Watching on a long flight the other day the classic 1966 Sergio Leone spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly I couldn’t help but think that Afghanistan would make a great backdrop for a remake of the Clint Eastwood classic.
I’m not sure whether Kandahar region ‘super governor’ Ahmed Wali Karzai would have been cast as “The Bad” or “The Ugly”, but the half brother of Afghanistan’s President — shot dead today by a family bodyguard — was no force of noble spirit.
The US intelligence establishment has amassed a mountain of material alleging his core involvement in Afghanistan’s drug trade and his role not only as a profiteer in the lucrative private security business, but as someone who, like a mafia don, has allegedly had rivals and people of means kidnapped and harassed in an extortion racket.
Karzai’s half brother was considered a war lord by many, often referred to as “the most powerful man in Southern Afghanistan.” When then US Representative and now Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Director Jane Harman was pounding the Obama administration and General David Petraeus to show her a plan on how such a morally insolvent and corrupt regime could ever become an adequate partner in stabilizing the country, she was in large degree talking about the intelligence sector-documented nefarious activities of President Karzai’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai.
The Taliban have publicly claimed responsibility for Karzai’s assassination by security guard and trusted Karzai household-insider, Sardar Mohammad.
If true, this shows the Taliban have great reach still throughout the power corridors of Afghan society — and have enormous patience and skill to manage what would have been a complex and risky operation. If not true, then one wonders what motivated this guard, and we just don’t know those answers yet, if ever.
The other thing to remember though is that to many, Ahmed Wali Karzai was a self-aggrandizing mafia boss; people feared him — and while many also may fear the Taliban, there is no clear battle between the good and the bad, between those with white hats and those with black.
Maybe for anyone to be the kind of power broker Karzai became, every one eventually becomes “The Ugly.”