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Ahmed Wali Karzai Assassinated in Afghanistan

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half-brother of the Afghan President and by many accounts a drug lord in the restive south of the country, was assassinated today, at the hands of a former bodyguard for the family.

He was shot twice by his long-time head of security Sardar Mohammed, who was himself killed almost immediately.

The Taliban said they carried out the attack, calling it one of their top achievements in 10 years of war.

Khaled Pashtun, a Kandahar province politician, was sceptical about the Taliban claims, saying the Islamist group had claimed responsibility for many attacks in the past without much evidence of their involvement.

Sardar Mohammed’s motives remain unclear, but the killing will raise questions about securing Afghanistan’s top officials.

If the President’s half-brother is not safe, I’m not sure who is in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Wali Karzai was known as “Mr. Kandahar,” and he supported the US mission against the Taliban there. This was the insistent focus of the past year in Afghanistan; securing Kandahar against the Taliban. And now we have one of the leading political figures in the region killed. Whether or not the Taliban was involved, it doesn’t bode well for the stability of the US mission.

But Karzai was also a deeply corrupt drug dealer, according to Wikileaks cables, among other accounts. He had the support of his half-brother, as well as the US government, but he had a distorting effect on how the Afghan people viewed their government.

Needless to say, this makes the military effort in Kandahar, when they cannot even protect the region’s top officials, look fairly ridiculous. This was a political hit, and whether or not we had a military presence there didn’t matter. Karzai was not one of the 10-20 Al Qaeda figures we need to capture or kill to defeat Al Qaeda, according to Leon Panetta. The presence of 100,000 soldiers to that end still perplexes.

Meanwhile, in the real war in that part of the world rather than the kabuki war in Afghanistan, we killed 38 Pakistanis in a series of drone strikes. The shadow wars, the covert ops, continue.

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David Dayen

David Dayen