforms outside of the region around the
capital city of Kabul. Other areas, particularly the more remote
ones, are currently and have historically been under the influence
of various local leaders. Karzai has been, to varying degrees of
success, attempting to negotiate and form amicable alliances with
them for the benefit of Afghanistan as a whole, instead of
aggressively fighting them and risking an uprising.
In 2004 he rejected a US proposal to end poppy
production in Afghanistan through aerial spraying of chemical
, fearing that it would harm the
economic situation of his countrymen. Moreover, Karzai's younger
brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai – who partially helped finance
Karzai's presidential campaign – was rumored to be involved in
deals. Karzai said that he has
sought in writing a number of times, but failed to obtain, U.S.
proof of allegations that Ahmed Wali is involved in illegal
2004 presidential election
When Karzai was a candidate in the October 9, 2004, presidential election
won 21 of the 34 provinces
defeating his 22 opponents and becoming the first democratically
elected leader of Afghanistan.
Although his campaigning was limited due to fears of violence,
elections passed without significant incident. Following
investigation by the UN of alleged voting irregularities, the
national election commission on November
declared Karzai winner, without runoff, with 55.4% of the
vote. This represented 4.3 million of the total 8.1 million votes
cast. The election took place safely in spite of a surge of
Karzai was officially sworn in as President of the Islamic Republic
of Afghanistan on December
7, 2004, at a formal ceremony in Kabul. Many interpreted the
ceremony as a symbolically important "new start" for the war-torn
nation. Notable guests at the inauguration included the country's
former King, Zahir Shah
former US presidents, and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney
President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
After winning a democratic mandate in the 2004 election and
removing many of the former Northern
warlords from his cabinet, it was thought that Karzai
would pursue a more aggressively reformist path in 2005. However,
Karzai has proved to be more cautious than was expected.
Ever since Karzai's new administration took over in 2004, the
economy of Afghanistan
been growing rapidly for the first time in many years. Government
revenue is increasing every year, although it is still heavily
dependent on foreign aid.
On September 20, 2006, Karzai told the United Nations General
that Afghanistan has become the "worst victim" of
terrorism. Karzai said terrorism is "rebounding" in his country,
with militants infiltrating the borders to wage attacks on
civilians. He stated, "This does not have its seeds alone in
Afghanistan. Military action in the country will, therefore, not
deliver the shared goal of eliminating terrorism." He demanded
assistance from the international community to destroy terrorist
sanctuaries inside and outside Afghanistan. "You have to look
beyond Afghanistan to the sources of terrorism," he told the UN
General Assembly, and "destroy terrorist sanctuaries beyond" the
country, dismantle the elaborate networks in the region that
recruit, indoctrinate, train, finance, arm, and deploy terrorists.
These activities are also robbing thousands of Afghan children of
their right to education, and prevent health workers from doing
their jobs in Afghanistan. In addition he promised to eliminate
opium-poppy cultivation in the country, which helps fuel the
. He has repeatedly
demanded that NATO and U.S.-led
coalition forces take more care when conducting military operations
in residential areas to avoid civilian casualties which undermine
his government's already weak standing in parts of the
In a video broadcast on September 24
2006, Karzai stated that if the money wasted on the Iraq War
was actually spent on rebuilding
Afghanistan, his country would "be in heaven in less than one
May 2007, after as many as 51 Afghan civilians were killed in
a bombing, Karzai asserted that his government "can no longer
accept" casualties caused by the US and NATO
- 5 September 2002: An assassination
attempt was made on Hamid Karzai in Kandahar City. A gunman wearing
the uniform of the new Afghan
National Army opened fire, wounding Gul Agha Sherzai (former governor of
Kandahar) and an American Special Operations officer. The gunman,
one of the President's bodyguards, and a bystander who knocked down
the gunman were killed when Karzai's American bodyguards returned
fire. Recently, some pictures of the US Navy's
DEVGRU responding to the attempt have surfaced. Allegedly one
of their members was wounded.
September 2004: An attempted assassination on Karzai took place
when a rocket missed the helicopter he
was flying in while en route to Gardez.
June 2007: The Taliban attempted to assassinate Karzai in Ghazni where Karzai
was giving a speech to elders. The Taliban fired
approximately 12 rockets, some of which landed away from the crowd.
Karzai was not hurt in the incident and was transported away from
the location after finishing his speech.
April 2008: Insurgents, reportedly from the Haqqani network, used automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades to attack
a military parade that Karzai was attending in Kabul.
Karzai was safe, but at least three people were killed, including a
parliamentarian, ten-year-old girl and a minority leader, and ten
injured. Others attending the event included government ministers,
former warlords, diplomats and the military top brass, all of whom
had gathered to mark the 16th anniversary of the fall of the Afghan
communist government to the mujahideen. Responding to the attack
during the ceremony, the United
Nations said the attackers "have shown their utter disrespect
for the history and people of Afghanistan." Taliban spokesman
Zabiullah Mujahid claimed
responsibility for the attack, stating, "We fired rockets at the
scene of the celebration." He went on to say there were 6 Taliban
at the scene and that 3 were killed. "Our aim was not to directly
hit someone," Mujahed said when asked if the intention was to kill
Karzai. "We just wanted to show to the world that we can attack
anywhere we want to."
Relations with the United States, Pakistan and Iran
In a 2008 interview, Karzai expressed his feelings towards the
United States by stating: "If I am called a puppet because we are
grateful to America, then let that be my nickname." Although many in
United States charge that Iran is meddling
in Afghanistan's affairs, Karzai insists that Iran is a friend of
Afghanistan despite Iranian-made arms being found in his
In 2007 Karzai contradicted US assessments on
Iran's role in Afghanistan by saying that Iran has been a helper in
the reconstruction process. On August 5, 2007,
Karzai was invited to Camp
David in Maryland,
USA, for a special meeting with U.S.
George W. Bush. In October 2007 Karzai again rejected Western
accusations against Iran, stating, "We
have resisted the negative propaganda launched by foreign states
against the Islamic Republic and we stress that aliens' propaganda
should not leave a negative impact on the consolidated ties between
the two great nations of Iran and Afghanistan." Karzai added, "The
two Iranian and Afghan nations are close to each other due to
their bonds and commonalities
belong to the same house and they will live alongside each other
December 2007 Karzai and his delegates went to meet President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad, Pakistan, for new trade ties and intelligence
sharing between the two countries. Karzai also met and
had a 45-minute talk with Benazir
Bhutto on the morning of December
27, hours before her trip to Liaquat National Bagh where she was assassinated after her speech.
In September 2008 Karzai was invited on a special visit to witness
the sworn in ceremony of Asif Ali
, who became the new President of Pakistan. Relations
between Afghanistan and Pakistan have greatly improved since
Zardari took office. The two nations often make contacts with one
another concerning the war on terrorism. Pakistan even allowed NATO
forces stationed in Afghanistan to launch attacks on illegal
militant groups in Pakistan. This was something strongly opposed by
the previous government of Pakistan.
Starting in 2009, the US and a number of western nations have
slowly began to distance themselves from Karzai. International
criticism has centered around the government of Karzai for failing
to secure the country from Taliban attacks, systemic governmental
corruption, and most recently, widespread claims of electoral fraud
in the 2009 Afghan
. Karzai staunchly defended the election
balloting, stating that some statements criticizing the balloting
and vote count were "totally fabricated." He told the media that
"There were instances of fraud, no doubt... There were
irregularities... But the election as a whole was good and free and
democratic." He further went on to say that "Afghanistan has its
separate problems and we have to handle them as Afghanistan finds
it feasible... This country was completely destroyed... Today, we
are talking about fighting corruption in Afghanistan, improved
legal standards... You see the glass half empty or half full. I see
it as half full. Others see it as half empty."
2009 presidential election
In the second presidential election, held on August 20, 2009,
Karzai was announced to have received just over 50% of the votes.
However the election was characterized by lack of security, low
and widespread ballot stuffing
, intimidation, and other
Two months later, under heavy U.S. and ally pressure, Karzai
accepted calls for a second
round run-off vote
, which was announced for November 7, 2009.
On November 2, 2009 election officials announced the cancellation
of the run-off race
Karzai the winner due to the withdrawal of Abdullah Abdullah
, Karzai's run-off
opponent, from the process.
Honorary degrees and awards
Over the years Hamid Karzai has become a well recognized figure. He
has received a number of awards and honorary degrees from famous
government and educational institutions around the world. The
following are some of his awards and honoraria.
honorary doctorate in literature from Himachal Pradesh University in
India, his alma mater, on March 7, 2003.
- Honorary British
knight (Grand Cross, Order of St Michael and St
George) in June 2003.
July 4, 2004, Karzai was awarded the Philadelphia Liberty Medal in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In his acceptance speech, Karzai stated:
"Where Liberty dies, evil grows. We Afghans have
learned from our historical experiences that liberty does not come
easily. We profoundly appreciate the value of
liberty...for we have paid for it with our lives. And we
will defend liberty with our lives."
May 22, 2005, received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from
May 25, 2005, received an honorary degree from the Center for
Afghan Studies at the University of Nebraska —
September 25, 2006, received an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from
Since late 2001 Karzai has been trying desperately to bring peace
in his country, even going as far as pardoning all militants that
would lay down weapons and join the nation's rebuilding process.
However, all of his offers have been rejected by the Taliban and
other militant groups. In April 2007, Karzai acknowledged that he
spoke to militants about trying to bring peace in Afghanistan. He
noted that the Afghan militants are always welcome in the country,
although foreign insurgents are not. In September 2007, Karzai
again offered talks with militant fighters after a security scare
forced him to end a commemoration speech. Karzai left the event
and was taken back to his palace, where he was due to meet visiting
Latvian President Valdis
After the meeting the pair held a joint news
conference, at which Karzai called for talks with his Taliban foes.
"We don't have any formal negotiations with the Taliban. They don't
have an address. Who do we talk to?" Karzai told reporters. He
further stated: "If I can have a place where to send somebody to
talk to, an authority that publicly says it is the Taliban
authority, I will do it."
There's been much debate over Karzai's alleged consultant work with
(Union Oil Company of California since
acquired by Chevron
in 2005). In
2002 when Karzai became the subject of heavy media coverage as one
of the front runners to lead Afghanistan, it was reported that he
was a former consultant for them. Spokesmen for both Unocal and
Karzai have denied any such relationship, although Unocal could not
speak for all companies involved in the consortium. The original
claim that Karzai worked for Unocal originates from a December 6,
2001 issue of the French newspaper Le
, Barry Lane UNOCAL's manager for public relations states
that, "He was never a consultant, never an employee. We've
exhaustively searched through all our records." Lane however did
say that Zalmay Khalilzad
, the U.S.
ambassador to Afghanistan, was a Unocal consultant in the
- BBC News-Karzai declared elected president
- Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Office of the President
- BBC News (January 26, 2007), Hamid Karzai becomes father at 49.
- PBS, Profile: Hamid Karzai, December 2001.
- Afghanistan, from the August 18 — August 25,
2003 issue of TIME magazine.
Guardian, Taliban lose grip on Mazar i Sharif, November
- Karzai's Family Secret, by Gerald Posner
- Associated Press, Karzai says U.S. 'attacking' him over
- Reuters, Karzai says United States wants to manipulate
- RFE/RL, Karzai Says Afghanistan 'Worst Victim' Of
- Gopal, Amand, " The most deadly US foe in Afghanistan",
Christian Science Monitor, 31
- Karzai: Terrorists could regain control -
Angeles Times, U.S. says Pakistan, Iran helping Taliban
- Gates: Troop draw downs "possible" this year,
- Karzai at odds with US over Iran |
- Pajhowk Afghan News, Islamabad, Kabul agree on intelligence cooperation,
December 27, 2007.
- Pajhwok Afghan News, Bhutto, Karzai meeting proved the first & last
one, December 28, 2007.
- San Francisco Chronicle, Pakistan's Zardari sworn in as new
- Karzai staunchly defends Afghan election
- Afghan commission orders first ballots
- Karzai Agrees to Nov. 7 Runoff in
- Hamid Karzai agrees to run-off amid fears of more
violence and fraud
- 2004 Recipient Hamid Karzai - Liberty Medal -
National Constitution Center