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08 December 2004

Karzai sworn in as first democratically elected Afghan president

Troops from NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and personnel from the US-dominated and led coalition forces accompanied Afghan army and police as they intensified their patrols on the streets of Kabul ahead of the inauguration of the new president. But who is the man the Economist hails as "Afghanistan’'s George Washington"?

Hamid Karzai was born December 24, 1957 in Kandahar, an ethnic Pashtun and member of the powerful Populzai tribe (which has supplied Afghanistan's kings since 1747 and which, combined with Karzai's appointment as President of Afghanistan, provides yet another example how power is maintained amongst a very tightly knit group of clans the world over, throughout history and by whatever means necessary). Karzai become involved in the world of Afghan politics at an early age, supporting the incumbent clan's king, King Zahir Shah before studying to obtain a BA and MA in political science and international relations from Shimla University in India.

Following his studies, Karzai returned to Afghanistan and spent the mid-to-late eighties serving as a mujaheddin adviser and diplomat and fundraising on behalf of anti-Soviet uprisings. After the Soviet forces were expelled with the help of the CIA and Osama Bin Laden, Karzai served as a deputy foreign minister in the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani who was overthrown by the Taliban in 1996. Initially, Karzai was a keen supporter of the Taliban, "Like so many mujaheddin, I believed in the Taliban when they first appeared on the scene in 1994 and they promised to end the warlordism, establish law and order, and then call a Loya Jirga to decide upon who should rule Afghanistan," Karzai said in an interview in September 2001. "I gave the Taliban $50,000 U.S. to help run their movement and then handed over to them a large cache of weapons I had hidden away."

Karzai's allegiance with the Taliban came to an end when Karzai began to oppose their rigid policies and distrust their connections to Pakistani intelligence and Arab Islamic radicals. In 1997 Karzai refused to become ambassador to the UN, even though Unocal oil barons were happy to entertain the Taliban in Texas.

Shortly afterwards, Unocal declared the political climate in Afghanistan to be too unstable to proceed with their plans for a pipeline through Afghanistan and in 1998, from his home in Quetta, Karzai set about organising opposition to the Taliban. On July 14, 1999 Karzai's father Abdul Arhad Karzai was assassinated with reports stating he was gunned down by unidentified killers who fled on a motorcycle as he emerged from a mosque. Blame was tacitly assigned to the Taliban, despite the killers being 'unidentified' and who may well have been another third party that wished for a perfidious connection to made between the murder of Karzai's father and the Taliban). Eight days later Hamid Karzai was nominated by Afghan leaders and Islamic scholars to be the next leader of the Populzai tribe, even though he has several older brothers living in the United States that might have qualified for the position.

In October 2001 Karzai's brother said that Karzai survived an ambush by Taliban forces and was still in Afghanistan. Other reports said that U.S. forces had rescued him and took him out of Afghanistan. The U.S. says it whisked him out of the country; Karzai insists he never left--perhaps concerned about being seen as too close to the U.S. Neither report could be independently confirmed. In December 2001 Karzai is sworn in as Afghanistan's new leader, a role which he filled until his presidential inauguration ceremony today.

In a country that has suffered from a notoriously unstable political climate for its entire history, one might have thought that the execution of the coup d'etat by conquering imperialist forces in Afghanistan would have been a little more swift than the three years it has taken to arrange for Hamid Karzai to become "democratically" and "popularly" elected as the country's President. And, with the likes of former Halliburton fraudster, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld among a select 150 of "the world’s great and good" foreign delegates that attended the inauguration of the new president, one has to wonder quite what the Afghan definition of 'stability' might be in the future.

Fittingly, and in a perverse reversal of Afghani, Iraqi and increasingly global truth Cheney announced, "We gather to mark a historic moment in the life of the nation and in the history of human freedom."

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