Biography of Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai

by Abdullah Qazi on May 3, 2009
last updated by S. Ghilzai and Abdullah Qazi on January 13, 2016

Hamid Karzai was the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014.

Hamid Karzai was born in 1957, and comes from the well-known Popalzai tribe. His family is a wealthy Pashtun family originally from Kandahar. He spent his early years in Kandahar, attending primary school, and then completed his high school degree at Habibia high school in Kabul. He went on to do his higher education in India.

During the Soviet war, Karzai worked as a contractor for the CIA, as well as helped the mujahideen. Karzai helped transfer arms and money to the mujaheddin. Later he served as Deputy Foreign Minister under President Burhanuddin Rabbani. Ironically, during this time, Karzai was arrested by Mohammad Fahim (who would later serve as his Vice President) because it was thought he was potentially spying for Gulbuddin Hekamatyar.

When the Taliban emerged on the scene, Karzai supported them, and even worked as a consultant to help a major US oil company, Unocal sign a deal with the Taliban to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. The deal was never put to fruition, after women rights organizations in the United States put pressure on Unocal to not do business with the Taliban due to their extremely oppressive treatment of women in the country. Eventually, Karzai grew tired of the Taliban and later in 2001, after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, began to secretly work with the United States to find an alternative to Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Once the Americans led an invasion of Afghanistan, Karzai was implanted as the interim President of the country, chosen by a Loya Jirga in June 2002. This would forever garner him the title of being American’s puppet.

Hamid Karzai was not widely known until he was chosen to lead a provisional administration which was set up in Bonn, Germany in December 2001. Karzai was actually a compromise that was reached between the former king’s (Mohammad Zahir) supporters and the United Front (UNIFSA), whose ground troops, with help from the United States, defeated the Taliban and drove them out of Kabul.

Afghanistan’s presidential elections were held on October 9, 2004, where Karzai ran. On November 3, 2004, the Joint Electoral Management Body of Afghanistan finally certified the elections and declared Hamid Karzai the winner with 55.4% of the votes. He took the presidential oath of allegiance at Salam Khana Palace on December 7, 2004 in the presence of dignitaries and officials from around the world.

Karzai then ran again for President in the 2009 elections, which were widely criticized for fraud. Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai’s biggest opponent, even dropped out of the race because of this, making Karzai the winner.

Prior to his final term coming to an end, Karzai refused to sign a security deal with the United States, even when a Loya Jirga was held (per his request) and they voted in favor of the security deal with the United States. The deal was finally signed once Ashraf Ghani replaced him as President of Afghanistan when Karzai’s term ended on September 29, 2014. Afghanistan’s constitution only allows 2 terms for a president.

From 2002 until his last days as president in 2014, Karzai was criticized for corruption, nepotism, putting his friends in high places, and spending more time caring for the feasts at the Palace as opposed to the people of his country. His family also does not have a great reputation as wealthy landowners, corrupt politicians (as they received their jobs from their brother), and heading the drug trade.

Karzai is married to Zeenat Quraishi and has three kids with her.

Chronology of Hamid Karzai’s life

Year Event
December 24, 1957 Birth – village of Karz, near Kandahar.
1976 Graduates from high school, and then travels to India as an exchange student and is accepted by the International Relations and Political Science M.A. program at Simla University.
1983 Obtains his Master’s Degree. Later moved to Pakistan and joined the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan.
1985 Serves as the Director of Information for the National Liberation Front led by Professor Sebghatullah Mujadidi.
1989 Formation of the Mujahideen’s transitional government occurs, and Karzai is appointed as Director of the Foreign Relations Unit in the Office of the President of the Interim Government.
1992 Appointed as Deputy Foreign Minister in the Mujahideen government.
1994 Resigns from his position as Deputy Foreign Minister, and begins to work actively for the organization of a national Loya Jirga (Grand Council).
1995-1998 Believed to be supporting/working with the Taliban.
  • August: Hamid Karzai’s father, Abdul Ahad Karzai, is killed in Pakistan (most likely by Pakistan’s ISI).
  • Marries Dr. Zeenat Quraishi
2001 December: Chosen to lead a provisional administration which was set up in Bonn, Germany.
  • June: Chosen as the President of the Transitional Government
  • September 5th: Survives assassination attempt in Kandahar city.
2003 June: Receives an honorary Knighthood – awarded by United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II
  • July 4: Awarded the Philadelphia Liberty Medal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • September 16: Survives assassination attempt while in route to Gardez via helicopter.
  • November 3: Joint Electoral Management Body of Afghanistan certifies the presidential elections and declares Hamid Karzai the winner.
  • December 7: Took the Presidential oath of allegiance at Salam Khana Palace.
  • Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Boston University (May 22)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (May 25)
2006 Honorary Doctorate of Law from Georgetown University (September 25)
  • January: Son Mirwais is born.
  • April: Karzai acknowledges meetings with Taliban.
  • June 10th: Survives assassination attempt.
  • September: Offers peace talks with the Taliban.
  • October: Rejects Western accusations that Iran is working against Karzai’s government and secretly supporting the Taliban.
2008 April 18th: Survives assassination attempt
  • April 27th: Confirms that he willing be running for re-election on August 20th.
  • November 19: Karzai is sworn in as president again.
2010 His older brother Mahmud Karzai is implicated in the Kabul Bank crises

  • Meets with American President Barack Obama at the White House on May 12th
  • January: Becomes first Afghan leader (since the end of the Soviet invastion in 1989) to make official visit to Russia
  • January: Inaugurates the National Assembly after a fraud filled nation-wide election.
  • July 12: Half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai is assassinated.
  • August: Karzai pardons child would-be suicide bombers. About 6 months later, some of these kids are re-arrested for attempting to commit suicide attacks.
  • Daughter Malalai is born.
  • Nippon Sports Science University gives him honorary Doctorate.
  • Ends security talks with the Americans after learning of American plans to hold peace talks with the Taliban – Karzai insists his goverment should lead peace talks with the Taliban instead. Refuses to sign security agreement with the United States.
  • New reports surface that Karzai’s presidential office had been receiving millions of dollars from the CIA and Iran since late 2002.
  • May 20th: Lovely Professional University gives him honorary Doctorate
  • March: Daughter Howsi is born
  • September 29: Last day as President of Afghanistan.
  • June: Goes to Moscow and meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • November 7th: Opens Karzai Foundation with the aim of helping young Afghans with higher education opportunities.

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