In the Arena

Afghan Assassination

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This is huge news, but I’m not sure what it means. Ahmed Wali Karzai was the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan. He was President Karzai’s half-brother. He was most likely a major drug lord; he was definitely on the payroll of the CIA. He was therefore an iconic figure: the embodiment of everything that has made Afghanistan a brain-frying befuddlement for the United States.

The Taliban claimed credit for his murder, but I doubt they had anything to do with it. It was more likely a tribal hit, part of the ever-shifting roundelay of payoffs, blood revenge, broken alliances and power plays that has been the eternal history of Pashtun society. The big question now is what effect this has on the successful U.S. military operations in southern Afghanistan: who replaces Karzai? Does this set off a round of inter-tribal warfare that disrupts the community-building efforts undertaken by our troops? It may be the best thing that’s happened to Kandahar politics in years, or the worst.