The murder Tuesday of Ahmad Wali Karzai, the behind-the-scenes authority over Qandahar province and brother of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, shows the continued instability in that country. It is not entirely clear the killing was a political assassination. The bodyguard who pulled the trigger is rumored just to have had a personal grudge with his boss.
The Telegraph carries an insightful analysis that points out that the Taliban will likely make political hay with the incident, though it is not clear they will claim credit if they weren’t behind it. It also raises questions of what will happen to A.W. Karzai’s various businesses, licit and illicit. He had a private security company, which cooperated with US troops in operations, but on the other side was accused in State Department memos revealed by Wikileaks of running a drug smuggling operation.
President Karzai’s own hand in Qandahar has been much weakened, and he has lost a key asset in his struggle against the Taliban for control of that key western Pashtun province. It is hard to know whether this development is positive or negative politically (obviously a murder is negative in and of itself but I am speaking of the larger canvas). Ahmad Wali Karzai was a warlord of sorts, and his demise could open the way to more consultative governance. And, since he stole the last presidential election, Hamid Karzai has put on increasingly regal airs and tried to gain authoritarian powers, which may have just been somewhat checked in one part of the country. And if it is true that Ahmad Wali was engaged in the narcotics trade, his fall could lead to less corrupt government.
The killing comes just after Canada withdrew its troops from Qandahar, leaving over-stretched US troops in charge, and could point to the sort of instability that lies ahead as other NATO forces, such as Britain’s, plan steep drawdowns in the next 3 years.