Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of the Afghan president, “a go-between between the Americans and the Taliban,” and “a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade,” the New York Times informs us, “gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years.”
This unsavory news has many negative implications about Hamid Karzai’s presidency; the one that interests me most is how it confirms his status as a kept politician, a leader who enjoys his present position due to foreign backing.
Karzai is hardly the Middle East’s only kept politician; others that come to mind include Iraq’s Nuri al-Maliki, Lebanon’s Saad Hariri, and the Palestinian Authority’s Mahmoud Abbas. Of note: Washington kept no politicians in 2000 but now has four of them.
Some kept politicians eventually do establish their own rule and legitimacy — the Jordanian monarchy has been on its own since Glubb Pasha’s dismissal in 1956. Usually, however, they fail: This was the fate of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958, the last shah of Iran in 1979, Anwar Sadat in 1981, the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1990, and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in 1992.
So too, in all likelihood, will the rule of Hamid Karzai, Maliki, Hariri, and Abbas end in collapse.
— Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.