Ahmed Wali Karzai was assassinated this morning. Two weeks ago, Matthieu Aikins reported on the push to make Hamid Karzai’s half-brother a provincial governor:
Last Wednesday, nearly 200 tribal elders and other notables from Kandahar Province convened in the Roshan Plaza in downtown Kabul. The group was a who’s who of pro-government figures, among them Agha Lalai Dastegiri, Fazluddin Agha, and Bacha Sherzai, brother of former governor Gul Agha. They had gathered to petition President Hamid Karzai to appoint his brother Ahmed Wali Karzai as the next governor of the province. (The current leader, Afghan-Canadian Tooryalai Wesa, is widely reputed to be looking for a way out of his job.) The meeting was part of a week-long junket, and according to several people who attended, the cost, which would have been as high as several hundred thousand dollars, was paid by Ahmed Wali Karzai himself. …
The campaign to make Ahmed Wali governor of southern Afghanistan’s most important province has become a topic of earnest discussion in Kabul policy circles since that meeting. Yet from what I’ve heard, the reaction has been relatively muted among diplomats and senior military officers, aside from some apprehension over how such an appointment might play in the press. The sentiment seems to be that since Ahmed Wali is already the de facto governor, actually giving him the job might make him more accountable.
Such a development would bring to an inauspicious close the long-running debate about what to do with a problem like Ahmed Wali. In the past three years, the president’s brother has been accused (mostly by American sources cited in the New York Times) of being involved in the heroin trade and of being paid by the CIA to run illegal militias. He also has close ties to Akhtar Mohammad and Ruhollah, the muscle behind the notorious convoy operations of Watan Risk Management, a now-blacklisted entity whose problematic links with insurgents were detailed in the congressional Host Nations Trucking Report.
So what to do with Ahmed Wali? Pressure Hamid to move him out of Kandahar? Put him on the JPEL “kill/capture” list? Work with him, in the hope that he’ll mend his ways? Or marginalize him by building “capacity” around the office of the current governor, Tooryalai Wesa?