The murder of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the younger half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is a big jolt to both the Afghan government and the United States. He was killed by his own security guard in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.
This comes at a time when the NATO countries have started the gradual withdrawal of their troops—that will expectedly complete by the end of 2014—from the country. The forces had invaded Afghanistan only to root out Taliban but till now seem to have failed miserably in their aim.
The so-called elected government of Hamid Karzai and the foreign forces led by the U.S. could not prepare a force of Afghans that would control the country after they have left. The Afghans anxious for democracy will have to live under the threat of Taliban fundamentalists after 2014 because Taliban still enjoy dominance.
It appears that the Taliban who had gone into hiding after the 2001 invasion are getting strength by the passage of time.
It was just days after the murder of Ahmed Wali Karzai that Jan Mohammad Khan, former governor of southern Uruzgan province and a key ally of the Hamid Karzai, was killed in the attack.
“He (Khan) was very close to Karzai. He was as important as AWK (Ahmed Wali Karzai)," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The reason behind Taliban rising could be found in the local support they have. The counter-Taliban efforts of the West time and again went in vain as the persons it trusted to penetrate into the network of Taliban turned out to be agents of Taliban.
The murder of many high profile officers assisting the allied forces in trying to contain Taliban threat is indicative of how strong their network is.
It was customary that Taliban penetrated into the organizations of the foreign forces working in Afghanistan, but the murder of Wali Karzai has unveiled another aspect; that Taliban have infiltrated into Afghan government structure and that once the allied forces have left the country, they will rule.
Wali Karzai was a very high profile target. He was the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan and acted as a regent and enforcer for his brother across the volatile region. Wali was the eyes and ears of Hamid.
Commenting on his influence in the region wrote Emma Graham-Harrison in a Reuter write up, “Ultimately though they seem to have decided that his influence was so ubiquitous, and his hold over politicians, officials and tribal leaders so strong that they were better working with him than against him.”
Western ambivalence about him was summed up last year by British Major General Nick Carter, then the commanding officer for southern Afghanistan, at a news conference.
“It's also my sense that, in relation to Ahmad Wali Karzai, he would tell you -- and he's either a candidate for an Oscar or he's the most maligned man in Afghanistan -- that he is trying to help his country, that he's trying to help us and he's trying to help his people,” he said.
Besides Hamid Karzai, Wali was equally important for NATO and CIA. He was considered to have been in the CIA’s payroll for various services including the recruitment of the Kandahar Strike Force, an Afghan paramilitary force run by the CIA in the Kandahar region. It also stated that he was paid for allowing the CIA and U.S. Special Forces to rent the former residence of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar.
Wali Karzai helped secure Kandahar for NATO interests by providing security and logistical aid to ISAF forces and its supply convoys.
What is more worrisome in this whole story is that Sardar Mohammad, the security guard of Wali Karzai who gunned him down, is said to have been a Taliban agent. The Taliban, who reportedly claimed responsibility for the killing, said Mohammad was their agent.
If it was so, then the infiltration of the Taliban into the Afghan government has reached to an alarming stage.
“Ahmed Wali Karzai, half brother of Afghan President of Hamid Karzai was entertaining his guests in his heavily secured Kandahar home on 12 July, long-time confidant Sardar Mohammad, an Afghan National Police (ANP) officer arrived with two weapons. While one was concealed, the other one was duly handed over to the guard, following a practice that allowed none to carry weapons inside the house.
Mohammad then took aside Ahmed Wali to an adjoining room to discuss a private matter and opened fire on him from his second pistol. Ahmed Wali was dead instantly, and so was Mohammad, after being fired upon by the alerted guards.
Soon thereafter Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing, saying that Mohammad was their agent. The Taliban have been quick to claim responsibility for many such high profile killings,” wrote Shanthie Mariet D’Souza, an Al-Arabia News Channel analyst and a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore in Singapore.
Sardar Mohammad had worked for the Karzai family for at least seven years and was very close to it.
He also met American and British military officials, shared intelligence and had helped arrest scores of fighters. The relatives of Sardar Mohammad told The Washington Post that Mohammad, like Ahmed Wali, often worked closely with the US military to hunt insurgents, who consider Kandahar one of their strongholds.
Abdul Malik, a brother in-law of the killer, told the Washington Post: “If there was something Sardar could do that the Americans couldn't, they would ask him to do it.” “If American forces were suspicious of someone, they were asking Sardar to make the arrest.”
What urged him to turn against Karzai is still a mystery. Some say that Sardar was a Taliban agent who shot Karzai when Taliban instructed him to do so when any opportunity was available.
Mahmood Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, told reporters his family had learned Mohammad acted erratically in recent weeks, sleeping poorly, changing houses at night and acting suspiciously toward his men. He had also visited Quetta to meet insurgents in the past three months, he claimed.
“All of a sudden, he changed,” he said. “This is the work of the Taliban.”
It is a time of great worry for the alien forces in Afghanistan. They have to withdraw from there, prepare a force of Afghans in whose hands they could give the responsibility and ensure that the threat of Taliban is no more. The first work can be done but what about the last two? It won’t be an easy task. The work that could not be done in almost a decade, cannot be done within a short span of two three years.
Insurgency is on rise. It was in this year that the police chief in Kandahar was killed.
The death of Wali Karzai leaves a dangerous power vacuum in southern Kandahar province, birthplace of the Taliban and focus of recent efforts by a surge of U.S. troops to turn the tide against the insurgency.
In Kabul, senior officials warned that the psychological impact could be as significant as the actual impact, because the death of someone as powerful and well protected as Ahmad Wali Karzai implies no one can really be safe.
This is a troubled time for the United States and its NATO allies: it cannot afford more instability and more bloodshed just when countries like Canada and France are irreversibly drawing out of Afghanistan. Boots on the ground are increasingly spread thinner; and now a truly disruptive state of affairs looms on the horizon in Afghanistan.
Finally consider that just at the moment that NATO and its allies are trying to convince low and mid-level Taliban to switch allegiances to Kabul, the Taliban are likely to trumpet Ahmed Wali’s assassination as their doing, whatever the truth of that claim. They will point to this attack as their strongest signal yet that Kabul remains weak; that those who would support the Kabul government had best think twice. This propaganda victory, masked in claims of a moral victory, is sure to scare off Taliban leaders who until earlier today might have considered switching to Kabul in some hope that the Karzai clan headed by Hamid and Ahmed Wali might secure their futures.