Hamid Karzai is the new leader of Afghanistan, as agreed by participants to the UN Talks on Afghanistan in Bonn today, 5 December 2001. He will head a transitional administration for six months, leading up to the convening of a Loya Jirga or Grand Council, which will promulgate a new constitution.

Karzai is an ethnic Pashtun, a moderate who is trying to take over the besieged city of Kandahar from the remnant of Taleban rule. As a Pashtun he should be more acceptable to players like Pakistan, who dislike the idea of the new Afghanistan being dominated by the United Front (Northern Alliance).

The new 30-member council will take power on 22 December. Three of the key portfolios have gone to the Northern Alliance: Mohammed Fahim in Defence, Dr Abdullah Abdullah in Foreign Affairs, and Yunis Qanuni in Interior. They have about half the posts altogether. Two women are included in the government.

Chief of the Popolzai tribe of the south-west, of the same clan as the King, he was deputy foreign minister in the Burhanuddin Rabbani government of the 1990s. He did not at first oppose the Taleban when they came to power; but he blamed them for the assassination of his father in exile in Peshawar two years ago. After the killing of Abdul Haq, a representative of the King, seeking support for an anti-Taleban rebellion, Hamid Karzai also re-entered Afghanistan to try to drum up support among his own people.

On the same day as he was selected premier, he was injured by an American bomb that killed three American troops and injured 19 others. He was only slightly injured. A senior officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, one Rear Admiral Stufflebeem, said "I don't know what the intended target was. It was being called on enemy troops." Later he added, no doubt feeling that his explanation had not covered everything, "a 2,000 pound weapon is a devastating weapon."

In October 2004 democratic elections were held in Afghanistan, with Karzai the winner. He was sworn in as the country's first elected president in December.

< Burhanuddin Rabbani - Afghanistan