Kandahar and Ahmed Wali Karzai were the focal points of two recent FT articles. The first…

Kandahar ‘king’ poses dilemma for US

…Having emerged as the pre-eminent powerbroker in southern Afghanistan in the past five years, the younger half-brother of President Hamid Karzai now embodies one of the most urgent foreign policy dilemmas for the US.

To his critics, Mr Karzai the chairman of the provincial legislative council, is the don of a “shadow government” of narco-traffickers, gun-runners and militia bosses exploiting a murky nexus of crony capitalism, tribal intrigue and espionage to hijack the Afghan state.

Yet Washington is counting on Mr Karzai to back a push by Nato this summer to beat the Taliban on its home turf by persuading Kandaharis that a new era of responsive government has dawned.[…]

The west’s exit strategy from Afghanistan hinges on building formal government institutions and professional security forces to undercut the Taliban and allow 140,000 foreign troops to leave. To some observers, Mr Karzai’s feif in Kandahar embodies the emergence of a new, personality-driven political order in which the Karzai family occupies centre-stage.

Disaffected Kandahari politicians and elders say resentment of Mr Karzai is the biggest factor driving the growth of the insurgency and that it will be difficult to nurture loyalty for the Afghan state while he remains in the city.

Mr Karzai’s opponents, senior US officials and independent analysts believe he has exploited his chairmanship of the provincial council to favour his family’s Popalzai clan, alienating other Pashtun groups such as the Ghilzai, Alokozai and Alizai. They say a clique of oligarchs and local warlords profiting from US contracts to protect Nato supply convoys has tightened his grip on the city and its hinterland.

“If the offensive goes on while Ahmed Wali Karzai is still there, it will fail,” said Malalai Ishaq Zai, an MP from Kandahar. “There is a very big risk that he will take advantage of it to widen his influence.”

Mr Karzai bristles at such remarks, saying reports of illicit activities are planted by his enemies. He says his only brushes with the law were two speeding tickets in the US. “All the pies that my fingers are in – can you show me a single pie? Is this a cherry pie, or apple pie or banana pie?” he said. “People accuse Her Majesty’s family in Britain. I see the tabloids – these are the tabloids of Kandahar.”

Cue up Ahmed’s response to NATO…

The powerful half-brother of Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, has vowed to back a major Nato operation in Kandahar, dismissing fears in Washington that he will sabotage a crucial phase of the campaign against the Taliban.

Critics accuse Ahmed Wali Karzai, chairman of the provincial legislative council, of presiding over the rise of a mafia-like network of oligarchs, militia commanders and opium traffickers whose attempts to monopolise power in the province have fuelled sympathy for the insurgents.

In a rare in-depth interview, Mr Karzai denied the allegations and pledged to use his influence to rally support for the west’s plan to secure his native Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban. “Let’s hope for a new beginning. Let’s work together, I want to serve my people,” he said in his fortified villa in Kandahar city, scene of a campaign of insurgent bombings and assassinations. “There were probably some mistakes from my side. I’m trying to clear these things, I’m trying to help.”

Today, Ahmed had this to say about the UN’s pull out…

Ahmad Wali Karzai told reporters Tuesday the decision wasn’t "necessary" since the situation in Kandahar province and the city of the same name is "not that bad."

"Everyone knows that people are going about their business and the kids are going to school," he said. "Pulling U.N. staff out of Kandahar will have negative effect on the morale of people in Kandahar and on humanitarian work here and in the area."

Unspecified "threats" have forced the United Nations in Kandahar city to order its local staff to stay home until further notice.

More than 200 Afghan employees are affected, and several have been moved to the capital, Kabul. But Karzai said "there was no direct specific threat to United Nations here in Kandahar."

The move comes as international forces prepare for a major offensive against the Taliban in the Kandahar region, long a major front in the Afghan war.

Karzai said local officials are working with the Afghan Foreign Ministry to keep the U.N. staffers in Kandahar.

He must be smoking some of his product…!

What a Clusterf*ck…!