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What Ahmed Wali Karzai's assassination could mean for Afghanistan

The assassination of Ahmad Wali Karzai, President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, could threaten NATO security gains in southern Afghanistan.

By Correspondent / July 12, 2011

This undated file photo shows Ahmad Wali Karzai, half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaking during a meeting with elders in Kandahar province south of Kabul, Afghanistan. Ahmad Wali Karzai was killed by a gunman on Tuesday morning.

AP/File

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Kabul, Afghanistan

Ahmad Wali Karzai, the half-brother of Afghanistan's president and a political powerhouse in the south, was killed by a gunman on Tuesday morning, threatening to destabilize the south.

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The killer, Sardar Mohammed worked on Mr. Karzai’s private security detail, but was not his personal bodyguard. Witnesses say he arrived at Karzai’s residence and asked to discuss a matter in private. Moments after entering a room alone with Karzai there were several gunshots, and witnesses say they found Karzai shot twice in the head and once in the arm. Karzai’s guards then killed Mr. Mohammed.

The death is likely to shake the power bases of Kandahar and it may risk undoing the region’s recent security gains. It may force NATO to remain focused on the south, when it was planning to shift efforts toward the increasingly restive east Afghanistan.

“I don’t think that someone else will be able to play such a role,” says Gawsudin Frotan, an independent analyst in Kandahar. “He was working here like he was a king. He was not appointed as the governor, but he had the power that the governor had.”

Karzai rose to power shortly after his half brother, Hamid Karzai, took office as president. Officially, he was head of the Kandahar Provincial Council. In practice he was one of the most powerful people in the south and arguably in Afghanistan.

His status was visible through the sheer number of people who flocked to his compound seeking his help to resolve any number of problems, compared with the much smaller numbers who sought help from the actual governor.

“His door was always open to people, and there was a big rush to see him,” says Haji Faisal Mohammed, a tribal elder in Kandahar. “Maybe now when people have no one to ask for help and they’re not happy with the government there will be a kind of unrest and frustration among the locals, which will increase the insecurity.”

As news spread throughout Kandahar City that Karzai had been shot, some residents reported that locals began closing their shops, fearing there might be demonstrations in response to the killing. Demonstrations have been known to turn violent quickly in Kandahar, as happened in April when at least 9 people died and dozens were injured during protests against the Quran burning in the US.

As Kandahar readjusts to the loss of Karzai, General Abdul Raziq, the newly appointed police commander of the province is among the most likely to fill the void left in the unofficial power structure.

Still, Karzai was a controversial figure, and some doubt his killing will have that much of a long-term impact.

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