Ahmed Wali Karzai Assassinated

karzai wali.jpgWatching on a long flight the other day the classic 1966 Sergio Leone spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly I couldn't help but think that Afghanistan would make a great backdrop for a remake of the Clint Eastwood classic.

I'm not sure whether Kandahar region 'super governor' Ahmed Wali Karzai would have been cast as "The Bad" or "The Ugly", but the half brother of Afghanistan's President -- shot dead today by a family bodyguard -- was no force of noble spirit. 

The US intelligence establishment has amassed a mountain of material alleging his core involvement in Afghanistan's drug trade and his role not only as a profiteer in the lucrative private security business, but as someone who, like a mafia don, has allegedly had rivals and people of means kidnapped and harassed in an extortion racket.

Karzai's half brother was considered a war lord by many, often referred to as "the most powerful man in Southern Afghanistan."  When then US Representative and now Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Director Jane Harman was pounding the Obama administration and General David Petraeus to show her a plan on how such a morally insolvent and corrupt regime could ever become an adequate partner in stabilizing the country, she was in large degree talking about the intelligence sector-documented nefarious activities of President Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai.

The Taliban have publicly claimed responsibility for Karzai's assassination by security guard and trusted Karzai household-insider, Sardar Mohammad.

If true, this shows the Taliban have great reach still throughout the power corridors of Afghan society -- and have enormous patience and skill to manage what would have been a complex and risky operation.  If not true, then one wonders what motivated this guard, and we just don't know those answers yet, if ever.

The other thing to remember though is that to many, Ahmed Wali Karzai was a self-aggrandizing mafia boss; people feared him -- and while many also may fear the Taliban, there is no clear battle between the good and the bad, between those with white hats and those with black.

Maybe for anyone to be the kind of power broker Karzai became, every one eventually becomes "The Ugly."

Presented by

Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.


Is Minneapolis the Best City in America?

No other place mixes affordability, opportunity, and wealth so well.

More in Global

Just In