Uncertainty plagues Southern Afghanistan.
Today Ahmed Wali Karzai — the half-brother of President Hamid Karzai and the main strongman of Southern Afghanistan — was shot twice in the head and killed in his house in central Kandahar. Though the Taliban originally claimed responsibility for the murder, reports suggest he was killed by a close confidante, a man named Sardar Mohammed, in what was most likely a personal feud.
Put simply, Ahmed Wali was not well-liked, and there will likely be a great deal of fallout from the substantial power vacuum in Kandahar that follows his assassination.
In recent years, he’s been marred by accusations of widespread corruption, including involvement in the heroin trade, and of being paid by the CIA to run questionable militias. As Dexter Filkins wrote in The New Yorker today, Ahmed Wali "embodied all the flaws of the American project in Afghanistan." [It’s important to note here that most of these accusations stemmed from reports in The New York Times, and some — including Sen. Kerry in 2009 — have said they don’t have direct evidence of his corruption.]
Just two weeks ago, Afghanistan wonk Matthieu Aikins over at Harpers’ Magazine wrote about how a recent push to make Ahmed Wali the governor of Kandahar further forced diplomats and senior military officials to grapple with what to do with a problem like Ahmed Wali Karzai.
Now, it seems, the question has become how to solve a problem like a dead Ahmed Wali Karzai. As Matt points out in Foreign Policy Magazine, there’s no clear successor to fill his shoes, and his death could escalate existing rivalries. The contenders most likely in the running — or those who would be empowered from his death — are hardly more promising than Ahmed Wali. For now, uncertainty and apprehension reign.
[I’d recommend following Matt’s insights on this via Twitter; he can be very clairvoyant when it comes to wonky developments out of Afghanistan. You can also follow my Afghanistan Twitter List of journalists, policy-people and others on the ground.]