Last week, Mahmoud Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, announced to Afghanistan’s Tolo News that he is relinquishing his U.S. citizenship with the intention of returning to the country and entering politics.
While Mahmoud claims he does not intend to run for office, he has stated that he will support his brother Qayoum should he announce his candidacy for president. Mahmoud has publicly referred to his brother’s intention to stand for office before, although Qayoum has been coy on the issue, neither confirming nor denying plans for his future candidacy.
With President Karzai constitutionally barred from serving a third term, Afghans are anxiously waiting to learn which candidates will vie for the presidency. The stakes involved in the April 2014 election are particularly high as the U.S. prepares to withdraw troops and the Afghan government struggles to control many areas in the country.
Afghans have been speculating for years about whether the President will attempt to lay the groundwork for a Karzai political dynasty. Mahmoud’s recent announcement will reinforce these concerns.
The Karzai family is not without scandal. Mahmoud was implicated, though ultimately not prosecuted, for involvement in the 2010 collapse of the Kabul Bank. As The New York Times reported in June, Hamid Karzai’s brothers have been living in the United States for years, ostensibly accumulating wealth. “The president’s family — many of whom are American citizens who returned to Afghanistan after an American-led coalition toppled the Taliban in 2001 and brought Mr. Karzai to power — are among those who have prospered the most, by the accounts of many Afghan businessmen and government insiders.”
On the one hand, this history is unlikely to sit well with many Afghans who have struggled to rebuild their country amid a foreign presence, poverty, and rampant political corruption. On the other hand, name recognition, money, and political alliances are cornerstones to a national candidacy. Whether anyone will emerge who is capable of effectively running against the Karzai family dynasty remains to be seen.