Daily brief: Karzai’s powerful half-brother killed in Kandahar

Killing power Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s younger half-brother and key power broker in southern Afghanistan Ahmed Wali Karzai was shot dead in his Kandahar home this morning by longtime associate Sardar Muhammad (NYT, BBC, Pajhwok, Post, Globe and Mail, LAT, AP, Reuters, WSJ, Tel, Guardian). The Taliban claimed credit almost immediately for the attack, but ...

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Killing power

Afghan president Hamid Karzai's younger half-brother and key power broker in southern Afghanistan Ahmed Wali Karzai was shot dead in his Kandahar home this morning by longtime associate Sardar Muhammad (NYT, BBC, Pajhwok, Post, Globe and Mail, LAT, AP, Reuters, WSJ, Tel, Guardian). The Taliban claimed credit almost immediately for the attack, but it remains unclear why Muhammad, who was swiftly shot dead by other bodyguards, killed Karzai, widely considered one of the most powerful men in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Wali, who headed Kandahar's provincial council but is also believed to have had deep ties to drug smuggling and other criminal networks, was also an important go-between with American forces and government officials in and around Kandahar (NYT, Reuters, CNN, AFP). Speaking at a press conference with French president Nicolas Sarkozy shortly after the news broke, President Karzai said, "The homes of all Afghans feel this pain. Our hope is this (violence) will come to an end and peace and happiness come to our homes and will come to rule in our country" (BBC).

Killing power

Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s younger half-brother and key power broker in southern Afghanistan Ahmed Wali Karzai was shot dead in his Kandahar home this morning by longtime associate Sardar Muhammad (NYT, BBC, Pajhwok, Post, Globe and Mail, LAT, AP, Reuters, WSJ, Tel, Guardian). The Taliban claimed credit almost immediately for the attack, but it remains unclear why Muhammad, who was swiftly shot dead by other bodyguards, killed Karzai, widely considered one of the most powerful men in Afghanistan.

Ahmed Wali, who headed Kandahar’s provincial council but is also believed to have had deep ties to drug smuggling and other criminal networks, was also an important go-between with American forces and government officials in and around Kandahar (NYT, Reuters, CNN, AFP). Speaking at a press conference with French president Nicolas Sarkozy shortly after the news broke, President Karzai said, "The homes of all Afghans feel this pain. Our hope is this (violence) will come to an end and peace and happiness come to our homes and will come to rule in our country" (BBC).

Sarkozy, who was in Afghanistan on a brief unannounced visit, said separately that France would pull 1,000 troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2012, leaving the nearly 3,000 remaining French forces in Kapisa province (AP, BBC, Tel). And the Journal reports that as many as 12,000 Afghan civilians have fled areas near the country’s border with Pakistan since mid-June, following a surge in cross-border mortar fire from Pakistan (WSJ).

In other news, the Azizi bank, Afghanistan’s second largest, denied liquidity problems yesterday after lawmakers accused the bank of of being near-collapse (AP, Reuters, WSJ). The L.A. Times writes on the race to excavate the ancient Buddhist monasteries at Mes Aynak before the site is demolished by a Chinese company mining for copper (LAT). And authorities in Uruzgan province released a man who allegedly took part in the mutilation of Bibi Aisha, whose nose and ears were cut off after she ran away from an arranged marriage (NYT).

Intricate ruse

The Guardian reports that the CIA ran a fake vaccination drive in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in order to get DNA confirmation from the children of Osama bin Laden that the family was living in the city (Guardian, NYT, AP, Tel, BBC). The program was reportedly run by Shakil Afridi, a senior Pakistani doctor who was arrested and is still being held by Pakistani authorities for cooperating with the CIA effort. Though a nurse associated with Afridi is said to have gained access to bin Laden’s compound, it is unclear if the CIA was able to obtain the hoped-for DNA (CNN).

The Post reports that the CIA have officially classified the identity of one of its key analysts in the hunt for bin Laden, a man identified as "John" by the AP, in response to intelligence on threats against people involved in the search for the slain al-Qaeda leader (Post). And the Pakistani commission investigating the raid that killed bin Laden questioned senior Pakistani Air Force officers Monday (ET, ET).

Escalation

A barrage of missiles fired by suspected U.S. drones struck at least three targets in Pakistan’s North Waziristan and South Waziristan in the past 24 hours, killing up to 45 purported militants, though casualty counts varied widely (Reuters, AP, ET, AFP, BBC). The strikes come after U.S. officials said Pakistan would need to make more concrete progress in tackling militants to regain access to military aid, nearly $800 million of which was suspended over the weekend (AFP, Dawn).

Experts and officials have warned of security and economic consequences for Pakistan if the aid is not delivered, and Pakistani defense minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar told reporters that Pakistan would pull troops from nearly 1,100 checkpoints on the country’s border with Afghanistan in response (ET, LAT, Tel, Reuters, CNN, DT, AP, Dawn, AFP). Indian officials welcomed the aid cutoff, which the Tribune reports resulted from Pakistan’s supposed refusal to allow U.S. personnel on the country’s airbases (AFP, DT, ET).

Tension remains high in Karachi, as at least five more people have died in "targeted killings" in the city (ET, ET, Dawn, Dawn, Dawn). At least 15 people have been killed after an explosion on a bus near Islamabad (ET). An attack on a NATO tanker truck near Quetta has killed two people (AFP). And the departing Pakistan country director for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told journalists Monday that violence against aid workers is increasing in the country (AP, ET).

Finally, Reuters interviews the spokesman for the group Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), Muhammad Yahya Mujahid, who said that Pakistan needs economic prosperity, not violence (Reuters). Mujahid also denied that JuD is tied to the group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), despite being blacklisted by the United Nations over the alleged ties.

Ooh-rah

Actress Mila Kunis has agreed to attend the Marine Corps Ball in November after Marine Sgt. Scott Moore posted a YouTube video asking the celebrity to be his guest (Fox). Moore recorded the video in Afghanistan, where he is currently deployed.

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