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Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai (born December 24, 1957) is Afghanistan first elected president. Priot to this, he served as interim president of the Afghan Transitional Administration. He was named Chairman of the Afghan Transitional Administration during the Bonn Agreement, December 5, 2001, and his inauguration took place on December 22, 2001. He was named President at the Loya Jirga session on June 19, 2002. Official elections are scheduled to take place in Afghanistan on October 9, 2004.

With the Loya Jirga of December 2003 approving the Constitution of Afghanistan, which will create a presidential system of government, Karzai said he would run for the position of President of Afghanistan.

Karzai was born in Kandahar. An ethnic Pashtun and a member of the powerful Populzai clan (from which many Afghan Kings have come), he came from a family that were among the strongest supporters of King Zahir Shah. Thus, he was involved in politics in Afghanistan early on. He took a postgraduate course in political science at Himachal University in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India from 1979 to 1983, then returned to work as a fund-raiser supporting anti-Soviet uprisings in Afghanistan during the rest of the 1980s. After the expulsion of Soviet forces, he served as a minister in the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Karzai speaks six languages; Pushtu, Dari, Urdu, English, French and Hindi. He is married to Zinat Karzai, a doctor by profession. They were married in 1998 and have no children.

When the Taliban emerged onto the political scene in the 1990s, Karzai was initially among their supporters. However, he later broke with the Taliban, citing distrust of their links to Pakistan. After the Taliban overthrew Rabbani in 1996, Karzai refused to serve as their U.N. ambassador. In 1997, Karzai joined many of his family members in Quetta, from where he worked to reinstate Zahir Shah. His father was assassinated, presumably by Taliban agents, July 14, 1999, and Karzai swore revenge against the Taliban by working to help overthrow it.

In 2001, following the September 11 terrorist attack, Karzai worked with agents of the United States to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan and muster support for a new government. On December 5, 2001 exile Afghan political leaders--many with no followers inside Afghanistan--gathered in Bonn, Germany, and named Karzai chairman of a 29-member governing committee and leader of an interim government. The ceremony for the transfer of power took place December 22. Critics assert that he worked for the American oil company Unocal (see below), which has interests in the oil and gas industry across Central Asia.

On September 5, 2002, an assassination attempt was made on Hamid Karzai in Kandahar. A gunman wearing the uniform of the new Afghan National Army opened fire, wounding the Governor of Kandahar and an American Special Operations officer. The gunman and one of the President's bodyguards were killed.

He received an honorary doctorate in literature from Himachal University on March 7, 2003.

His brother Ahmed Wali Karzai helps coordinate humanitarian assistance in the southern province of Kandahar.

Several sources, most notably the documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11, have reported that Karzai once worked as a consultant for the oil company Unocal. Spokesmen for both Unocal and Karzai have denied any such relationship. The claim appears to have originated in the December 9, 2001 issue of the French newspaper Le Monde. Some have suggested that Karzai was confused with U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.

His actual authority outside the capital city of Kabul has been said to be so limited that he had often been derided as the "Mayor of Kabul." Although he had little or no popular support outside Kabul, the Karzai defeated his 22 opponents in the country's presidential election on October 9th, 2004. Endorsement by the second Bush administration, incumbency, the brief one month campaign season, and the paucity of news coverage in the country about his opponents made him the winner in an election initially expected to be flawed by violence and vote fraud.

On November 3, 2004, Hamid Karzai was declared the winner of Afghanistan's first-ever presidential election, after the United Nations-Afghan joint electoral commission endorsed the election results as free and fair and announced that Karzai had won more than 55% of the votes.

On December 7, 2004, Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai took the oath of office and thus becoming Afghanistan's first popularly-elected president. During 2009 approximately five million citizens voted in presidential and provincial council elections, and the first competitive presidential election in the country's history. Hamid Karzai was declared the winner.

President Karzai took his second oath of office on 19 November 2009. After a contentious and fraud-marred election, some question Karzai's legitimacy but he still enjoyed the broad acceptance of the Afghan people. In conceding the need for a second round because his vote total was less than 50 percent of the valid votes cast, President Karzai accepted - grudgingly - that nearly a million of his initial votes had to be thrown out as fraudulent. Nonetheless, he never publicly apologized or disassociated himself from those who committed fraud on his behalf.

Karzai struggles to maintain a balance between institutional and traditional informal governance, in an environment of poverty, social exhaustion, illicit power centers arising from decades of political breakdown, governmental incapacity, criminality, and insurgency. There are no easy answers, and neither Karzai nor the international community can fight all battles all the time.

Karzai's alliance with warlords and other strongmen led to confrontation with his Western allies, who came to resent the dominant role such domestic powerbrokers play in Afghan politics, despite initially supporting them as allies against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

In meetings with Karzai, by 2009 two contrasting portraits emerge. The first is of a paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation building and overly self-conscious that his time in the spotlight of glowing reviews from the international community has passed. The other is that of an ever-shrewd politician who sees himself as a nationalist hero who can save the country from being divided by the decentralization-focused agenda of Abdullah, other political rivals, neighboring countries, and the US. Even some senior Afghan officials see Karzai as an "extremely weak man" who did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to him to report even the most bizarre stories of plots against him. Whenever this happened, Karzai would immediately judge the person to be loyal and would reward him.

Karzai’s mercurial moods increasingly exasperated his international supporters. In September 2010 former Watergate investigator and noted journalist Bob Woodward reported that Karzai takes medication for his manic depression. His book — “Obama’s Wars” — cites American intelligence reports as saying that Karzai has been diagnosed as a manic depressive. “He’s on his meds, he’s off his meds,” Karl Eikenberry, US ambassador to Kabul, is quoted as saying in the book.

In a December 8, 2010, Washington Post article, while meeting with General Petraeus and former Ambassador Eikenberry, President Karzai said he has three ``main enemies'': the Taliban, the United States, and the international community. ``If I had to choose sides today, I'd choose the Taliban.''

By 2011 Karzai's gushing overtures to the Taliban, his courting of the Iranians, and his open disparagement of the United States had sent his popularity in Washington to an all-time low. Yyears of squalid revelations about the Karzai administration's alleged corruption, ineptitude, and nepotism had exasperated policymakers in Washington.

In November 2011, after President Karzai made the outrageous statement that he would back Pakistan in a war against the United States, Major General Peter Fuller, one of the US troop commanders in Afghanistan, delivered a colorful and candid on-the-record reply. He said, ``Why don't you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You've got to be kidding me. I'm sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion, and now you're telling me, `I don't really care'.'' He said this of President Karzai , whom he also described as erratic and ``isolated from reality.'' Fuller was fired, relieved of his command by General John Allen, who admonished General Fuller for ``inappropriate public comments.''

What Major General Fuller had the audacity to say out loud--that the Karzai regime is feckless and corrupt--is what most people secretly believe. Time correspondent Mark Thompson put it this way: ``It is not a good sign when what everyone is saying privately cannot be stated publicly. In that case, only the troops--the ones dying--and the taxpayers--the people employing both Allen and Fuller--are kept willfully in the dark.'' The writer Christopher Hitchens put it even more bluntly, saying that to silence Fuller ``is to establish a stupid culture of denial in the ranks.''

Karzai acted largely on his desire to manipulate, not out of conviction. The President had a penchant for spending hours ruminating over the latest perceived foreign plot against him, rather than paying attention to his ministers and the challenges they face. Karzai's obsession with protocol came with a complete disregard for substance. Karzai had squandered numerous past opportunities to build his nation. Karzai risked ruining his own and his country's future.

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