Karzai kin using ties to acquire power in Afghanistan

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Washington, Oct. 6 (ANI): American officials say the Karzais and a handful of other well-connected families have benefited from the billions of dollars that the United States has poured into the country since 2001 thanks to their link to President Hamid Karzai.

That money has helped pay the salaries of some Karzais who are government employees, kick-started real estate development and construction projects involving family members and created demand for businesses tied to the Karzais.

According to the officials, relatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai are reportedly using their links to him to get ahead in life and acquire a status that could be the envy of many.

Take the case of Afghan immigrant Taj Ayubi. Until recently, he was running a furniture store in Leesburg, Virginia, and before that, a thrift shop in Washington. Today, Ayubi is the senior foreign affairs adviser to Hamid Karzai.

Another case is that of Qayum Karzai. He has served as a Member of Parliament from Kandahar and then as President Karzai's intermediary with the Taliban.

Ayubi's qualifications for his post in Kabul are ties to President Karzai's extended family. His sister is married to a Karzai, and her sons are now important junior members of the growing Karzai family network in Afghanistan.

In recent years, dozens of Karzai family members and close allies have taken government jobs, pursued business interests or worked as contractors to the United States government, allowing them to shape policy or financially benefit from it.

While the roles played by two of President Karzai's brothers - Ahmed Wali Karzai, the power broker of Kandahar, and Mahmoud Karzai, a prominent businessman and investor in the troubled Kabul Bank - have been well documented, the extensive web of other family members has not previously been reported.

Most of them lived in the United States before going to Afghanistan, leveraging the president's position to put them at the center of a new oligarchy of powerful Afghan families.ne of President Karzai's nephews is a top official in the intelligence service, giving him authority over some of Afghanistan's most sensitive security operations.

A brother of the president is an official in the agency that issues licenses required for all Afghan corporations; an uncle is now ambassador to Russia.

At least six Karzai relatives, including one who just ran for Parliament, operate or are linked to contracting businesses that collect millions of dollars annually from the American government.

Other brothers, cousins, nephews and in-laws wield influence in Kabul and the family's native Kandahar, through government posts or businesses like trucking and real estate development.

The family's expanding presence serves both to strengthen and to undermine President Karzai, according to American and Afghan officials.

Corruption allegations taint his government, and Afghans routinely accuse him of turning a blind eye to the activities of some of his relatives.

They include Ahmed Wali Karzai, who denies repeated accusations of ties to the drug trade, and Mahmoud Karzai, whose business dealings are under investigation by American prosecutors.

Ronald E. Neumann, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, said he believed that President Karzai intended to create a support network that could help him survive after the withdrawal of American troops.

"Karzai is convinced that we are going to abandon him," Neumann said.

"Family politics is part of the culture of this part of the world," said Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani author who has written extensively about Afghanistan. "Right now, Afghanistan is going through a phase of very primitive capital accumulation by the country's leading families."

Still, many relatives are hedging their bets against the decline and fall of the Karzai government, keeping their own families and homes outside of Afghanistan, either in the United States, in Dubai or elsewhere, several relatives said in interviews. (ANI)

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