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After Karzai, who will fill the power void in Kandahar?

Analysts and Afghans worry that the killing of Kandahar powerbroker Ahmad Wali Karzai will destabilize Afghanistan's south, which has seen major security gains this year.

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“If Shah Wali works hard and is successful in his job, it will bring some positive news, otherwise there will be security problems,” says Kalimullah Naqibi, a prominent tribal elder in Kandahar.

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Building trust

Though Ahmad Wali was long a divisive figure in Kandahar, in recent months there were indications that he was beginning to build support among the region’s various tribes. Leaders from tribes that have long harbored hostility toward Ahmad Wali said they would acknowledge a successor from his family as his replacement.

Even with the approval of different tribes, Shah Wali is likely to be tested by the Taliban and other strongmen looking to increase their power.

“At the same time NATO is decreasing their activities in the south, so the Taliban will come forward and take advantage of this situation. They will easily increase their violent activities and there will be insecurity again in Kandahar,” says Haji Nik Mohammed, tribal elder in Kandahar.

Although Afghanistan has experienced record levels of violence this summer, the Taliban have lost considerable ground throughout Kandahar. Residents say they enjoy freedom of movement in areas around Kandahar that were previously insurgent strongholds, and that fighting is down in areas that saw heavy violence as recently as last summer.

Other groups vying for power

Beyond the Taliban and insurgent groups, other powerbrokers may use Ahmad Wali’s death as an opportunity to strengthen their position. Gen. Abdul Raziq, who was recently promoted to police chief of Kandahar, is well positioned to make a bid for more clout, but he lacks a strong base of popular support.

Locals in Kandahar's neighboring provinces worry that instability resulting from the power vacuum could spread throughout the region. Ahmad Wali was particularly adept at restraining tribal feuds, which can easily cross borders as members of a single tribe often live in several different provinces.

Ahmad Wali Khan’s absence will definitely have an impact on security and tribal relations,” says Sardar Mohammed Khan, a tribal elder in Helmand Province directly to the west of Kandahar. “He tried to solve problems between tribes and not let them grow into something more serious.”

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