Since 1747, before the United States of America even existed, nearly every king of Afghanistan has been a member of the Popalzoi, a roughly half-million member clan belonging to the Durrani, one of the two major groupings of the Pashtuns. The Durrani, the second-largest Pashtun clan, was founded by Ahmed Shad Durrani, a Persian who conquered Kandehar in 1747 and became the country's first king.

Down through the centuries there has been a continuous state of friction between the Durrani and the Ghilzai, the other larger Pashtun clan. The Ghilzai is the backbone of the Taliban, and thus is naturally opposed to any effort to reinstate Afghanistan's aged King Zahir Shah, who was deposed in 1973.

Hamid Karzai, the new leader of Afghanistan's interim government and America's handpicked choice for the job, is a Popalzoi and a Durrani, just like King Zahir Shah.

Karzai's grandfather was Abdul Ahad Karzai, president of the national council under Zahir Shah. He retired from public office in 1983 and moved his family to Quetta.

The middle son of seven brothers and a sister, Karzai, 46, is married with no children. Though his father had fought the Soviet Union as a holy warrior, a mujahedeen during the 1980's, Karzai served as an advisor and diplomat, and thus was a frequent visitor to foreign embassies during the Soviet years.

Karzai was the deputy foreign minister in the government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, which assumed power after the Soviet Union withdrew in 1987. He represented his tribe in the government until the Taliban came to power.

Like many Afghans, he was frustrated by the mujahedeen warlords' inability to set aside their tribal differences and rebuild their country. "Like so many mujahedeen," he told Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, "I believed in the Taliban when they first appeared on the scene in 1994 and they promised to end the warlordism, establish law and order, and then call a Loya Jirga to decide upon who should rule Afghanistan."

"I gave the Taliban $50,000 US to help run their movement and then handed over to them a large cache of weapons I had hidden away. I met Mullah Omar several times," he said wistfully.

The Taliban originally took great pains to cultivate Mr. Karzai, going so far as to offer him the post of Taliban ambassador to the United Nations. Karzai , a moderate Muslim, initially regarded the Taliban simply as Pashtun, like himself, but he became disenchanted with Osama Bin Laden's "hosts" when he realized that they had been infiltrated by unsavory foreign elements including Pakistanis, Chechens, and—particularly—Arabs.

"By 1997 it was clear to most Afghans that the Taliban were unacceptable because Osama bin Laden was playing a leadership role in the movement. I warned the Americans many times, but who was listening—nobody," said Karzai.

Karzai, who speaks six languages, and with several brothers owns a chain of restaurants in Chicago, San Franciso, Boston and Baltimore, became the head of the Popalzoi clan in 1999 when his father was murdered by the Taliban in Quetta after returning from a mosque. Defying both Pakistan and the Taliban, Karzai showed his mettle by assembling a 300 vehicle convoy of tribal chiefs and mourners and taking his father's body from Quetta to be buried in Kandehar.

Additionally and perhaps most importantly for American strategic purposes, Karzai became convinced that the Taliban had been compromised by ISI, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence organization. And he would be the man to know, since he himself has connections with former ISI Director Akhtar Abdur Rahman going back to the early 1980's when Karzai and his father were befriended by the ISI.

On October 8th, 2001, Karzai, like the murdered Taliban foe, nationalist Abdul Haq, reentered Afghanistan the day after the US bombing started in order to drum up support and amass tribal warriors against the Taliban. It took the United States over a month to decide to back the Afghani native son in his effort to create a new government in his country. This is, to me, quite surprising—considering that Hamid Karzai also has ties to the CIA that go all the way back to the day he met former CIA Director William Casey in Pakistan.

Hamid Karzai is the CIA's man in Afghanistan, that little country with the big problems and the back door to Pakistan, a nuclear power and perennial enemy to India. We might well pray that Hamid Karzai is as wise and as respected in that part of the world as he appears to be, for our historical record in these matters has not always been beyond reproach.

Regarding American Espionage:

George Washington, Spymaster
the first American Intelligence failure in New York
Thomas Knowlton

Wild Bill Donovan
Operation Overcast
the Stars of Project Paperclip
burning crosses in the Fatherland
doing drugs for fun and profit
the CIA wants YOU!
When is a monkey's orgasm more than just fun and games?
The Johnny Appleseed of LSD
Sidney Gottlieb, the real-life "Q"
The Nuremberg Code

The Bureau and the Mole

Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Ahmed Rashid, Yale University Press, 2001