Who is he: Hamid Karzai is president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Members of the Emergency Loya Jirga confirmed Karzai's role as leader of the country when he was elected as the president of the Transitional Government on June 13th, 2002. During Afghanistan's first presidential election on October 9th, 2004, Hamid Karzai won 55.4% of the votes, defeating his nearest competitor by more than three million votes; subsequently he was elected to a five-year term as president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. He took his oath of allegiance at Salam Khana Palace on December 7th, 2004, in the presence of dignitaries and officials from around the world.
Hamid Karzai has been awarded many honours, among them a Knighthood from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (2003), the Philadelphia Liberty Medal (2004), and the Die Quadriga Award (2004). The award from the Queen of England is perhaps the most notable in terms of Karzai's peculiar situtation. In addition to enriching himself and his family, Karzai is seen by the West – or at least tasked by the West – to perform the functions of a neo-colonialist partner.
It is Hamid Karzai who must provide a stable government through which the West can rule Afghanistan. As Karzai and his government are held in some contempt by the average Pashtun and Taliban (his larger ethnicity), it is doubtful that Karzai will ever be able to perform the duties the West has expected of him. The wind down of the war and the American withdrawal are making Karzai's job even harder.
Karzai has begun negotiating with the Taliban now. If he cannot bring them to negotiating table, Karzai will have little choice about his future. Either he will likely die in Afghanistan, a victim of a resurgent Taliban, or he will flee. The third option, that he will continue to be a political force, is a deeply impractical one. In the north, the Northern Alliance, with whom Karzai is not affiliated, will chip away at his power. In the south, the Taliban will gradually extend their dominance as NATO pulls back.
Karzai will be caught between these two irresistible forces. Kabul will return to its normal status; it will be both the capital of Afghanistan and a backwater. Federal power has never been appreciated in Afghanistan. Within this larger context it is very difficult to see a reason why Karzai would want to stay in Afghanistan. He has plenty of money and there will only be danger for him in Kabul. After waging war against the Taliban for so many years, Karzai will not garner much sympathy as the current war winds down.
Background: Hamid Karzai was born on December 24th, 1957, (Quas 9th, 1336) in the village of Karz, near Kandahar, Afghanistan. His grandfather, Khair Mohammad Khan, had served during Afghanistan's war of independence and as the deputy speaker of the senate. His father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, was a tribal (Popalzai) elder and a significant national political figure, who served as the deputy of the parliament during the 1960's. Abdul Karzai moved, along with his family, to Kabul when he entered the parliament.
Hamid Karzai studied at Mahmood Hotaki Elementary School, Sayed Jamaluddin Afghani School and Habibia High School. After graduating from high school, Karzai traveled to India as an exchange student in 1976 and was accepted to study for his Master's degree in International Relations and Political Science from Simla University. He obtained his Master's degree in 1983, shortly after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (which began in 1979).
Hamid Karzai then traveled to Pakistan, to join with the Mujahideen fighters resisting the Soviet occupation of his homeland. In 1985, he traveled to Lille, France, to attend a three-month journalism course. When Karzai returned to Peshawar, Pakistan, he served as the Director of Information and later as the Deputy Director of the Political Office of the National Rescue Front led by Professor Sebghatullah Mujadidi. After the formation of the Mujahideen transitional government in 1989, Karzai was appointed Director of the Foreign Relations Unit in the office of the president of the interim government.
When the Mujahideen government was established in Kabul in 1992, Hamid Karzai was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister. Two years later, when the civil war between the various Mujahideen groups began, he resigned his public position and began to work actively for the organization of a national Loya Jirga (Grand Council). A deeply religious man, Hamid Karzai believed that only through a Loya Jirga could Afghanistan's difficulties be overcome and the differences between the competing parties resolved peacefully. This belief was borne out by the Emergency Loya Jirga of 2002 and the Constitutional Loya Jirga in 2003/2004.
In August, 2000, Abdul Karzai, who had taken up residence in Quetta, Pakistan while he continued to encourage his countrymen to resist to the Taliban, was assassinated by the Taliban and their foreign supporters. The commitment of the Karzai family, and of Hamid in particular, to ridding Afghanistan of this foreign menace was not shaken by this tragedy, and he continued to agitate passionately against the Taliban.
Hamid Karzai returned to Uruzgan Province in October, 2001 with three friends and together they worked to coordinate local efforts to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and their supporters. On December 5th, 2001, while still in Afghanistan leading these efforts, Karzai was elected Chairman of the Interim Administration of Afghanistan by participants at the UN-sponsored Bonn Conference. He, along with the appointed cabinet, took his oath of office on December 22 of that year.
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