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The scion of Popalzai Pashtuns, both his father and grandfather were prominent in the national government. His family fled to Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s, when Soviet forces controlled Afghanistan. He helped the mujahideen fighting the Soviets, often traveling to the U.S. to gain funding from the Reagan Administration. He returned in 1992 after the fall of the Soviet puppet and became deputy foreign minister. He was at first friendly toward the Taliban, then turned against it. The Taliban assassinated his father in 1997, but he escaped and became the leader of the Popalzai clan of Pashtuns.
When American and Allied forces ousted the Taliban in 2001, Afghans chose him as leader. He was confirmed by the Loya Jirga, a traditional Afghan assembly, as president of a transitional government in June 2002. He was elected president in a fair election in 2004, but his reelection in 2009 was largely fraudulent. A runoff was called but his opponent dropped out and he remains in power.
American policy under presidents Bush and Obama has been to support Karzai financially, diplomatically and militarily, in hopes he can establish control and eliminate the Taliban using Afghan military and police forces.
Crisis in 2009
In Aug. 2009, General Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said the Karzai government was riddled with corruption and NATO was being undermined by tactics that alienate civilians. He called the Taliban insurgency "a muscular and sophisticated enemy" that uses modern propaganda and systematically reaches into Afghanistan's prisons to recruit members and even plan operations. McChrystal alerted Washington that he urgently needs more forces within the next year; without them, he warned, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure."
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