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Hamid Karzai (Pashto: حامد کرزی - 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 Germanymarker, 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 Kabulmarker, Afghanistanmarker. After the 2004 presidential election, Karzai won and became President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistanmarker. He then won the 2009 presidential election after his opponent withdrew from the run-off race.

Early years and personal life

Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun of the Popalzai tribe, was born in the village of Karzmarker, which is located on the edge of Kandahar Citymarker in southern Afghanistanmarker. His grandfather, Khair Mohammad Khan, had served in the 1919 Afghanistan’s war of independence and as the Deputy Speaker of the Senate. Karzai's family were strong supporters of the former Afghan King, Zahir Shah. His father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, served as the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament during the 1960s. Hamid Karzai attended Mahmood Hotaki Elementary School in Kandahar and Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan School in Kabul. He graduated from Habibia High Schoolmarker in 1976.

From 1979 to 1983, Karzai took a postgraduate course in political science at Himachal Pradesh University in Shimlamarker, Himachal Pradeshmarker, Indiamarker. After obtaining his Master’s degree in India he returned to work as a fund-raiser by supporting anti-Soviet Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the Soviet intervention 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 Burhanuddin Rabbani.

In 1999, Hamid Karzai married Zeenat Quraishi Karzai, an obstetrician by profession who was working as a doctor with Afghan refugees living in Pakistanmarker. They have a son, Mirwais Karzai, who was born in 2007.

Karzai has six brothers, including Mahmoud Karzai, Qayum Karzai, Ahmed Wali Karzai, and one sister Fauzia Karzai. He is well versed in several languages, including his mother-tongue Pashto, as well as Persian (Dari), Urdu/Hindi, English and French. 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 during the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan. The Mujahideen were secretly supplied and funded by the United States, and Karzai was a contact for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency 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.

Taliban era

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 Nations, 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.

Karzai lived in exile in Quettamarker, 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 in 2001 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 in USA warning embassies about the threat, but that the West failed to respond, describing it as an act of "neglect, selfishness and short-sightedness."

As the U.S. military was preparing for a confrontation with the Taliban in September 2001, Karzai began urging NATOmarker nations to purge his country of Al-Qaeda. "These Arabs, 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, Mujahideen loyal to the Northern Alliance 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 for protection.

In December 2001, political leaders gathered in Germanymarker 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 December 22. The Loya Jirga of June 13, 2002, appointed Karzai Interim holder of the new position as President of the Afghan Transitional Administration.Former members of the Northern Alliance remained extremely influential, most notably Vice President Mohammed Fahim, who also served as Defense Minister.

After Karzai was installed into power, his actual authority outside the capital city of Kabulmarker was said to be so limited that he was often derided as the "Mayor of Kabul". 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 herbicides, 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 narcotic 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 drugs.

2004 presidential election

When Karzai was a candidate in the October 9, 2004, presidential election, he 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 3 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 insurgent activity.

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, three 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 Alliance 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 has 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 Assembly 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 ongoing insurgency. He has repeatedly demanded that NATOmarker 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 country.

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 year". In 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 USmarker and NATOmarker operations.

Assassination attempts

  • 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.

  • 16 September 2004: An attempted assassination on Karzai took place when a rocket missed the helicopter he was flying in while en route to Gardezmarker.

  • 10 June 2007: The Taliban attempted to assassinate Karzai in Ghaznimarker 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.

  • 27 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 Kabulmarker. 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 Iranmarker is meddling in Afghanistan's affairs, Karzai insists that Iran is a friend of Afghanistan despite Iranian-made arms being found in his country. 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 Davidmarker in Maryland, USAmarker, for a special meeting with U.S. President 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, they belong to the same house and they will live alongside each other for good."

In December 2007 Karzai and his delegates went to meet President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabadmarker, 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 Baghmarker 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 Zardari, 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 presidential election. 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 voter turnout and widespread ballot stuffing, intimidation, and other electoral fraud.

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 and declared 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.

Seeking peace

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 Latvianmarker President Valdis Zatlers. 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."

Unocal connection

There's been much debate over Karzai's alleged consultant work with Unocal (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 Monde, 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 mid-1990s.

See also


  1. BBC News-Karzai declared elected president
  2. Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Office of the President
  3. BBC News (January 26, 2007), Hamid Karzai becomes father at 49.
  4. PBS, Profile: Hamid Karzai, December 2001.
  5. Afghanistan, from the August 18 — August 25, 2003 issue of TIME magazine.
  6. The Guardian, Taliban lose grip on Mazar i Sharif, November 7, 2001.
  7. Karzai's Family Secret, by Gerald Posner
  8. Associated Press, Karzai says U.S. 'attacking' him over election
  9. Reuters, Karzai says United States wants to manipulate him
  10. RFE/RL, Karzai Says Afghanistan 'Worst Victim' Of Terrorism
  11. Gopal, Amand, " The most deadly US foe in Afghanistan", Christian Science Monitor, 31 May 2009
  12. Karzai: Terrorists could regain control -
  13. Los Angeles Times, U.S. says Pakistan, Iran helping Taliban
  14. Gates: Troop draw downs "possible" this year, Washington Post
  15. Karzai at odds with US over Iran |
  16. Pajhowk Afghan News, Islamabad, Kabul agree on intelligence cooperation, December 27, 2007.
  17. Pajhwok Afghan News, Bhutto, Karzai meeting proved the first & last one, December 28, 2007.
  18. San Francisco Chronicle, Pakistan's Zardari sworn in as new president
  20. Karzai staunchly defends Afghan election balloting
  21. Afghan commission orders first ballots invalidated
  22. Karzai Agrees to Nov. 7 Runoff in Afghanistan
  23. Hamid Karzai agrees to run-off amid fears of more violence and fraud
  24. [1]
  25. 2004 Recipient Hamid Karzai - Liberty Medal - National Constitution Center

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