Updated on: Thursday, August 19, 2021, 05:19 PM IST

Who is Hamid Karzai? All you need to know about the former Afghan President

Rahmat Gul

Rahmat Gul


Karzai, the former president has emerged again after the 63-year-old leader shared a video with his daughters by side asking Taliban to help save Afghanistan together.

"I would like to inform Kabul residents that my family and I, my daughters, are all here," he said.

The 63-year-old former president was once the fresh face of the new Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when he was plucked from relative obscurity and hailed as the modernising force with tribal ties that could transform the crippled nation.

As a fluent English speaker, tribal elder and hailing from a prominent Pashtun family, he seemed to have guaranteed influence.

He eventually fell out of favour in Washington, however, and into the political wilderness, with his former finance minister Ashraf Ghani taking the reins in 2014.

Hamid Karzai attended Mahmood Hotaki Primary School in Kandahar and Sayed Jamaluddin Afghani School in Kabul. He graduated from Habibia High School in 1976.

After graduating from high school, he traveled to India as an exchange student in 1976, and was accepted to study for his master's degree in international relations and political science from Himachal Pradesh University.

Karzai obtained his master's degree in 1983 after which he moved to Pakistan to work as a fundraiser for the anti-communist mujahideen during the 1980s Soviet–Afghan War.

Following the withdrawal of Soviet forces, Hamid Karzai returned to Afghanistan in early October 1988 to assist in the mujahideen victory in Tarinkot. He assisted in rallying Popalzai and other Durrani tribes to oust the regime from the city as well as helped negotiate the defection of five hundred of Mohammad Najibullah's forces.

On Wednesday, August 18, Karzai sat down with a Taliban delegation that included Anas Haqqani -- the scion of the infamous Taliban faction that unleashed havoc with suicide bombs and brutal attacks on Kabul when he was president.

In December 2001, following the ousting of the Taliban, Karzai was appointed chairman of a transitional administration at UN-sponsored talks in Bonn, Germany that pledged to work towards democracy.

A traditional Afghan assembly then confirmed him as president of the transitional government paving the way for his leadership of the newly minted republic.

But criticism soon overshadowed the initial plaudits that showered Karzai, and even earned him a nomination for the Nobel Prize.

The election of Barack Obama and the exit of his former patron George Bush set the stage for a nasty showdown, as the US launched a massive "surge" and deployed more than 100,000 troops to Afghanistan to beat back a rising Taliban threat.

For years, Karzai warned that the heavy-handed counterinsurgency in the Taliban's southern strongholds was only reviving the movement and begged Washington instead to focus their efforts on bringing Pakistan's support for the militants' exiled leadership to heel.

Even as the insurgents bombed his capital, Karzai insisted that the Taliban must be brought into the fold, drawing harsh criticism when he called the militants "brothers".

But his requests were largely ignored.

He eventually lost the support of the West, with American officials and the media routinely pillaring him for corruption even as the US dumped billions into an impoverished, agrarian economy that was overwhelmed by the deluge -- making graft all but inevitable.

After finishing his second term, Karzai lost power to Ghani.

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Published on: Thursday, August 19, 2021, 05:19 PM IST