Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Wednesday, 26 May 2010 18:21 UK

Profile: Ahmad Wali Karzai

By Alastair Lawson
BBC News

Ahmad Wali Karzai
I am not a drug dealer, I never was and I never will be. I am a victim of vicious politics
Ahmad Wali Karzai

Ahmad Wali Karzai, the younger half-brother of the Afghan president and leader of the Kandahar Provincial Council, is one his country's most controversial politicians.

To his supporters he is a man of the people, a gallant defender of Pashtun rights who has the authority through his links to the president to offer a peaceful alternative to the violence served up by the Taliban.

To his critics Mr Karzai is a warlord mired in corruption who is openly involved in the drugs trade and has a personal militia at his disposal.

What is not in dispute is Mr Karzai's ability to attract uncomplimentary headlines.

That was the case even before he was alleged by the New York Times in October 2009 to have been paid by the CIA for the last nine years.

The newspaper also accused him of operating a CIA-bankrolled Afghan paramilitary force to conduct raids on the Taliban around Kandahar.

Bomb-filled tanker

Given his colourful background it is perhaps hardly surprising that this most well-connected of politicians has escaped several assassination attempts.

People in Kandahar
Mr Karzai's power base is in Kandhar

In May 2009 Mr Karzai said that one of his bodyguards had been killed by unknown attackers using rockets and machine-guns on his convoy as it was travelling to Kabul.

In 2008, he was chairing a meeting in a government building when a bomb-filled fuel tanker exploded close by, killing six people.

And five years before that, Mr Karzai's house was hit by an explosion which he said was caused "accidentally" when some weapons were being moved.

Ahmad Wali Karzai was born in the southern city of Karz in 1961. He has a sister and six brothers, including Hamid Karzai.

He has always strenuously denied any wrongdoing - especially in relation to drugs and corruption - and has had to vigorously defend himself on numerous occasions over the last 15 years. The allegations against him include:

  • Living rent-free in 2001 in a house owned by a known drugs trafficker
  • Being directly involved in the international drugs trade following an Afghan parliamentary debate in 2007
  • Orchestrating voter fraud during the August 2009 presidential elections
  • Operating a CIA-funded militia to attack Taliban targets in and around Kandahar

"I am not a drug dealer, I never was and I never will be. I am a victim of vicious politics," Mr Karzai said in October 2009 following the publication of the New York Times allegations.

At the same time he was forced to fend off the CIA militia allegations and repeat his refrain that far from deploying a militia to hit Taliban targets he was in fact reaching out to them - and claimed to have brokered a truce with the militants in Kandahar prior to the August elections.

Taliban militant
Mr Karzai says he wants to reach out to the Taliban

"I don't know anyone under the name of the CIA and I have never received any money from any organisation. I help, definitely. I help other Americans wherever I can. But this is my duty as an Afghan."

While it is difficult to prove the case against Mr Karzai, there is evidence to suggest that the Americans see him as a liability.

In 2007 he was recommended for an overseas ambassadorial post by the US ambassador in Kabul - allegedly as a means for President Karzai to avoid any more fraternal embarrassment - but the president rejected the move.

In the meantime the case against his younger brother remains unproven.

"I have requested from our intelligence sources and law enforcement folks the smoking gun, the evidence... and nobody has [produced it]," US Senator John Kerry said in October 2009.

Unless they do, it looks as if the president's younger sibling will remain a key player in the complicated power politics of Afghanistan.

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