Taliban claim assassination of President Karzai’s brother


Ahmed Wali Karzai (right), the half brother of President Hamid Karzai. EPA photo.

The Taliban are claiming credit for the assassination of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president and a key power broker in the strategic southern province of Kandahar.

The controversial Ahmed Wali Karzai was gunned down in his office in Kandahar City earlier today by Sardar Mohammed, who has been described as a bodyguard and the commander of security outposts in Karza just south of the provincial capital. Mohammed was conducting a meeting with Ahmed Wali behind closed doors when he pulled out a pistol and shot him in the head. Ahmed Wali died before he could reach the hospital. The assassin was gunned down by Ahmed Wali’s bodyguards.

In a statement released on their website, Voice of Jihad, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the murder of Ahmed Wali, and said that the assassin “was in contact with Mujahideen.”

“The killing of Ahmad Wali Karzai is considered as one of the most successful attacks carried out by Mujahideen since the beginning of Operation Badr,” the Taliban claimed. Operation Badr is the Taliban’s counteroffensive that is designed to counteract NATO’s surge in the Afghan south. One of the goals has been the assassination of key Afghan political and military leaders.

While the assassination of Ahmed Wali could not be confirmed as a Taliban operation, the terror group has successfully executed other high-profile assassinations in the recent past. Since the spring of 2010, the list of those killed in the Taliban’s assassination campaign in Kandahar includes the provincial chief of police, the deputy governor of Kandahar, the district chief for Arghandab, and the deputy mayor of Kandahar City.

Ahmed Wali served as the head of the provincial council in Kandahar, and was widely recognized as the government’s most powerful man in the key southern province, home to the birthplace of the Taliban. He was a lightning rod for criticism due to his role in the drug trade, his domination of local security companies, and accusations that he provided explosives and other support to the Taliban. Ahmed Wali was also on the CIA’s payroll.

In 2009, the US military was critical of Ahmed Wali and sought to have him removed from power. The US ultimately failed, as President Hamid Karzai fiercely protected his half brother and insulated him from efforts to dislodge him from power.

It is unclear what impact Ahmed Wali’s assassination will have on the recent security gains in Kandahar and the south.

“He was the number-one man in Kandahar,” Mir Wali Khan, a former parliament member from Helmand province who was close to Ahmed Wali and was present at his home at the time of the shooting, told The Associated Press. “We expect now the security of Kandahar will get worse, and the fighting among the tribes will grow stronger and stronger.”


Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Mr T says:

    Sounds like just a rival drug lord killing by drug criminals. Lots of corruption surrounding this guy. Perhaps Karzai won’t be so keen on talking with the Taliban while dissing NATO efforts.
    What happened to the assassin? I am assuming he was captured.

  • The Taliban claim everything. This seems like typical gangland crap that tends to happen to druglord corruptocrats.

  • Soccer says:

    This is unprecedented. This, I believe, is a major incident in the war since 2001.
    And yesterday the Taliban claimed they killed over 250 NATO soldiers in operations across the country. So I would cast into doubt their claim of the assassin being connected to them, based on their past credibility.
    Here is an excerpt:
    30 US-NATO invading terrorists killed raiding civilians July 04

  • andrew says:

    Mr. T
    He’s dead. The other bodyguards killed him right after he killed Karzai. Photo proof here: http://www.daylife.com/photo/03Mj28VgdBd9f

  • Nic says:

    @MR T: Source http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/07/12/who_will_really_miss_ahmed_wali_karzai
    Quote: While the Taliban have claimed responsibility for his death, there’s no reason — yet — to think Sardar Mohammed, who was quickly gunned down by Wali Karzai’s bodyguards, had any connection to the insurgency. End quote.
    Maybe the true story went to the grave with Sardar. He must have known that he was a walking dead man the moment he pulled out the pistol. Without absolute proof of his motivation, there is only conjecture.

  • Nic says:

    @MR T. This story is a fast mover. This update is less than an hour old: SOURCE: http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/07/12/7068205-how-assassin-used-ruse-to-kill-karzai-brother
    QUOTE: But Afghan sources say Mohammad may have also been motivated by family issues or personal vendettas. It will no doubt take a long time to piece it all together. AWK had many enemies. One Afghan source said there could have been a combination of motivations, but that ultimately the Taliban benefits because it gains power by removing a rival. END QUOTE.

  • GB says:

    I see some positive aspects of this assasination. Ahmed Wali Karzai was the face of corruption for many Afghans. He belonged in a jail cell. Hopefully someone of good merit will fill the power vacuum.
    Many of these “elected” Afghan thugs are the exact opposite of USA values. It really doesn’t make us look good when we stand behind them.

  • It does save us the hassle of one day indicting the dude for heroin trafficking.

  • blert says:

    AWK was up past his eyeballs in opiate transactions.
    The assassin was too much a part of the Karzai clan to ever flip over to the Taliban.
    Pakistan, itself, is another matter.
    The typical way that someone is ‘turned’ is by extreme pressure against their most beloved.
    The best working theory is that the ISI constructed the ‘hit’ themselves by getting at his family.
    AFTER the hit, the ISI tosses the ‘credit’/ blame onto the Taliban.
    The purpose of the hit was to empty his chair — a strong man that they couldn’t buy-off or pressure. Up until now, he’d been ‘Untouchable.’
    One should expect a concerted assassination campaign from now on — all orchestrated by S Section, ISI, Islamabad.
    In hand with this, ISI will be using pressure on Karzai to install puppets at the ‘negotiating’ table.
    All of this is so because ISI sees the end of their protection racket. It’s time to go full bore into the opiate trade — AND to gain coercive control of Kabul.
    It looks like Islamabad already considers Kabul ready to cave.

  • Charu says:

    @blert, spot on! These were my thoughts exactly (except that I can’t remember if I had hit the sent button after crafting my earlier comment). But you analyzed this a lot more cogently
    We needlessly focused on AWK’s corruption without considering the nature of the opposition, who are even more corrupt and more deeply involved in the drug trade, AND who are shooting at us and colluding with Al Qaeda. What the Pashtuns needed was a strong ruthless leader with the proper ruling tribal antecedents, and who was against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. And this was AWK, warts and all. HK is clearly not up to the task, which is why the ISI probably targeted AWK; leaving a weak HK in the chair to bend to their wishes after we withdraw.

  • Joe says:

    The CIA would have better reasons to kill this guy than the Taliban. He exemplifies the reasons why they remain relevant in spite of their own dismal failures in every aspect of governance.
    If the Afghans were getting anything the Karzai administration aside from incompetence and corruption the Taliban would have been consigned to the dustbin of history a decade ago.

  • sports says:

    I guess we won’t be reading about any further circumstantial evidence that the guy is a crook. This incident could be a blessing if he’s as crooked as people suggest. Meanwhile, if he’s crooked it could cause even more disarray within the Taliban rank and file. I wonder if Hamid Karzai will be crying foul that innocent people are being killed by the Taliban?

  • blert says:

    Please do check into the back-file here at the LWJ.
    The ‘Taliban’ are ISI’s proxy army.
    The idea that this invasion army is going to fade away because Kabul’s culture has changed — doesn’t pass the smell test.
    Crazy Karzai is practicing politics Afghani style — the idea that muslims living in a time-warped culture 15,000 years back in time are going to observe Western political metrics is too absurd….
    Get up to speed.
    Kabul is entirely irrelevant.
    Islamabad is ALL.

  • Joe says:

    You can not run an insurgency without either active support or antipathy from the population. The Taliban were defeated and they would have stayed defeated had the people of Afghanistan been offered a real future. Of course the situation was extremely unfavorable to anyone who would have tried to create a functioning state, but the big problem with the Karzai government is that the Afghan people view it as a kleptocracy.

  • Charu says:

    “the big problem with the Karzai government is that the Afghan people view it as a kleptocracy”
    @joe; and the Taliban drug lords, with their stoning, beheading, amputations, are a better alternative? As long as we are naive enough to believe that we are going to change a tribal culture to a functioning democracy overnight, we are headed for a significant defeat; not because of the bravery of our soldiers but because of our ignorance of Afghan culture and history. AWK was the perfect Pashtun strongman to counter the Taliban warlords sponsored by Islamabad. Let us hope for the sake of the Afghan people that they find another strong Popalzai leader to quickly take AWK’s place.

  • David says:

    You certainly can run an insurgency if you have
    the support of a foreign power. The support
    of the people is gained through terror — the Taliban
    kill anyone who opposes them, and are responsible
    for far more civilian deaths than NATO. Therefore,
    although I do not question that the Kabul government is ineffective and kleptocratic, and worse, I don’t think it is relevant. The Taliban government was genocidal — look at what they did
    to the Hazaras, for example, after the Bamiyan statues were blown up — they killed tens of thousands in just one incident.
    But if the Taliban can threaten your life, it doesn’t matter HOW good or bad the government in Kabul is, you will have to support the Taliban.

  • Abu Samuel says:

    Incompetence and corruption as many have noted here are hallmarks of the Karzai government and the network of local ‘strong men’ that ISAF and the CIA have continued to support/use to help in the fight against the Taliban.
    I would be interested to know the motivation behind this attack especially as Sardar Mohammed could have had no chance of escaping with his life.
    Possible options have their pro’s and con’s.
    Pro – it may represent a type of ‘kill and be killed’ in the path of Allah attack
    Con – His position and history with AWK and his family would seemingly make this unlikely
    Criminally motivated
    Pro – AWK had many enemies associated with drugs etc
    Con – Why would Sardar undertake a one-way mission for such motives
    Pro – if Sardar killed over a point of honor this would explain why he didn’t need to escape.
    Cons – unknown as to what event would have brought this about.
    I am personally drawn towards thinking that this was a killing motivated by personal feelings/honor.
    I would hold out on the Taliban angle until a martyrdom tape surfaces from the Taliban.

  • David says:

    @Abu Samuel
    Another suggestion: Blackmailed by Taliban:
    Taliban gets to him, tells him we will kill your family unless you do this attack.
    He probably wouldn’t want to make a martyrdom
    video in that case.

  • jean says:

    There have been a lot comments about his death and linking the root cause to drug trade. However, consider a strategy in which the Taliban eliminate the power brokers /COI in order to create a greater power vacuum as we withdraw in coming years.
    Malik Zarin ( Kunar )
    Ahmed Wali Karzai (Kandahar)
    Gul Agha Sherzai ????
    Whoever is the COI for the Khost Salient?

  • Mr T says:

    One good thing if he was with the Taliban is that he can no longer feed them information. Imagine having access to a bodyguard of a top leader of Afghanistan, etc. He could feed you all kinds of good information. He must be trusted enough to overhear certain aspects of the drug business, financial trasnactions, security arrangements, and so on.
    It would seem to be much more valuable to have him telling the Taliban these kinds of things than to have him kill the guy and lose all that intel. In that case, its good he is dead and can no longer tell secrets. This makes the Taliban angle somewhat unbelievable.
    On the other hand, he may have used up his usefulness, the successor is in place and it was time for the bodyguard to matry himself for the cause. Perhaps he was about to be exposed. Perhaps he was in that room and they directly asked him if he was working for the Taliban so he pulled his weapon and ended it. So it could be plausible.
    It could also be he has a temper problem and just got mad and killed him not caring about the consequences or he was a heroin addict having a bad day.
    In that culture, who will take care of the murderers wife and kids if he has any? Will the Taliban make payments to them? Follow the money.

  • Hawk says:

    Doesn’t this assassination make it impossible for Karazai to continue negotiations with the Taliban under Pashtunwali? Would he be able to maintain the respect of his people if he does negotiate? Would the U.S. put Karazai in an impossible position if we continued negotiations?


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