Assassinated Afghan Leader’s Ties to Baltimore

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When a bodyguard assassinated Ahmed Walid Karzai, a dominant figure in southern Afghanistan, last week, American officials reacted with talk of power vacuums and political strategy. “His death will only complicate an already complicated situation,” Bill Harris, formerly Kandahar’s senior American diplomat, told the New York Times.

AWK was, of course, the half-brother of Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan. But he was also half-brother to Qayum Karzai, Baltimore restauranteur (owner of Helmand, b, and Tapas Teatro)–and so the news of his death hit some people around here quite differently.

Depending on whose accounts you believe, AWK was the only person capable of holding together southern Afghanistan and negotiating tricky deals with the Taliban–or he “had connections to the opium trade,  skimmed millions of dollars off contracts for supplying NATO troops and made deals with some Taliban even as he fiercely fought others.” Or perhaps both.

But he also spent a decade living in the U.S., becoming a Cubs fan and managing Helmand’s sister restaurant in Chicago. That restaurant closed in the mid-90s, and AWK moved to Afghanistan to help his brother with his political career. Qayum Karzai stuck around and opened some of Baltimore’s most popular restaurants.  It’s a crazy world.

 

Photo by Jeff Kubina.



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