The village was Karz, the president’s ancestral home, and the gathering with dozens of elders was held just a few hundred yards from a mausoleum with the tomb of the Afghanpresident’s father. That such open discontent swirls even here, on the Karzai clan’s home turf outsidesouthern Afghanistan’s main city of Kandahar, indicates the depth of the challengesPresident Karzai is facing as a transition of power looms next spring, when his final termexpires.
If the election takes place as scheduled in April, Mr. Karzai is widely expected totry steering into office a trusted ally, possibly his brother Qayum Karzai, who ispreparing a presidential bid. As a backup plan, some of the president’s supporters recently began a campaignto extend his term, in the name of the national interest.
Many opposition leaders, including powerful warlords who backed Mr. Karzai in previouselections, are pledging to thwart such plans. The Karzai clan worked closely together to secure Mr. Karzai’s re-election in 2009.Any such concerted effort this time, however, is hobbled by increasingly bitter infightingwithin the extended family. The fighting among the Karzais has become so public that it now dominates the politicallife of Kandahar, the sprawling metropolis that is both the clan’s power base and thecradle of the Taliban.
The feud is both a conflict within Mr. Karzai’s immediate family—with brotherswarring over tens of millions of dollars in allegedly missing cash—and a clashwith a rival branch of the family led by cousin Hashmat, who is emerging as analternative power center in Kandahar.Most of the main players in this Shakespearean drama are current or former U.S.citizens or hold U.S. permanent-resident status.
“How can the people of Afghanistan have expectations that this family will bring peaceand stability to Afghanistan if they cannot even have peace and stability within their ownfamily?” wonders Ahmad Zia Massoud, who was Afghanistan’s vice president from 2004to 2009 and now leads an opposition group.A businessman who helped fund President Karzai’s re-election in 2009, Mahmood thistime around is organizing the campaign of their brother Qayum, holding frequentmeetings with tribal leaders.Qayum, who holds U.S. permanent residency status but lives in Afghanistan, hasn’t yetannounced his expected candidacy. He didn’t respond to requests for comment.Mahmood, a key player in Kandahar who recently renounced his own U.S. citizenship,says he will run for president himself in case Qayum doesn’t.