Karzai fires first salvo at power of Afghan warlords

By , Staff Writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Afghanistan interim President Hamid Karzai has called this region's most powerful warlord, Badsha Khan Zadran, a "killer" whose power must be broken.

This is the first time that the interim government has targeted any of the nation's warlords. A showdown with Mr. Badsha Khan could be a crucial test of Karzai's authority, and may influence US operations against Al Qaeda in the area. The US, which is allied with Badsha Khan's forces, says that relationship could change if Badsha Khan becomes a threat to the new government.

In a speech broadcast yesterday, Karzai said: "Our children and civilians are being killed by a cruel warlord and killer. I have decided to eliminate this kind of cruel warlord." He indicated he would launch an attack on Badsha Khan "as soon as possible."

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Badsha Khan's brother Kamal Khan Zadran said Karzai is trying to discredit his sibling ahead of a June meeting of a national council that will decide the future government's composition. Badsha Khan has rejected Karzai's gubernatorial appointees in Khost and Paktia Provinces.

"It's true that Badsha Khan was an ally of ours before. We've had that relationship with a variety of warlords throughout Afghanistan," Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, the commander of US ground forces in Afghanistan, told reporters at Bagram Air Base Tuesday. "But the old phrase 'there are no permanent alliances' probably smacks true in this instance."

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