American kingpin toppled
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Ahmed Karzai in happier days during a December 2001 press conference in Quetta, Pakistan shortly after his brother Hamid was installed as Afghanistan's new leader
AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai's younger half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, was killed in Kandahar on 12 July during a gathering in his house, according to Kandahar's Canadian Governor Tooryali Wesa. He was shot in the head and chest with a AK-47 fired by Sardar Mohamed, a former bodyguard to another Karzai brother Qayyoum. The 50-year-old Ahmed, a restaurant worker in Chicago before catapulting to fame on Hamid's shirt-tails, was appointed chairman of the Kandahar Provincial Council in 2005. A ruthless autocrat, he was widely despised, and escaped multiple assassination attempts in the past, but his death nonetheless comes as a major blow to President Karzai in the homeland of the Taliban, and will set off a vicious power struggle to fill Ahmed's shoes.
US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann, the CIA's station chief and their British counterparts pleaded with the president in 2006 to exile his brother, accused of drug dealing. Hamid angrily rejected these accusations and Ahmed stayed in place, rigging the 2009 Afghan presidential elections for him, as he continued to amass wealth, extorting kickbacks on construction contracts, even shaking down bus- and truck-drivers at police posts. The American military quite liked him, and readily rented properties he specially confiscated for them, including the former residence of Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Omar. The CIA paid him to organise several mercenary forces to help them kill Taliban, even as he was working with the Taliban behind the scenes. He had the support of US Senator John Kerry and even General David Petraeus: "President Karzai is working to create a stronger, more secure Afghanistan, and for such a tragic event to happen to someone within his own family is unfathomable."
Resentment against the king of Kandahar was long ready to explode, and his murder was welcomed by Kandaharans and Taliban alike. Though he unwittingly recruited even more Taliban than he helped kill, Taliban spokesman Qari Youssef Ahmedi was happy to take responsibility: "Today in Kandahar city, Hamid Karzai's brother was killed during Operation Al-Badr. Ahmed Wali Karzai was punished for all his wrongdoings." Qari's comrade Mullah Adam Haji concurred: "Ahmed Wali was the best US friend and the Taliban's worst enemy. He and his whole family have the blood of thousands of Taliban on their hands. His death is very good news for us."