The other, powerful Karzai boss in Afghanistan
To many Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of Afghan president, is the key to taming the Taliban in the critical city of Kandahar. But to others he's a highly controversial figure.
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Allegations brushed aside
AWK brushes aside allegations that he receives a cut of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on guarding the trucks that deliver food, fuel, and ammunition to NATO forces. "I haven't received one penny from the international contracts here. If someone can find I've made one, then I'll admit to everything."Skip to next paragraph
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His critics disagree. A member of parliament in Kabul, who asked not to be named, charges that AWK has steered contracts to the Popalzai and that officials who stand in his way are removed. "Contracts and jobs all flow through him. From a tribal point of view, he's a big problem. People that get cut out could be turning to the Taliban," he says.
Carl Forsberg at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington wrote in an April report: "Ahmed Wali Karzai's influence over Kandahar is the central obstacle to any of [NATO's] governance objectives…. Wali Karzai's behavior and waning popularity among local populations promote instability and provide space for the Taliban to exist."
One of the largest security contractors in Afghanistan, the Asia Security Group, is run by a cousin, Hashmat Karzai. The family link is one reason some believe Karzai profits from the business, though Ahmad Wali Karzai says he has no involvement in his cousin's security business, financial or otherwise. The family cut ties with Hashmat a few years ago, after he was accused of killing a relative in a blood feud.
[Editor's note: The original version misstated Wali Karzai's relationship to Hashmat Karzai. They are cousins.]
US officials have also privately said Karzai is on the CIA's payroll. "I haven't signed a paper saying I'm working with anyone," Karzai says. "But yes, I fought against Al Qaeda with the US in 2001, yes I work with USAID. I talk to the military and I help every American that comes to me."
He says he's in the "front of the fight against the Taliban" and that it's natural that he works with US Special Forces and others.
"When the international forces came, they needed us to show them the way. The understanding they have now mostly came from us," he says. "I'm living in the region, I know the people. When it comes to getting things done, we're the ones to come to."
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Ahmed Wali Karzai has been accused of having business ties to heroin traders and warlords across southern Afghanistan. Some expert watchers say that he stands in the way of NATO's objectives here; others claim he's a key to defeating the Taliban in the critical region of Kandahar.